Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book

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The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book
Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book.jpg
Cover of the 1980 edition
AuthorMaryanne Blacker
Pamela Clark
SeriesThe Australian Women's Weekly cookbooks
SubjectBirthday cakes
  • 1980 first edition, ACP
  • 2011 "Vintage edition", ACP

The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book is a recipe book focused on children's-themed birthday cakes published as part of The Australian Women's Weekly magazine cookbook series by Australian Consolidated Press, written by Maryanne Blacker and Pamela Clark. First published in 1980, and re-released in 2011, it has become an "Australian cult classic"[1] and a "publishing phenomenon".[2] Between its launch in 1980 and its relaunch in 2011, the book sold more than 1 million copies, despite having been out of print for a significant portion of that period.[1][2]

During the 70s and 80s, The Australian Women's Weekly was among the highest-selling magazines in Australia and published a wide range of cake decorating, recipe and meal idea book and magazine titles.

Themes and designs[edit]

Child blowing out candle on the brown bear cake (1986)

There are 108 themed cakes appearing in the original edition, "largely composed of packet butter cake mix, Vienna cream icing and lollies".[3] The cover illustration is of the "train cake", for which it became synonymous — the cookbook is sometimes referred to as "the book with the train on the cover".[4] Some of the more well-known are:[5][6]

In a September 2018 Throwback: Our Childhoods Revisited series interview, Pamela Clark noted the heirloom quality of the cookbook, with old copies being passed down in families for generations of cake-making.[7]

Publication history[edit]

Recreation of the "train cake"
Credit: Ginger Gorman

Some of the cakes featured in a Children's Party Foods -themed lift-out in September 1974. This included a Cowboys and Indians cake which looked very similar to the later Farmyard, and the Hickory Dickory Clock, later named Clock.[8]

Clark was inspired to create the cookbook after creating a tyrannosaurus-cake for a neighbour in 1978, but despite this inspiration, no dinosaur-themes cakes were included in the eventual publication.[3] The first edition was printed in 1980 and a "vintage" edition of the book was published in 2011[1] — being reprinted four times in the first six months with initial sales of 100,000 copies.[2] As of 2015, the 2011 edition is in the circulating collection of over 40 public libraries across the country[9] while the original edition (in various reprints) remains in circulation in 27.[10] Four of the original recipes featuring cartoon characters were removed from the 2011 edition due to the publisher no longer having a license.[2] First editions can sell on eBay for 12 times their original price.[1]


External video
2018 interview with Pamela Clark[11]
Pamela Clark demonstrates how to make "The train cake"[12]

Australian demographer Bernard Salt has suggested that the book modernised and "grandified" children's birthday party culture in Australia.[13] The author, Pamela Clark, has said that children would take the book to bed with them as bedtime reading, choosing which cake their parents would make for them[14] and the publisher's test kitchen had a dedicated, much-used telephone help-line for parents making the cakes to a deadline.[15]

Because of the high culinary quality of the featured cakes and their appealing decorative effects, the book has garnered a nostalgic cult following including social media fan groups and projects to reproduce each cake.[6] In 2009, stand-up comedian Josh Earl included reference to the "train cake" in his routine. The segment was so popular he expanded it and the following year launched Josh Earl vs. the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book,[16] a show that continued through to 2015.[17] In 2016 all 107 cakes were baked and sold for a Canberra charity to raise money to support women with post- and ante-natal depression.[18][19] New Zealand artist Henry Hargreaves had an exhibition 'Birthday's that will never come,' in Wellington in 2018 that combined the banned children's names from New Zealand with cakes from the cookbook.[20]


Recreation of the "rubber ducky" cake
Credit: Donnie Gomez
  1. ^ a b c d Gorman, Ginger (11 March 2015). "'The best book ever written in this country'".
  2. ^ a b c d Boland, Michela (25 July 2011). "Fond memories make original cake book the best". The Australian. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Gorman, Ginger (6 May 2016). "How 'the greatest book ever written in this country' came about". Retrieved 2016-05-08.
  4. ^ "Is this the best book ever?". The Australian Women's Weekly. 11 March 2015. Archived from the original on 14 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  5. ^ Yankovich, Gyan (12 March 2015). "The Definitive Ranking Of Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cakes". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b flickettysplits. "Cake It To The Limit". Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Throwback: Our Childhoods Revisited". ABC iview. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  8. ^ The Australian Women's Weekly presents - children's party foods. Sydney: The Australian Women's Weekly. 4 September 1974.
  9. ^ "2011, English, Book, Illustrated edition: Children's birthday cake book / food editor Pamela Clark. Australian Women's Weekly". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  10. ^ "2001, 1980, English, Book, Illustrated edition: Children's birthday cake book". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  11. ^ "How the Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book changed the shape of Australian birthdays". ABC. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  12. ^ "The Australian Women's Weekly Train Cake". YouTube. The Australian Women's Weekly Cookbooks. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  13. ^ Salt, Bernard (6 July 2013). "Fairy bread to Facebook". The Australian.
  14. ^ "The 'daggy' book that helped shape Australian kids' birthdays". ABC News. 9 September 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  15. ^ Richard Glover (14 September 2018). "Memories? This takes the cake". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  16. ^ Healey, Madeline (29 March 2013). "Regent comedian Josh Earl uses iconic cake book as material for show". Herald Sun. News Ltd. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  17. ^ Bailey, John (16 February 2015). "Josh Earl's cake inspired comedy show still on a sugar high". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  18. ^ Reinfrank, Alkira (7 May 2016). "Women's Weekly children's birthday cake-off goes on display". ABC News. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Baking all 104 cakes from the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book". Radio National. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  20. ^ "Birthdays That Will Never Come..." Eventfinda. Retrieved 2018-09-09.