If you grew up in Britain during the 80s, chances are you went to at least one birthday party where you ate something from the Sainsbury Book of Children’s Party Cooking. Traffic light biscuits? Jelly boats? Marshmallow mousse? They’re all here. These were unworldly pre-Nigella days; we called a baguette a ‘French loaf’, there was no such thing as edible glitter and I’m fairly sure brownies were still just something you joined before being old enough to become a girl guide. I particularly like the heartwarmingly innocent introduction to the ‘Teenage Party’ section:A teenager will choose to hold a party in the evening and a buffet-style supper is the easiest to manage for a larger group. Remove as much furniture as possible, leaving a central space for dancing. ….A certain amount of supervision and unobtrusive assistance is advisable during the serving of the food, but then a discreet disappearance will be appreciated.
I fear that today’s tweens – let alone teenagers – would find this kind of wholesome party woefully unimpressive. Which is a shame, as it means they are foregoing the opportunity to feast on chicken à la king and chinese cabbage salad whilst sipping some ruby punch (a concoction consisting of sweet sherry, soda water and ‘blackcurrant health drink’). Yum.
In January, whilst chuckling over his mother’s copy of this fabulously retro publication with a friend, I made a rash promise to bake him the pirate galleon cake for his birthday at the beginning of June. At the time, I had a vague notion of carrying out several practice runs. Needless to say, these didn’t happen and I was faced on the day with the prospect of a very ambitious cake-construction project and a limited amount of time in which to complete it.
Several rather fraught hours and a few expletives later…ta-dah!
The first thing to note is that the cake turned out very much smaller than I had imagined – it’s definitely an impressive showpiece, but for a party of fifteen or twenty you’re going to need a whole armada. Secondly, the ‘rear of the first deck’ (the recipe assumes at least a basic level of maritime knowledge…for some reason I found this amusing) appears to be in constant danger of collapsing under its own weight; I ended up using a box covered in foil to hold it up. And thirdly, unless you are Jane Asher – ie. a cake-making professional extraordinaire – you will need an extra pair of hands to help you to assemble everything. However, if you like a baking challenge, this could be for you. Decorating it is rather fun, plus it tasted pretty good too.
To those of you who follow this site regularly, apologies for my recent silence and thank you for bearing with me. It has been a very long month and a half without internet access, but I’m now back online again – finally! And just because I haven’t been writing about it, doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking and eating, so there is plenty to catch up on :).