Ah, video games. Where would my childhood have been without them? It all started with that first game of Pong on my older siblings’ dusty old console – it was just like playing tennis but you didn’t have to go running down the street every time you missed the ball when you were too slow to bags the uphill end of the street ‘court’!!
The excitement of this was beaten only by the discovery of multiple Game & Watch handheld games in a drawer at my cousins’ place – sure there was only ever one set of working batteries, but you could easily swap them around in your quest to to save more jumping people from the burning building or prevent more parachuters landing in shark infested water than you did last time.
The computer game joy continued at that house, when one of my cousins would sometimes let you play the helicopter game on her actual proper computer, and the game played THROUGH A TAPE! OMG! Tapes already brought me Martika and Janet Jackson, and now they were letting me fly a helicopter. Was there anything they couldn’t do? (*cough* not become obsolete? *cough*).
School holidays often met a visit to Perth, where other cousins introduced me to the joys of the Nintendo and Super Nintendo consoles, that you could actually hire out from the video store! Never mind that the game instructions, if you actually got any, were photocopied and impossible to read. We were renegades. We didn’t need no stinking instructions. We could figure out very well on our own that if you flung your hands up in the air when pressing the button to make your character jump that they would jump just that tiny bit higher.
I also didn’t need to read the instructions on that magical, glorious Christmas day when I was the luckiest girl in the world, unwrapping a Super Nintendo of my very own! I got stuck straight into Super Mario Bros 2, scoffing at my Dad for suggesting I read the instructions first, only to run around completely unable to kill any of the baddies. And what were all these stupid vegetables everywhere? The instructions, sheepishly read soon after (no doubt while shovelling down Red Skins and Mallow Santas from my stocking), revealed the baddies could easily be killed by throwing the vegetables at them. Two important life lessons learned – refrain from scoffing at suggestions from parents unless you’re really really sure they’re scoff-worthy; and when all else fails, turn to vegetables.
When I made the Vegetable Garden Cupcakes for my friend CM’s practice 30th party a few months ago, I was very reliably informed that my friend Kim, who would soon be celebrating her real 30th, had always wanted a Princess Doll Cake (also known as a Dolly Varden Cake, thanks Mum). I filed this information away in the cake part of my brain, and when Kim and our friend Mads (previously cunningly referred to as “M” on the blog) announced that they would be through a joint 80s themed 30th birthday party, I realised with joy that I could not only make a Princess Doll Cake… I could make a Princess Peach Doll Cake.
What’s the only thing better than a Princess Peach cake? A Princess Peach rainbow cake.
I made my very first rainbow cake quite a few years ago, and excitedly drove it in to work one afternoon (when I wasn’t actually working) to share it with Mads and another friend L, and I knew from Mads’ reaction then that getting my rainbow cake mojo flowing again for her birthday cake could only be a good thing.
Making a vertically layered rainbow cake is really much easier than people think it must be. You just need a decent buttercake recipe that gives a mixture that is not too viscous, so that each newly added colour can push the earlier colours out towards the edge of the tin when a little jiggling is applied. Just make up your cake mixture (I use this one, but be warned – it makes a lot of mixture), then split it up into the same number of bowls that you wish to have different colours.
I stuck with my good old mate ROY G BIV, though I decided indigo and violet were close enough to combine into one, so I layered mine as: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. You can also skip around your kitchen and go down the “I can sing a rainbow” path with the red, yellow, pink, green, purple, orange, blue if you care not for scientific accuracy in your rainbow configuration.
After making my two rainbow cakes (the first one made using 2/3 of the recipes and the second using the full recipe, which made the layers go funny as there was a little too much mix for my tin) and allowing them to cool, I sandwiched them together using chocolate frosting and then stuck them in the fridge to chill. Once chilled, the cake is easier to carve, which I did using a sharp serrated knife to get a big boofy skirt shape.
(You can actually just buy a dolly varden cake tin, or use an oven proof bowl to get a skirt shape from the start, but my method is nice because you end up with lots of cake offcuts to make yourself ill on during the decoration process.)
I removed the legs from my doll, though be careful – I hear that the legs on real Barbies are not so easily removed as from my Disney doll, and are actually pretty easy to break if you try to remove them. You can leave the legs on, of course, but my cake wasn’t quite tall enough for this so off they came. I then wrapped the Princess’ bottom in plastic wrap to prevent cake ending up in unfortunate places, and also wrapped up her head to protect her hair.
I then took a moment to hum the Twin Peaks theme.
The cake was then placed exactly in the centre of the cake board, over a few separate pieces of baking paper to protect the board from wayward frosting, and then I frosted the entire thing. To get a really smooth surface on your frosting, simply pass the edge of a piece of paper over it – super easy and effective! (and no, I know what you’re thinking and I did not eat the chocolatey paper afterwards).
You can psych yourself up for the task of placing the enormous sheet of fondant on the cake by doing some more easily achievable fondant tasks. In addition to the rainbow cake I also made two batches of my choc-orange vegan cupcakes, and I covered these in pale pink fondant and letters/numbers to spell out a little message.
It was always exciting when you achieved a high score in something and had to enter your initials. My initials are pretty lame, but I could never think of a way to represent myself in three letters that I was happy with, so CHM it was (okay, I may have entered POO once or twice). Luckily for me, Kim and Madeline are pretty easy to represent in 3 letters.
Cupcake procrastination over, I tackled covering the “skirt”. After I rolled out the fondant, I think I stood there for a good five minutes just staring at it, trying to figure out how the hell I was going to lift such an enormous piece of fondant without letting any of it sag, and place it carefully on the cake. After a few false starts I managed to bend my plastic pastry sheet back under itself while letting the fondant fall down over the cake, and this seemed to work reasonably well. Lots of trimming and smoothing soon followed.
I then dressed the Princess with more fondant, rolling out a small piece and laying it around her for the bodice of the dress. Nice big puffy princess sleeves soon followed, then she was joined with her skirt before the blue cashou jewels and dark pink embellishments were added. She was then unwrapped from her plastic cocoon and ready for the party!
And what a party it was! Great friends, delicious food, and super freakin’ awesome costumes. Seriously. I don’t know why I’m wasting my time sitting here typing this when I could be busy throwing an 80s costume party right now.
The birthday girls formed an unlikely duo of Madonna and The Dog from Footrot Flats. Consequently, every time I have thought about the party over the past week I have got Slice of Heaven stuck in my head. This makes a change from getting the Jem and the Holograms theme song in my head whenever I was party planning last week. Yes, the very first photo in this post is me as Jem, in all her mullety glory, under the influence of Synergy. Luckily Pazzazz of The Misfits chose not to turn up, but sadly neither did Rio. He was probably off with that hussy Jerrica.
Happy birthday girls! The past 30 years have been pretty great, but I’m sure the best is yet to come