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Eating it too: 'The icing on the (birthday) cake'

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Abstract:

Icing is not essential to the enjoyment of cakes, but it is part of the pleasure cakes offer and, especially when it comes to celebratory cakes, that pleasure can be more aesthetic than gustatory. The phrase 'the icing on the cake' refers to the finishing touch, the superfluous and even the frivolous: it connotes the ephemeral, the trivial and the feminine. In the case of the celebratory cake, however, it is all about the icing. The history of confectionery is mostly identified with the devaluation of sugar and its shift from the masculine/public sphere to the feminine/private sphere, but wedding cakes and children's birthday cakes descend from the elaborate sugar sculptures that were festive emblems of rank on the banquet tables of medieval courts. This article examines The Australian Women's Weekly (AWW) Children's Birthday Cake Book, which uses common confectionery as cake decoration. Sugar was once a magical substance in an ordinary world and, by endowing cakes with an appeal similar to that of toys, these AWW cakes excite visual pleasure and create childhood memories through artistry and spectacle. As confectionery historian Laura Mason explains, 'Sugar is fantasy land'.

Keywords: Australian children; birthday cake; cake icing; confectionery; lollies; wedding cake

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/ajpc.2.1.57_1

Affiliations: University of Queensland

Publication date: 2012-06-07

More about this publication?
  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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