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Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

20 July 2013

Let Us Eat Cake

It was B’s birthday on the Monday gone by. Alas, there was no celebration; a little matter of spending the previous three nights at hospital due to C2’s scary asthma attack was enough to be a party pooper. This was much to B’s relief; unlike me, he shies away from big shindigs. But there had to be cake. After all, aren’t birthdays the Universe’s way of telling us to eat more cake??

So after a weary return home on Sunday evening, I baked him a flourless orange and almond cake (see pics). Two hours to make; two minutes to devour!

It’s amazing what memories a single word can conjure up. Say the word "cake", and I'm in a happy mood instantaneously; salivating even, if it's chocolate mud! Then again, I’m happy to devour every scrumptious crumb of pineapple upside-down cake, bundt cake, tea cake, cheesecake, wedding cake, carrot cake, pound cake, sponge cake...

When I was little, my favourite tea cake was the one my (other) Nana Violet used to bake for us. She would painstakingly skim the cream off the top of the boiled milk each morning, and when her stockpile had reached the desired amount, she would use this cream to bake a melt-in-your mouth cream cake. Perfect with a cuppa! I wish my mum had coaxed the recipe out of her...

Anyone from Bombay reading this? Have you been to Venus Bakery near Mount Carmel’s Church, Bandra, recently? Do they still sell the cake with the four coloured squares? Back in the ’80s, these cake bars (their version of a Battenberg cake, I think) were sliced and served at every party. A favourite with the kids thanks to the four squares of chocolate (brown), strawberry (pink), pistachio (green) and vanilla (yellow). The only quandary: which tempting square to taste first?

And of course, I can’t forget the Christmas cake. Strangely enough, Christmas cakes were never baked at home – everybody took theirs to the local bakery. Till today, I have no idea why! On December 23rd evening every year, Nana Evelyn and Mum would measure and mix the ingredients – candied peel, dry fruit, semolina, spice, flour, eggs, butter... On Christmas Eve, dad would take it to the Bazaar Road bakery with our name and address (no telephone number in the 1980s!) centred on the cake batter. In a couple of hours, the Christmas cake was collected. The heady aroma of spice and brandy wafted through the entire D’Monte Street house. But only after returning from Midnight Mass on St. Peter’s grounds, was the Christmas cake cut. Every slice bejewelled with glace cherries, candied peel and plump sultanas. Delicious!

Last but definitely not least is the Birthday Cake.

C1 blowing out the candles on her Princess cake

C1's Ladybird cake (3rd Birthday)

C2 with his Choo-Choo Train cake

C1's Spring-theme cake (4th Birthday)

Nowadays, I get a kick out of making fancy 3D cakes for C1 and C2 on their birthdays (see pics above) but I have no memory of such elaborately-themed parties when my brother Jason and I were growing up.

Our birthday parties went a little something like this: Dad would place an order with Mrs Baptista, the local cake-maker, and when D-day, or should I say ‘B-day’ arrived, we would drool in anticipation as the cake was revealed. I always asked for a pink marzipan cake decorated with white sugar-paste flowers.

The“family party” was a cacophonous celebration of cousins, candles, and of course, cake! Unlike nowadays when parties culminate with the cake-cutting, our parties kicked off with cutting the birthday cake to a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday”. After that, the snacks were served: chips (crisps), and boiled gram (chickpeas), ribbon sandwiches and samoas all washed down with a glass of kala khatta Rasna (cola-flavoured cordial). Then, party games of Musical Chairs, Statues and Pass the Parcel (where only one winner got a prize) followed by some "doof-doof" disco dancing till we dropped. And the party was deemed a success!

How were birthdays celebrated when you were a child? Does any particular birthday stand out in your memory? Do you like to bake your cake and eat it too? Which kind of cake is your favourite?


  1. There were some great cakes there and I like your thinking that it's the universe's way of telling us to eat more cake :P

    1. Thanks Lorraine! I only make 2 fondant cakes a year on the kids' birthdays, so there's a lot of "improvising"! What I have in mind and what eventuates are totally different. But the kids love their cakes and that's what matters.


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