Celebrating The Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Who would have thought that a cake could bind multiple generations of Aussie kids? The Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book did just that.

Pianos, tip trucks, pigs and rockets are cakes that captured the hearts of kids and adults alike from 1980 to now.

And the minds behind the recipes could’ve never imagined that their cakes would become synonymous with our birthdays.  

Pamela Clark is the author of the birthday cake book and when I was growing up all I wanted every year was one of her cakes, preferably the Dolly Varden cake. 

But this iconic cookbook almost never got made.

“There was a lot of discussion at the time because everything is a business. So then we talked about maybe doing the kid’s birthday cake book, and let me tell you it wasn’t received all that well,” said Clark.

“We set about thinking about the ideas, talking a lot and trying to convince the powers that be that it was a good and viable financially.”

In 1978 they got started and around 9 bakers put their heads together, brainstorming and seeking inspiration from colouring books, kids birthday parties and everything in between.

It was a labour of love and they made 106 spectacular cakes.

Pamela created around 60 cakes in the book and said that when the cakes were being created in the test kitchen, most of the time they were still a work in progress when they were photographed.

Pamela believes it’s this unpolished feeling that gives the cakes their charm. 

Some of the cakes in the book defied gravity and were a feat of baking engineering like the iconic tip truck. 3D animals were also a challenge and a cake that was incredibly popular at the time and still remains a hero to this day is the duck cake.

The duck’s scrappy popcorn hair and bill were incredibly controversial in the test kitchen but shone as a favourite among kids for decades. 

Kids from the 80s, through to the 90s, 2000s and even now in 2022 are still enjoying these cakes. Some who enjoyed them for their birthdays are now adults making them for their kids. These cakes have become a symbol linking up to 3 generations. 

When reflecting on her time working on the iconic cookbook Pamela said, “it’s very heartwarming to have been a part of this beautiful book and we did hundreds of cookbooks, but this one is my favourite. There’s no doubt about that.”