I recently read a fascinating study of social philanthropy - a brilliantly observed feat of reportage of young girls growing up in the colourful, greedy, pleasure-driven western world. I recommend it to any budding student of sociology. And, indeed, to any female who experienced a British childhood in the past couple of decades. And, especially, to those who enjoy a bit of food porn. Cake porn in particular.
This 'study' is Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson.
Of course there are the usual 'issues' (a severely disabled older sister in this case) and the token blonde bitch, but these are by the by. The real interest lies in the descriptions of the girls' birthday parties.
They come up with their own themes - picnic party, swimming party, daisy party for Daisy etc - and, most importantly, their own fun, e-number laden party spreads. This is what any child's birthday party is all about anyway. Pool-shaped cakes with blue icing and marzipan figures, three-tiered affairs with each tier being a different flavour, white and yellow Victoria sponge, cut to look like a daisy...
This book has everything: realistically portrayed friendship troubles, girly silliness, a lovely Daddy who sorts out problems, true justice being served, the most amazing literary character ever in the cuddly Bella who is a wee bit dim, completely harmless, obsessed with chocolate and eats ALL the time, lashings of nostalgia for those halcyon party days, and cake. Lots and lots of cake.
So it came to pass that, in honour of my 21st birthday at home, I requested a Candy Castle Cake. The cake of my childhood. The King (or should that be Queen?) of cakes. The cake that my mother shall be eternally remembered for, a legacy she should be proud of. A solid sponge sandwich, coated thickly with butter-icing, topped with ice-cream cone turrets (also smothered in artery-clogging sugar paste) and studded all over with brightly coloured sweets. Chocolate MUST be included somewhere. Or everywhere. And ta da! A feast fit for a Princess. Albeit a diabetes-destined Princess...
And no, it is not an ancient-Greek phallic cake (which they DID make, back in the day) - those are turrets. Delicious TURRETS.
My party would blow all those Sleepover shindigs out the water.
Though it may have trouble competing with this...
I know of a girl soon to turn 21. She is thinking of celebrating this milestone at Ikea. A magical place of flatpack furniture, simple Swedish interior design, the mysterious and wondrous jungle of the basement, platefuls of fries, meatballs with that curious cranberry sauce and, best and most party-appealing of all, infinite lingonberry juice re-fills!
Party bags will naturally include those pencils they have dotted around everywhere that one nicks as a kid, and a Dime bar.
A wild way to mark a birthday. Not even good old Jackie could have come up with something quite so awesome.
The cake will probably be a Candy Kitchen, rather than Castle!