Saturday, August 9, 2014

Night of the Shaggy Cakes

Okay, you KNOW I am a sucker for old cake decorating books. That made this week's find at a thrift store just that much sweeter. Today I present The Good Housekeeping Book of Cake Decorating, edited by Dorothy B. Marsh (1961).

The thing that is so charming about this book is that so many of the cakes really look like homemade, hand-decorated cakes. New cake decorating books are so slick and look so complicated that I have a hard time imagining human beings are capable of making the cakes (even though I know they must be!), much less actual home cooks. Most of the cakes in this guide look like something I could even have made as a teenager (when I actually did decorate a few cakes).

I'm in love with the page of children's coconut birthday party cakes, even though coconut is simply pencil shavings mixed with sunblock as far as I'm concerned. The most polished-looking of the trio might be "Swanee":

Swanee has a fairly gracefully curved neck and sweetly shaggy appearance. (Apparently cake swans don't need to worry about having sleek waterproof feathers.) Plus Swanee sports an orange gumdrop beak that pretends to be yellow for the sake of rhyming with "fellow" in the accompanying poem.

Another cake that oddly doesn't worry about being sleek and waterproof:

Sailin' Down the Bay! This one has shaggy sails and, appropriately, Life Savers portholes. (Okay, the book calls them "white candies," but those are totally Life Savers!) The style reminds me of the boat picture in the Simpsons' house, but this is actually slightly more sophisticated than their behind-the-couch art. I'm not sure why this one doesn't merit a poem, though. I hope it doesn't feel left out.

Finally, a cake that actually should be shaggy in its adorably boxy glory:

Spot, the Fox Terrier! I love the square-ish chocolate ear (that doesn't really seem to match anything else on Spot's coat) and the gumdrop, licorice, and dragee collar. The completely box-shaped head and weird, blocky tail (that almost suggests a lifted hind leg if you look at it just right) complete the look.

The licorice smile is the perfect symbol of these cakes' naive optimism. (Come on, where else will you read a sentence like that?)


  1. Love love love this post! My mother made me a Raggedy Ann cake for my 4th birthday and she was more shaggy than raggedy. Good times :D

    1. There is just so much charm in cakes that are obviously hand-made with love. Sleek cakes can be beautiful, but they don't have soul.

  2. My mother had this book, and made these cakes for birthdays. I still dislike sweetened desiccated coconut. It was a great treat in my family. I agree with your description of coconut as pencil shavings flavored with sunblock.