Takes the cake – the parent as baker

Our youngest child is turning 12.  What a landmark.  And because of different commitments (read netball weekends) the celebrations will be slightly delayed.  So I am not madly scrambling around trying to tidy the house, juggling visiting family and baking cakes.  And it feels all wrong.

Over the years, Rod and I have made many birthday cakes together for both of our children.  Starting off in our old house, the first birthday for our elder daughter was a very simple orange cake. So healthy. No icing.  One candle.  It didn’t last long.

Hannah's 1st birthday cake Cait's 1st birthday

By the time she was two, the Australian Women’s Weekly children’s birthday cake book had been found, and we were off and running.

Requests for butterflies, lolly shops, paint boxes, number cakes and tigers ensued from both children at birthday time.

IMG_1025  IMG_0011

Surprisingly for two people without a crafty bone in their body, Rod and I were able to fashion something that looked like the cakes in the book every time. Shows how well tested they are.  This was despite having a dud oven for at least six of those years, until we could stand it no longer.  I think Rod made at least two different late night trips to the supermarket to get more supplies when the cakes died in the oven. And we were usually making them at 10pm on a Friday night, after a week’s work, so I think we did ok.  Certainly, they all were eaten, so we musta done good! Right? (well, the butterfly looks a bit dodgy, I admit.)

Still, it’s made me curious about all of those cakes.  What were they again?  Who had what?

This is a selection of just some of the birthday cakes over the years.

IMG_1017 hannah's birthday Sep 06 016 Hannah's 6 cake caitlin's 7th  birthday 08 009  Tiger two years Caitlin Caitlin's fifth birthday 017 IMG_6248

Who knows what we’ll try and do next?


Nana’s gramma pie

What’s a gramma pie, she asks?

Heaven, I say.  Heaven on a stick.



But what is it?


Yes.  I’ve never heard of it.

Well, you’re just showing your age, or should I say, your youth.  But I believe gramma is a type of pumpkin, it’s bright orange.  And my grandmother used to make pies for us all when we got together. It’s a really big pumpkin, so you get lots of servings out of it. Was probably popular during the depression and during the war because it was cheap, and could grow easily in backyard gardens.

So it’s a pumpkin pie.

No.  No. Not at all. Pumpkin pie is American.  This is a gramma pie.  True blue Aussie pie.



I don’t know my cousins very well, they’re all male, and a good 15 years older than me, and for the most part, we lived very separate childhoods, and now we’re all living very different lives.  But when we get together at funerals these days, there is one topic of conversation that unites us:  Nana’s gramma pie.

I was probably seven or eight before I understood that it wasn’t “Granma’s” pie, ie, pie that a grandmother makes, but “gramma”, and that IT is the pie filling.  (I was glad when this was cleared up because our grandmother was always referred to as Nana – you can see why I was confused.)

Nana’s gramma pie is, however, legendary – at least in our family – probably because we didn’t get it anywhere else, just at Nana’s. And she always made it when we all got together. So it was very special, because we didn’t get together often.

Pumpkin pie is not so common in Australia, even today, although it is becoming more popular.  And we do love our pumpkin soup and pumpkin as a vegie in our baked dinners; and who can go past a pumpkin scone?

I can remember living in Leeds in the UK in 1991 and going searching for pumpkin when we wanted to have a baked dinner, an unusual occurrence in itself, as there was too much to see and do to be at home cooking.

Leeds Corn Exchange markets were great, and had a wonderful array of fruit and vegies that we didn’t get at home – mainly different varieties especially of potatoes and apples and pears.  But no pumpkin in the outside stalls.  But inside the market there was a West Indian stall, with a whole range of goods, including pumpkin.  And the women there welcomed me every couple of weeks when I stopped by to buy a piece of pumpkin from them. Being different can have its advantages.

Last weekend in Collector, in the southern highlands of NSW, they held the Collector Pumpkin Festival; you can read all about it in this great blog, In the Taratory, and here is a news report.

But there’s no mention of gramma though.

I miss my Nana’s gramma pie. The filling was sweet, and fragrant, and smooth. And now she’s gone, who will make it?


Here’s a great gramma pie recipe, via 702ABC.  Of course, I am going to try it out, once I get myself some gramma.  Let me know if you have a go too!

You can try to buy gramma seeds – I am going to give it a go from one of these suppliers:

Grammar pic