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The Dolly Varden Debacle

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For about a year, my smallest has insisted on a ‘Barbie cake’ (AKA Dolly Varden). In fact she’s wanted one since last birthday when she got lame cupcakes and consulted the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book to apparently validate her sense of being ripped-off-in-the-birthday-cake-stakes. From the minute she saw that golden haired beauty in her pink and white marshallowed glory, she was in love.

So despite my culinary incompetence there was nothing for it but to give Ol’ Dolly Varden a red hot crack. I hired a special cake tin, stocked up on decorations and bought a new barbie doll especially. I even sniffed at the packet cake direction in the recipe and made my own butter cake – only the best home-bakings for my birthday girl.

The first erroneous decision I made was to let the birthday girl help me make the cake. We had successfully combined all the ingredients and had it beaten it to near perfection – even throwing in a few drops of pink food colouring which I consider an original stroke of ‘surprise it’s even pink inside!’ genius –  when I was called out of the kitchen for a short time. When I returned, there was pink cake batter all over the bench, some smeared over Miss Birthday’s face and a small amount in her cupped hand. I banished her to the bathroom and rescued as much batter as I could from the kitchen bench back into the bowl. But when I spatula’ed every last scrape into the dolly tin, the tide was way out. Won’t matter, thinks I, less cake to rot small teeth.

Ah but once it was baked and cooled and racked and it came time to slot Barbie into her cake-skirt, I found that she was waaaaay too tall and her head too big for her dress. She looked like something out of a Tim Burton film or an eighties dinner dance with fishtail skirts all over the place. I had to find me a smaller doll, which meant rummaging around in the toy cupboard until eureka! I struck gold in the form of a small, boyishly figured horse riding doll – herein known as Horsey Hillary. With woolly flannel arms, a flat cotton chest and a decidedly unsexy air, she was the very antithesis of boobie Barbie. She had gorgeous auburn hair though, a feature I felt would pull her through the judgment of five little girls at a Barbie themed party.

I popped her down on the floor while I shoveled sundry toys back into the cupboard – my second mistake. The dog, from no-where – ducked in, took Horsey Hillary in his mouth and ran all over the house with me in hot, flailing, noisy pursuit. The more desperate you are to retrieve a dog-stolen item, the more fun he has. By the time I had swapped a nasty bit of dried liver treat for Hilary and given her a good wash, her redeeming golden hair had been upcycled into dreadlocks. Awesome, now Horsey Hilary’s gone all hipster on my ass. Can she get any more anti-Barbie?

But in the absence of proportioned alternatives (that weren’t Pooh Bear or a grubby rag doll), I shoved Hillary’s horse-bowed legs into the cake and commenced Operation Makeover.

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Horsey Hillary looking bewildered.

I would have taken to her with a straightening iron if she didn’t have nylon hair that frizzles to nothing under heat. Had to make do with pulling it back into a bouffant pony tail with a bit of ribbon. A small improvement. My efforts to cover her unsavoury woolly arms were hampered by the only available shirts in Hillary size being out of some sort of Steiner dolly dress up box. Not a sniff of slink about their wholesomeness, bless their cottony socks. Even Hillary looked askance at them after her tailored red riding jacket with brass buttons. We shoved them back in their box.

Oh dear

Oh dear

In desperation I wound a bit of silver elastic around her until she resembled some kind of wild-haired but reluctant bondage queen.  In the end a piece of yellow ribbon tied around her seemed the best of a bad bunch. Her flannel arms were showing but she looked a little more appropriate.

Then came the cake decoration part. Thank goodness for instant icing is all I can say. Who’d have thought icing didn’t have to run off in a puddle leaving a thin fragile veneer that nothing sticks to? Thank you Duncan Hines you frosting legend, even if you do seem to be a blatant rip off of Betty Crocker. (I thought you were Betty Crocker until I got you home and ripped your top off you wily old bugger.)

I was expertly snipping the marshmallows with wet scissors (pays to read instructions dudes) and thinking, ‘this cake thing is a snip’ when the dog looked up at me with his snout covered in leftover icing, evidently pilfered from the rubbish bin. He looked a bit sickly and kept lapping at his water bowl, so I checked the icing packet in case it said something about being harmful to dogs (I don’t know what, but you know, chocolate gives them heart trouble or whatever). The ingredients listed rum. Rum? Genius Duncan – the perfect antidote to the sugar highs children always fly up on during parties and their subsequent, crashing lows afterward. Send the sticky little buggers all nicely off to sleep.

Except that later, when I’d finally cleared up the smeary kitchen, eaten all the warty-not-up-to-skirt-scratch marshmallows and sat down with a drink and the telly, my eldest daughter came in complaining that the dog had weed on her bed. Ah that old ‘overdone the rum, staggered home, mistaken the kid’s room for the loo’ chestnut. Drunken idiots who do that go straight to the dog house.

Anyway, back to Horsey Hillary, by now resplendent in her pastel sugar-puff glory and looking more than a little uncomfortable. I have to say she really did step up to the party plate. The birthday girl issued forth gasps of pure delight upon clapping eyes on Hillary’s reinvention, and indeed didn’t even seem to notice Hillary’s true identity at all. Even Hillary seemed modestly pleased by all the attention. Her arms wouldn’t move from the holding the reigns position though; I like to think she’s gleefully conducting the party orchestra.

Bitch stole my dress

Bitch stole my dress

Barbie, however, watched on from the sidelines and knew full well who this glorious new dolly girl was when she was at home among the plastic pigs. You could cut the air with a knife. But we didn’t, we just cut cake.

Now, days later, I wonder what jealous retribution Hillary is enduring in the playroom at night. Barbie looks like she’s capable of some snarly shit. I must locate Hillary, dress her again and reunite her with her horse. Unceremoniously stripped of her new dress by a giggle of sugar-hungry little girls and left in her flannel birthday suit somewhere in the depths of the toybox is quite a fall from grace.

I’ll get her out tomorrow and have the children play showjumping like they do occasionally. And I’ll make sure she wins the rosette. I owe her that at least.

A perhaps I’ll wrap Barbie up in the woman’s weekly birthday cake book and accidentally slip them both into the wheelie bin.

About Meg Bignell

I am a farmer's wife, mother, writer and actor who thinks too much, dreams too much and swears too much.

2 responses »

  1. Ah Meg, Meg, Meg…. tears in my eyes at your descriptions! Did you ever consider removing the legs of the doll so she would fit? The dolls my mum used to use for Dolly Varden cakes are the el cheapo hollow plastic ones with legs that fall off at the drop of a hat. I can remember being really upset to find a legless dolly inside that luscious cakey-dress the first time.

    Reply
    • Hi Grace sorry just found your comment. The barbie was just too out of proportion for the skirt. Even without legs she looked ridiculous – I did pull them off but I got them back on, wrapped her up and gave her as a present so she wasn’t wasted! M x

      Reply

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