AS A YOUNG MOTHER, PATRICIA NORMAN TURNED SIMPLE PATTY CAKES INTO MAGICAL CREATIONS THAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHT OF HER CHILDREN’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES.
PATRICIA NORMAN WILL happily admit that she’s not a great cook. As a housewife in the 1960s, she routinely turned out simple meals for her husband and four children. “Family dinners mostly consisted of meat, potato and two veg,” says Patricia’s daughter Kerrie von Menge. Occasionally, Patricia cooked spaghetti bolognaise, making a sauce from just two ingredients — mince and tomato ketchup. “There was no garlic or onion, but we loved it because it was something different.” However, Patricia was a good baker and, when it came to her children’s birthday parties, she’d transform simple queen cakes — minus the currants — into magical creations. She made ‘winged’ cakes for a fairy party, while blue icing, Life Savers and cocktail umbrellas were used to decorate pool party cakes. For a pirate party, the queen cakes were topped with chocolate icing, gold coins and handmade Jolly Roger flags. In the Norman family, Patricia became known as the Queen of the Queen Cakes. But it wasn’t just her party cakes that people admired — Kerrie’s birthday celebrations always had an imaginative theme and childhood friends from Edithvale, Victoria, still remember them. “In those days there was no such thing as a party shop, and party products were limited to balloons and streamers,” says Kerrie, who recalls her mother using cardboard, crepe paper and glitter to create invitations, decorations and lolly bags, wands for a fairy party, crowns for a princess party and swords for a pirate party. The most memorable was Kerrie’s eighth birthday party, which had a Hawaiian theme — Patricia made crepe paper hula skirts and leis for the girls, and cardboard pirate hats and eye patches for the boys. Now 77, Patricia rarely bakes cakes these days, mainly because she’s too busy — she plays tennis and golf, and recently joined a cycling club. And her athletic pursuits have earned her a new moniker — the Queen of the Queen Cakes has been renamed Active Nan by her eight grandchildren.
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