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pacman

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Whilst the rain battered down on Glasgow, I spent Friday afternoon baking. I’ve had a low month so it was comforting to have a small goal to work towards. The task was a random cake commission for a 40th birthday – a pair of old-skool classics: Pacman and Ghostie. I used the classic sponge recipe and made a lemon cake for the Pacman and a chocolate cake for the Ghostie.

Cake mix

Cream 6oz of butter with 6oz of castor sugar. Blend in 6oz self raising flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 3 beaten eggs. Spoon mixture between two 8inch cake tins.

Lemon cake – add grated rind of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Chocolate cake – add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon warm water.

Bake at gas mark 3 for 25 minutes. It’s ready when springy.

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House artist Lee helped me to carve and ice the cakes. I used lemon butter icing (yum!) for the inside of the Pacman cake: beat together 8oz icing sugar, 4oz butter and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. I sandwiched the two cakes together with the lemon butter icing and a layer of jam. To the butter icing I added some yellow food colouring and blended well. (Had to make extra icing to cover the cake) Lee cut the Pacman mouth and iced the cake. A chocolate button was used for his cheeky eye.

For the Ghostie cake, I made chocolate butter icing: blend together 8oz icing sugar, 4oz butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Add some warm water if the mix is too stiff. This icing sandwiched the cakes together along with a thin layer of jam. Lee carefully cut the Ghostie shape. He iced the top with plain butter icing with added blue food colouring. I love Ghostie’s eyes – marshmallows and chocolate buttons give him a cool look.

I am rather proud of these guys. They were fun to make and reminded me of those wet afternoons stuck indoors playing the ZX Spectrum or an Atari. I wonder if today I’d have the patience to sit and wait for a game to load while the screen flickers and the sound ‘bing bongs’?

I once read an interesting pop-psychology piece that examined the use of retro in adult culture. It suggested our love of retro comes from a need to find a piece of stability in an ever-changing, seemingly violent world. Retro objects and art gives us a reminder of the past – a safe, happy time, free from modern pressures. I’m sure that every generation feels that fear of the world – that mankind is on the edge of meltdown between wars and moral chaos. It’s been felt as far back as the Romans. Once in a uni class we read excerpts from diaries where Romans bemoan the decline of moral order amidst violence and littering. 

Retro has been around for longer than the 1980s. During the 18th and 19th century, ancient Greek and Roman culture became an inspiration for art, architecture, fashion and literature. OK, it’s vague to compare 1980s retro and 1890s classical antiquity, but it shows looking to the past gives us imagery to influence our current styles. Retro reminds us how far we’ve come; from playing Pong in our bedrooms where we dreamed of a future with limitless technology, to a world in which these dreams are coming true. I love retro – the past is full of design classics that deserve a place in the future.

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