One of my favourite childhood memories is of lazy holiday afternoons spent lying in bed, listening to the stories from Marshall Cavendish's StoryTeller series from the 80s. One of these was "The Lord of the Rushie River" by Mary Cicely Barker (creator of the"Flower Fairies"). Denise Bryer's sensitive narration of this poignant story truly draws out the beauty of this tale of the friendship between a lonely little girl and a river swan. It is hard to put in words, the mixture of these feelings of sweet nostalgia and deep joy in being able to share these stories with my children, and the delight of reliving my own childhood wonder as I see them being enjoyed by mine as they used to by me. Over these stories of imaginary lands and people and tales of far-away countrysides and places, I feel I have forged a closer bond with my children, if that is even possible.
How precious - this legacy of beloved childhood tales being passed from one generation to the next. And reflecting on this, it seemed only natural to draw on our shared love for this touching English tale, as inspiration for Sugababe 1's 8th birthday.
As far as themed birthday cakes go, this was fairly easy to pull off as we already had a swan-themed cupcake tree, cupcake liners and toppers. (A real relief, as I have no idea how one would go about making fondant swans). Fragrant orange baby cakes iced with an orange drizzle frosting were baked in English Rose patterned liners, and topped with a variety of edible flowers to evoke the wild English countryside. And to complete the look - a beautiful illustration of Susan and her dear swan displayed in an old Pottery Barn frame bought during my honeymoon.
The best part of our display, however, would have to be the second-hand, 1976 edition of The Lord of the Rushie River - a surprise gift for her that I had scoured the net too long for, and ordered too late, but which still managed to arrive the day before just in time for her birthday celebration. Its pristine pages (not a single yellow spot!) and impeccably timed delivery left me in no doubt that this was God's present to her too.
There was magic this afternoon, watching my 8 year old's wide-eyed wonder as she took in the flower-strewn cupcakes ("Are these really edible Mummy?") and hearing her happy exclamation when she saw the framed illustration. She flitted admiringly from one side of the display to another in her sequinned dress, and I found myself wondering for the umpteenth time this week, how is it possible that she had grown so fast? I still remember her first day, her birth day (she lights up with joy whenever I retell this), the day I became a mother for a first time, how in love I was, how overjoyed. How I did not sleep for the entire first night despite the exhaustion of childbirth, because I could not believe that this, this beautiful baby, was mine. And now she is 8? I blink, still myself to capture her in this moment ... in the soft morning sunlight ... but like glints of light on a rushing river these moments flow through the fingers of my mind.
Happy birthday, my 8 year old, and don't you grow up too fast.
For these regular sized cupcakes, I used a double recipe portion of Mini Paris Cupcakes from Epicurious, with 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest added after butter and sugar are creamed to fluffy consistency. Cupcakes are moist and tender, but care has to be taken to perform the creaming step properly for it to be at its best. For the orange drizzle icing, start with 175g of icing sugar mixed with 4 tsp of orange juice, add more icing sugar or juice as necessary for the icing to reach the desired consistency. The icing should be thick and spreadable or slowly pourable but not so runny that it would overflow the cupcakes.