Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Storm In A Cupcake

Girls bursting out of huge cakes is such a common trope in films and TV at this stage that I reckon if you wheeled a giant cake into a room full of people and it turned out to be an actual cake the whole way through, the disappointment would be palpable regardless of demographic. I'm certain of it. In fact, if anyone wants to bake a giant cake for me to prove my point, please go ahead and I definitely won't eat it all instead of doing what I said I would. Definitely.

Ladies in varying states of undress (or gender, in the case of South Park) have popped out of cakes in everything from Singin' In The Rain, Boardwalk Empire, Cheers and even Xena: Warrior Princess.

What immediately comes to mind for me though is Erika Eleniak and if the name doesn't ring a bell then simply saying "that scene in Under Siege" certainly should. There must be VHS tapes of Steven Seagal's finest work strewn across homes in which Erika's interrupted cake dance has been reduced to fuzzy static due to excessive pausing and rewinding.

There she is now, with nobody to look at her bottom only Casey Ryback and he's got a battleship to save so put some damn clothes on, woman!

Anyway, in case you've ever wondered where this propensity for oversized cakes with a sexy girl filling came from, allow me to inform you. Towards the end of the 19th century, Gilded Age New York was rife with ridiculously wealthy gadabouts and grande dames, all trying to outdo each other with hugely elaborate dinner parties and soirees for the city's elite. Mamie Fish, a legendary hostess with a flair for divilment once held a dinner in honour of a mysterious prince, only for her guests to arrive and discover that the prince in question was a monkey dressed in white tie and tails. Equestrian enthusiast CKG Billings celebrated the opening of his stables in 1903 with a dinner on horseback in the exclusive Sherry's restaurant. For real. A room in the restaurant was decorated to look like the countryside, complete with grass on the floor, waiters dressed for a fox hunt, sterling silver menus shaped like horseshoes and specially designed saddles that incorporated trays fitted to twelve live horses.

Look at these mad bastards! Steps up to the horses and everything.

However, the most notorious stunt by New York's wealthy ne'er-do-wells was what transpired the night of a stag party organised by Stanford White, a well known architect. The dinner was attended by a host of American impressionist painters, Wall Street brokers, photographers, illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (creator of the Gibson Girl) and badass inventor Nikola Tesla. Apparently the dinner was a twelve course affair, with four banjo players and four singers providing entertainment and two girls to pour the wine, a brunette for red and a blonde for white. Classy. When dessert rolled around, the singers began to chant "Sing a Song of Sixpence" as a huge pie was carried into the room. At the line "Was that not a dainty dish to set before the king?" sixteen year old Susie Johnson burst out of the giant pie, accompanied by four and twenty actual birds and danced up and down the table with a stuffed blackbird on her head, feathered toe rings on her bare feet and while some accounts claim she was dressed in sheer black gauze, other stories say she was "covered only by the ceiling".

An illustration that appeared in a newspaper afterwards. I see they went with the non-nudey version of the story.

Although the guests and staff were sworn to secrecy, the story eventually made its way to a newspaper office and what became known as the Pie Girl Dinner exploded, lifting the lid on the shenanigans of the city's VIPs, scandalising the rest of the town and setting a precedent for dramatic desserts that has endured and adapted all the way to now.


  1. I always think of the scene in 'Some Like It Hot' where a mad gunman, in place of a saucy broad jumps from the cake and shoots up the room.
    Never trust an oversized cake.

  2. Anon - Very true, if it's not a stripper that's about to pop put, it's definitely a gunman about to ruin everyone's night.

    Emma - Oh you! x

  3. nice to see the word 'trope' being used. Underutilised in my opinion.


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