Catering for a Retro Birthday Party

Retro decor setting
Retro decor to set the mood

Every year my eldest son Andrew celebrates his birthday at the beach, amidst four generations of family campers and neighbours, old seventies caravans and colourful retro umbrellas. Whatever the chosen theme, every year his party seems to turn retro. One year it was Hawaiian – nothing more retro than an authentic Hawaiian shirt. The next year it was brown- a distinctly retro colour, especially brown Terylene trousers and Safari suits. This year we just cut to the chase and turned to the queen of Retro, Rachael, for assistance with decor and clothing, and to Maxine for culinary inspiration via her mother’s old retro cookbook.

I’m not sure why this retro obsession began but it was instigated around 19 years ago, when my daughter fell in love with old anodised soda syphons. Since then, she has expanded her collection to include all forms of anodised ware, lustre ware, ramekins, green depression glass, melamine serving platters, and more, lots more! Some of her collection lives in her beach caravan so that she doesn’t feel deprived while camping.

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Vol au Vents, filled with salmon cream. A popular retro starter.

During the week leading up to the event, FB private messaging and texts were all a flurry with photos of the most ridiculous food. The best example was a warm salad dish of whole bananas, draped in ham, and blanketed with a Hollandaise sauce. The thought is so ghastly, this photo needs to be shared.ham_and_bananas_hollandaise

We decided on a sensible plan. A list of edible retro food was chosen. On the morning of the party, we acquired some more retro serving ware, since the local beach suburban op shops are awash with the stuff. Colourful retro shaped glasses were purchased at Kmart for around AU$5, a very fine investment. Clothing was distributed and the tables set. The retro cocktail of choice was the Brandy Alexander. This one drink alone changed the tone of the party fairly rapidly. They were extremely popular.Bartender, please mix me up another!

Brandy Alexander Recipe
Ingredients: 1 part fresh cream, 1 part brandy, 1 part Crème de cacao
Preparation: Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Sprinkle with fresh ground nutmeg.
Served: Straight up; without ice
Standard garnish: Grated nutmeg

Drinkware: Cocktail glass

Retro Finger Food List
  • vol au vents, filled with salmon or tuna bechamel
  • sliced Kabana sausage
  • coloured baby picked onions, gherkins and cheddar cheese pieces on toothpicks, stuck into an orange or a pineapple
  • cocktail sausages ( little boys) on toothpicks and tomato sauce
  • French onion dip, ( made with cream cheese and a dehydrated packet of French onion soup), served in a carved out white cottage loaf. Very popular!!
  • corn relish dip, made with a packet of cream cheese mixed with a jar of corn relish
  • pretzels, nuts and small dry biscuits
  • cucumber sandwiches (white bread, no crusts)
  • smoked oysters on white bread
  • cheezels
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClaudia threads up the cheese, kabana, and  onion sticks.

We also prepared something a little larger for the stayers, (everyone!) served in ramekins of course. Someone forgot to bring out the Kai Si Ming, so they had to eat this retro classic stuffed into a Jaffle for days afterwards.

  • Tuna Mornay.
  • Kai Si Ming
  • Savoury birthday cake ( recipe below)
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How to pick up Cheezels at a party
The savoury birthday cake, a carved out loaf of white bread, filled with layers of curried egg, beetroot cream and crab, then covered in cream cheese.
The savoury birthday cake, a carved out loaf of white bread, filled with layers of curried egg, beetroot cream and crab, then covered in cream cheese.
The savoury cake in profile
The savoury cake in profile

retro 6Birthday boy, Andrew, cuts the cake with Maxine on the left and the Retro Ab Fab Lady on right.

Savoury Birthday Cake recipe, from Eve’s Retro Book.maxines cake-001

42 thoughts on “Catering for a Retro Birthday Party”

  1. What fun! I never thought of it but what was retro food in Australia was completely different from retro here (as I currently am) in the USA! Those bananas do look ghastly no matter from which culture they are viewed, however. Hope you all had a great time.

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  2. Well done! Such a tremendous job considering you were all camping. I remember all those things – although the bananas passed me by – it’s a wonder we all survived:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cake was eaten, strangely enough. It was served as something to eat rather than a cake token, which no one eats if they have been drinking. Yes, the banana dish takes the prize.

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  3. Love it ☺ Quite a few of these retro lovelies are still current in our household… tuna mornay, corn relish dip, little boys and smoked oysters… the latter wavering as they all seem to be product of China… but no Bananas Hollandaise. Our day-to-day decor also covers stages of retro… op shopping treasures.

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  4. God, what a hoot! These things just gather momentum and get more and more ridiculous as people come up with more ideas. Those almost floor orange glass bowls were very popular, have you got the coffee mugs? I woke up in Lilydale one night instead of Belgrave when I had been sampling Brandy Alexanders and got on the wrong train, never touched them since. The good old best 21st gift of coloured aluminium cups in the leather zip up holder. Should bring them back to save disposables! Shame there are no canned asparagus wrapped in white bread canapés, eeeew! I’ll have a Pimms to you!

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    1. oh no, I knew I forgot something- the asparagus rolls- would have gone down well with the oldies. Haha, well Lilydale isn’t too far from Belgrave- it could have been Frankston or Broadmeadows. Rachael has a few sets of those zip up anodized numbers- she does use them. My daughter is weird.

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