Celebrating periods: creating a ‘pad’ cake

Looking for something to celebrate a first period, first period gift ideas or to make first period special? Look no further than my weird family ritual.

My sisters and I were watching ABC Kids now-classic ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ (feat wheelchair Drake). In the episode ‘Coming of Age’, Emma gets her first period. 

After a series of embarrassing events, Emma’s mum makes her a cake to celebrate Emma's “becoming a woman”. While watching, my sister who was maybe 11 at the time, made a few ‘how stupid type comments.

Back in the early 2000s, this middle child was a bit of a devil and she really sent poor mum over the edge. Sometimes though, mum would store away little jabs to get her back in at my sister. This was one of those occasions.

Fast forward to my sister’s first period. “How good,” says mum! She does the spiel about pads and tampons in the bathroom, talking about cramps and heat packs. 

The next afternoon, as we get home from school, on the kitchen table is this absolutely glorious cake. It could only be described as a pad cake. Made in our grandmother's old loaf tin, the sides cut out in a curve, covered in basic white icing with a smear of jam down the middle. 

Before we know it, our aunty and family friends with daughters have popped around to see the cake. I’ll never forget sitting in the kitchen, each with a slice of the pad cake in shouts of laughter and conversation.

It was mortifying for my sister at the time, but now we think back to it with such a sense of humour and fondness.

Why celebrate periods?

Times have progressed in the couple of decades since, menstruation isn't quite as taboo as it once was. The movement for pride in our bodies and all that they do is gaining traction. Young girls, people who menstruate, using a menstrual cup, pubic hair - it shouldn't have the shame and stigma attached to it anymore. 

When someone's period starts, that very first menstrual cycle, they should know as much as they can. That it is part of a process called ovulation and your body is shedding the lining of your uterus. Everybody creates estrogen and progesterone differently, and birth control is an option but is YOUR choice to look around for health care that suits you best. Extreme period pain isn’t normal, and menstrual blood is all different colours. That period products come in many forms, not just a pad or a tampon.

Take a look at our ideas to celebrate periods.

Easy ‘Pad’ cake

The Day-to-Day Cookery, compiled by I. M. Downes and Elaine Grant has been used in Queensland schools in Australia for decades. If you want to make a cake from scratch, I recommend this book’s butter cake recipe which mum used to create the now infamous ‘pad’ cake.

If that’s not your jam (pun intended), a really easy option use a packet mix, or even easier is to grab one of the classic mud cakes we’ve all celebrated a birthday or two with.

We’ve put a buttercream icing recipe below, but you can always use the pre-made ‘frosting’ from the supermarket too. Take

  • Start the buttercream by beating 150gm butter until pale and stiff - you’ll know it’s ready when it forms ripples and can create peaks that stay up on their own. 
  • Add in one cup of icing sugar at a time, beating until the icing is a consistency you’re happy with - not too runny and not too thick
  • Add in a couple of drops of vanilla essence to taste
  • To make the buttercream more ‘white’, add in a drop or two of blue colouring in really small increments to counteract the yellow.
  • Once the cake has cooled, pop it onto a plate or serving board and start shaping it. We based ours on the classic wingless pad, so rounding the tops and making curved indents in the side.
  • When happy with the shape, ice the cake all over with your icing, smoothing it out across the ‘pad’
  • Add a smear of jam or red coloured icing across the middle, lengthways of the cake.

Want to discover more?

Explore our database of everyone working towards menstrual equality in Australia.

Inclusivity note

Within this article, we may use the terms she, her, woman, girl or daughter. We understand that not all people with uteruses who are assigned female at birth menstruate, and not everyone who menstruates identifies as a female, girl or woman. For more information on this, please see our article about the importance of gender inclusivity when discussing periods and menstruation.

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