The cupcake craze of the early 21st century could not have taken off without paper patty pans. These fluted waxed paper containers made whipping up large batches of small cakes much easier, avoiding the need for dozens of cake tins.
Paper patty pans first appeared in the early 1900s. Most likely invented in the USA, they were being made in Australia by 1914. Barker and Company of Melbourne claimed to have introduced the industry to this country, with early brands including Gumleaf and Cakeoes.
I have heard from Paul Fletcher, a creative Fellow with the State Library of Victoria, whose grandfather ran the Barker and Company business. He introduced me to the colourful history of paper patty pans, noting that Barkers produced many specially printed designs including cafe logos and names, nursery rhymes, and celebrations of special events such as the opening of Sydney Harbor Bridge and the centenary of Melbourne in 1934.
Paul informs me that in the early days, the company took part in some “made in Australia” road shows travelling to country areas to promote their product. Their patty pans were included in a 1921 advertisement by Fairley’s of Shepparton, Victoria, where they were promoted as “Absolutely the Newest Labor Savers”, saving on washing up, paper and greasing.
Barkers claimed that their new improved Cakoes product allowed cakes to develop more flavour. ‘The Popularity of “Barker Cakeoes” is Proof of their Superiority’, the package claimed.
“Barker Cakoes” are designed to give more flexibility in cake making. Their new design enables a greater variety of cake mixings to be made.
Cake mixtures which would not be best baked in Barker Cake Containers can safely be used in “Barker Cakoes.” They enable highly flavoured and seasoned cake mixtures to develop a flavour which you have never before obtained from the same mixture.
“Baker Cakoes” can be repeatedly used if you so wish.
In 1930, Edmund George Barker and two other manufacturers made a representation to the Australian Tariff Board asking that duty on imported paper patty pans be increased to protect the profit margins of local companies. They were successful in their quest, with the Board reducing the tariff on the imported raw material (waxed paper) and increasing the impost on overseas competitors.
Barker and Company continued to produce their patty pans through to the 1970s. As printers, they also made a variety of other paper products and even branched out into pudding cloths, which were attractively named “Boiloes”.
The State Library of Victoria’s La Trobe Library has a collection of paper patty pans from the 1930s to the 1970s. The collection was donated by Peter Sheen, a former Managing Director of Barker Cohoes Pty. Ltd. His article about the collection gives details of many of the decorative designs and describes the manufacturing process.