Kevin Rudd’s sweet recipe for a better world: Well, if that doesn’t take the cake

He advised Aussies to have an Iced Vo Vo on the day he became Prime Minister, now Kevin Rudd has turned to cake in a bid to boost his diplomatic powers, writes Rebecca Levingston.

Nov 23, 2022, updated Nov 23, 2022
Tea and bikkies? Now our former PM Kevin Rudd has added the diplomatic cake to his repertoire. (ABC image)

Tea and bikkies? Now our former PM Kevin Rudd has added the diplomatic cake to his repertoire. (ABC image)

On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Kevin Rudd’s many phone calls included one to order a cake. A sweet, solemn gesture in response to catastrophic circumstance.

He told me the story backstage in Brisbane before a book event last Friday night.

The former PM had just flown in from Singapore and zipped straight to Brizzie (as he would say) to chat about his latest book in front of 400 Queenslanders. Ironically, he penned The Avoidable War on the Sunshine Coast which is an idyllic location to write about historic geopolitical tensions between China and America. Kevin’s worried about war, with good reason. But it was another global conflict that prompted cake on that fateful day back in February.

New York is Kevin’s home often. He lives quite close to the Ukrainian consulate. On the day that Russian tanks rolled across the Ukrainian border, Kevin made a call. Alarmed and unable to do much more than most of us, he arranged for a homemade cake to be dropped off to the diplomatic staff a few doors down. Cake diplomacy from Australia via New York to the heart of Ukraine. Tears were shed.

In Italy there’s a cake called Torta Diplomatica. Two layers of puff pastry with liqueur soaked sponge in the middle. The diplomatic cake. Imagine a vanilla slice with a cake centre. The more cake the merrier according to an Italian chef who created the dessert in the 1400s as a gift for a diplomat visiting Milan.

Scandalously, both the Sicilians and Campanians claim to be the inventors of the torta recipe. A bit like our Lamington argument with New Zealand. Or is that pavlova? Dessert diplomacy is tricker that you think.

I’m not sure if there was cake in the meeting between President Biden and President Xi last week. Perhaps Mr Biden can share some of his 80th birthday cake with his international friends. He’s now the oldest serving US president in history and the first octogenarian. Ronald Reagan was 77 when he left the oval office.

I don’t know if Donald Trump likes cake, but now that he’s allowed back on Twitter he may let slip. I do know that America will celebrate National Cake Day this Saturday.

I’m not a confident cake cook. Unless it’s in a packet. I’m always happy to make cupcakes. Happy or sad occasions, a cupcake is rarely out of place. It’s the power of cake. It can comfort or nourish. Cake can cross cultural hurdles and language barriers.

Actually I learned a few words in Mandarin reading Krudd’s book.
Zhengyou – when friends speak candidly without rupturing a relationship
Siwei – collaboration over conflict

Handy translations.

There wasn’t time for cake in the 32 minute meeting Prime Minster Anthony Albanese had with President Xi. Just bottles of water on long tables. But you get the feeling there might be dinner and dessert in the future.

When I met Anthony Albanese in my radio studio just before he became Prime Minister I noted that he was looking very fit. Trimmed down and determined to win he told me. What was his strategy?

“Don’t eat the bread,” he said emphatically.

He’s PM now, so I hope he indulges in the occasional treat. Although there was that awkward moment when he declined cake on the campaign trail. His predecessor Scott Morrison had a birthday in the middle of the last election and he told me he’d requested Jenny’s chocolate cake. Not the celebration he was hoping for at the end of the campaign.

Scomo was also a fan of Tim Tam diplomacy. He gave a packet to Boris Johnson now they’ve both lost the top job. Tough bikkies.

Remember when Kevin Rudd unintentionally boosted Iced VoVo sales when he became Prime Minister?

In his victory speech after the 2007 election, Kevin declared…

“Friends, tomorrow, the work begins. You can have a strong cup of tea if you want, even an Iced VoVo on the way through. But the celebration stops there.”

Clearly he’s mellowed since he left the Lodge. You can have your cake (or your biscuit) and eat it too. Just remember to share it.

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