This is one of a collection of twenty six cardboard stencil cutouts of different sizes and shapes for creating decorations on cakes. They are used when modelling marzipan or icing. The stencil is placed on the cake surface, and a knife is then used to cut around the shape which is then placed on the cake for decoration. Circular shapes can be placed on top of a cake of similar diameter, and then dusted with icing sugar or cocoa to make a contrasting border when the stencil is removed. The stencil was made by German pastry chef Karl Muffler and was used by him during his career as a pastry chef and confectioner in Melbourne from the 1930s and during teaching cake decorating at William Angliss Food Trades School during the 1940s.

This item relates to Karl Friedrich Muffler, qualified pastry chef and confectioner, born in 1900, who migrated to Melbourne from Germany in 1930, aboard the passenger liner 'Balranald'. Muffler quickly established himself in Melbourne, commencing employment with Bill Ikinger (who had recruited and sponsored him) at his cake shop in Brunswick, as well as joining the long-running German establishment 'Club Tivoli'. Muffler went on to establish his own business, 'The Embassy' in Malvern, and in 1939 married fellow German migrant Mathilde 'Hilde' Mayer. At this time they were members of the 'German Labour Front' of which Adolf Mayer (Hilde's father) was president. On 4th September, 1939 Karl Muffler, along with dozens of other German residents (including his father-in-law), was placed into police custody as an enemy alien. He was transferred to Tatura internment camp and while there undertook woodcarving and drafting classes and worked as a cake decorator. He was transferred to a Forestry Commission camp in Broadford, and finally released in 1945. With no family left in Germany he decided to stay in Australia and became naturalised in 1947. After the war, Muffler accepted a position at William Angliss Food Trades School in Melbourne teaching ex-servicemen new skills in cake decoration. He maintained a connection to the German community though Club Tivoli and died in 1996.

Physical Description

Small circular stencil from a group of 12 cardboard stencil cutouts, originally tied together with brown string. Stencils are of different sizes and shapes for creating decorations on cakes, used when modelling marzipan or icing. Stencil placed on surface and then knife used to cut around the shape which was then placed on cake for decoration. Wheel shapes placed on top of cake of similar diameter, dusted with icing sugar or cocoa to make a contrasting border when wheel removed.


This rich and diverse collection enables the exploration of a number of important historical themes, relating to migration as well as broader work and wartime narratives. Of key interest is the theme of working life and the proactive transporting of commercial and culinary traditions to Australia via the immigration process. Represented are the operational activities of pastry businesses around Melbourne in the 1930s, brought to life through tools and business records. The theme of internment and restriction of 'enemy aliens' during World War II can be explored through documents, mementoes, drawings, tokens and internment craft, and this collection is complemented by a large number of documents relating to Muffler held by the National Archives of Australia.The collection also provides a comprehensive overview of a migrant's experience: from garnering qualifications in country of origin to migrating; establishing a working life as practitioner and teacher; community connections and the subsequent consequences of those activities; the establishment of a domestic and social life, through marriage and ongoing cultural links; and the experiences of loss through separation through relocation, and loss of family due to war.

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