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Cake International Adventures: #teamdutchess

Wow! What a weekend!

I honestly don’t even know how to begin trying to describe the amazing Cake International weekend.

The show was celebrating it’s 25th anniversary and it was certainly its biggest and best ever! Naturally, a full post about the show will follow later this week, but, for now, I wanted to start by telling you all about the incredible Live Build that #teamdutchess completed over the weekend!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I was honoured to be part of the amazing team that came together to support Etty van Urk of Cake Dutchess bringing her first book, the Cake Dutchess Modelling Guide: Animals to the market. It really is a stunning publication (and well worth a purchase if you’re looking to develop your modelling skills), but long before the book went off to the printers, we were thinking about how we could celebrate its launch at this year’s Cake International event.

With such an amazing selection of animal-themed projects in the book ready for us all to tackle, it suddenly struck me, what about a Live Build during which we could create a giant Noah’s Ark topped with a dazzling array of the amazing animals that Etty has created over her years in sugar artistry.

Luckily, Etty loved the idea and managed to get some truly incredible, world-renowned artists on board to help us bring to life – including Corinna Maguire of Lovin’ from the Oven, Janette MacPherson of Janette MacPherson Cake Craft, Kelly McWilliam of Kelly McWilliam – Cake Artist, Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes and, all the way from Canada, Kylie Mangles of Letterpress Bakery, as well as a whole host of Etty’s immensely talented Cake Dutchess Instructors, including Lesley Smith, Gillian Wilson, Deborah Edwards, Mariska van Bers, Rosan Kreeftmeijer, Xenia Robeson, Karin Bergrath and Wendy Slagwein.

In what felt like no time at all, it was suddenly time to bring our vision to life and, thanks to our wonderful sponsors (more on them in a moment), we were ready to get cracking as soon as the show was declared officially open, on Friday.

We started by building an edible support frame for the ark, using Rice Krispie Treats, and then it was time to assemble the deliciously moist chocolate orange cake, kindly sponsored by Nude Cakes.

As they explain on their website, Nude Cakes have been honing their baking expertise for many years and their stunning, gourmet cakes have a taste and texture that has to be tried to be believed. Packed full of the finest ingredients, the rich dark chocolate sponges, with a gorgeous orange flavour that they donated to the project were baked to perfection and they arrived perfectly ready to decorate.

Once the cakes had been assembled together, it was time to slather them with a ton of my tasty chocolate orange ganache, before we started to decorate with ready-coloured Ice Wise Cocoa Brown Sugarpaste, generously donated by Decobake Ireland.

The cake was panelled with the sugarpaste, before a wood effect was added by hand.

Always fun having an audience when things aren’t going to plan, eh Janette?

Adorable embellishments were added in the form of a gangplank, portholes (we may have taken some artistic licence with the more traditional depictions of the ark), a door and a thatched straw roof.

Is that some surreptitious Googling I can see…?

The wood effect was enhanced thanks to our Cake Dutchess Modelling Tools, before we moved on to shaping some marbled waves with Ice Wise Ocean Blue Sugarpaste, again kindly provided by Decobake Ireland, topped with royal icing brush embroidery.

It was all then expertly airbrushed by my fellow Clairella Cakes brand ambassador colleague, Janette MacPherson – she did a wonderful job!

Over the rest of the weekend, we were joined by a whole host of talented Cake Dutchess instructors, who, along with Etty, created some adorable animal models from Cake Dutchess Modelling Paste – in pairs of course – to adorn our display.

Hi Xenia!


Wendy’s flamingos were very popular!

Oh, and Zoe’s fabulous Noah of course…

One of my favourite parts of the whole process was watching a group of cake artists – most of whom are well-known for their intricately detailed cakes and models – adapt their skills to match the signature simplicity for which Cake Dutchess is so well known and loved.

It really was a fun project to be a part of and I’m sure you’ll agree that the final assembled piece was a real thing of beauty. If I’m honest, it was touch-and-go there for a moment whether we would be able to bring ourselves to cut the cake as planned – we all just loved it so much. There was even talk of Etty taking it back to Glasgow to donate to a local charity.

However, with so many of the show’s attendees regularly popping back to see how the build was progressing and a couple of our more child-sized fans eager to get their hands on some of our tasty cake, we found it impossible to let them down.

So, shortly before the show closed its doors for the final time, we were joined by Paul Bradford of CakeFlix who honoured us by cutting the cake, before we shared the hundred-or-so delicious portions with the assembled crowd (I can personally attest to its deliciousness, as I may have had two pieces myself – hey, I’d skipped lunch!).

Having not had a Nude Cakes cake before, I was genuinely very impressed with both the quality and the taste of their chocolate orange sponge and I’ll be honest with you, at least a small part of me considered stopping baking entirely for a second and just using Nude Cakes for all my future bakes – it really was that good.

I’m sure I can take at least a tiny bit of the credit though – my chocolate orange ganache also got a lot of compliments. If you fancy having a whipping up a batch of it yourself, you will be able to find the recipe via the recipes tab above in the next couple of days.

But if you could indulge me for just a moment, I would like to take this opportunity to offer a final thank you to both of our wonderful sponsors, Decobake and Nude Cakes, without whom this project would not have been possible. Do check out their websites to find out more about both of these brilliant organisations.

Thank you also to everyone who stopped by to visit us during our Live Build, as well as all those who came along by to congratulate Etty on her publication and stock up on their Cake Dutchess essentials.

It was a fantastic project to be a part of and I’m both grateful and honoured that Etty asked me to be there. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for Cake Dutchess next.

In the meantime, be sure to keep a close eye on the blog this week, as I have much more to share with you from my amazing weekend at Cake International – including announcing the winner of my biggest ever subscriber giveaway, of course. Have you entered?

If you have, make sure you have set your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter post to ‘public’, so I can see it and check back regularly to find out if you have been lucky enough to scoop the jackpot!

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