Since discovering this little hobby of mine, cake artistry has given me the opportunity to travel all over the country, attending events, taking classes and meeting up with incredibly talented people wherever I go. In the last year alone, I’ve been to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Southend-on-Sea, I’m off to Leeds this week and I’m in the process of planning a trip up to the wilds of Scotland. But rather shockingly, even though it is practically on my doorstep, I had never made it up the A3 to Farnham and the Squires Kitchen Exhibition! Obviously, that had to change and so I got in touch with Natalie at Squires Kitchen and invited myself along to last weekend’s 2018 event.
Set in the heart of Farnham, the Squires Kitchen Exhibition is held the Maltings, a former tannery that that also has a long brewery history, until it was partially donated – at a very reduced rate – to the town by then owners, Courage Breweries. Today, the Maltings provides space for many different activities, including artists’ studios, galleries, the Riverside Café and Cellar Bar; the Barley Room, the Dance Studio and Nursery.
The Exhibition is spread out over the whole space and the rabbit warren-like layout of the show really adds to the charm of the event as a whole. On my initial wander, I kept stumbling into rooms that I hadn’t even realised were there and discovering even more wonderful things to see and experience – although, helpfully there are very clear maps dotted all around, so you don’t have to rely on unexpected discoveries!
After a very friendly welcome from the Squires team, I quickly headed to the competition galleries – they tend to be a popular draw and I wanted to be able to take the time to take them all in before the rooms got too crowded.
The categories at this year’s show were:
Class 1: Bowl of Flowers – A sugar flower arrangement containing at least three different varieties of flowers displayed in a bowl or vase of the competitor’s choice. The flowers could be botanically accurate or fantasy flowers.
Class 2: Carved Novelty Cake – A chance for competitors to show off their cake shaping skills and produce a carved cake covered in any suitable edible medium. Cakes had to be carved and shaped entirely by the competitor with no moulded tins allowed!
Class 3: Showstopper Wedding Cake – An opportunity to be inspired by modern trends or more traditional techniques, competitors were tasked to create a stylish wedding cake with the wow factor.
Class 4: Miniature Wedding Cake – An incredible category that challenges competitors to work on a small scale to produce a wedding cake with a minimum of two tiers that will fit within a 6” cube.
Class 5: Painted Celebration Cake – Competitors got creative within this freestyle class. They were allowed to use edible paints, pastes, dusts or another edible medium to create a painted design that would wow the judges.
Class 6: Pastillage Cup and Saucer – Creative cup and saucers crafted from pastillage, decorated with any edible medium and displayed however competitors wish.
Class 7: Whatever the Weather Children’s Cupcakes – A chance for the youngsters to get involved and make and decorate a minimum of three weather-themed cupcakes with prizes for two age categories: 7–10 years and 11–14 years.
The judges certainly had their work cut out with a huge variety of entries and I didn’t envy them their job one bit. I know many of them were still on site long after the show had finished for the day, so they definitely gave it the attention it deserved. Congratulations to everyone who entered and, of course, the deserving winners.
In addition to the stunning competitions, the show also featured a huge variety of incredibly talented professional cakers, bakers and artists sharing their amazing skills and techniques through free demonstrations throughout the weekend.
During my visit on the Saturday, there were opportunities to learn from a whole host of legends, including (but not limited to): animated figures with expert modeller Carlos Lischetti; wafer paper flowers, with Petya Shmarova; cake sculpting with Jacqui Kelly; chocolate faces with Laura Dodimead [pictured]; master chocolatier-worthy chocolate skills from former Bake Off Crème de la Crème winner, Mark Tilling; a floral masterclass with Alan Dunn; unique cake toppers from Extreme Cake Maker, Christine Jensen of Peboryon; perfect peonies from creator of the Perfect Peony Cutter, Natalie Porter; and cake painting skills from best-selling author of The Painted Cake, Natasha Collins. I wish I could have made it to all of the amazing demonstrations, because I loved the ones I did manage to sneak into.
Another unmissable event was the live Royal Wedding Cake Collaboration – a joint effort to create the ultimate fantasy wedding cake for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Featuring the work of Alan Dunn, Petya Shmarova, Design Sucré, Simply Alpa, Emily Hankins Cake, Sylvia’s Kitchen, Scrum Diddly, Immaculate Confections, Wedding Cakes by Design, Apple Tree Cake Design, Tees Bakery, Hayley Elizabeth Cake Design, Willoughby’s Handmade Cakes and Chelsea Buns Creative Cakes, it was honestly a sight to behold. Beautiful work team!
Of course, a cake show wouldn’t be a cake show without oodles of shopping opportunities and Squires didn’t disappoint on that front either – although, you may be surprised to know that I was very restrained.
However, I was particularly intrigued by the new Cake Smoothie by Sherry Hostler and I may yet still have to invest in a set – just for research purposes you understand. The Cake Smoothies are a set of three round-edged, teardrop-shaped, silicone cake smoothers designed to allow you to smooth your sugarpaste into even the most awkward angles and shapes on your cakes. As predominantly a sculpted cake maker, I can already see the possibilities! My eye was also caught by the new Squires Kitchen Edible Wafer Paper by Natasha Collins. Designed by the British cake artist and cake-painting specialist, Natasha has teamed up with Squires Kitchen to produce a whole range of beautiful ‘painted’ designs on strong, flexible and ultra-fine wafer paper, making it suitable for all kinds of uses in baking and sugarcraft. If you’re not confident in your cake painting abilities or are looking for an easier alternative, the wafer paper designs by Natasha Collins will add pretty painted effects in seconds. I could see them being really cost- and time-saving too.
I was also lucky enough to be able to monopolise Rhianydd Webb of Dragons and Daffodils, who incidentally is now my new favourite shopping buddy as she introduced me to all of the stands that I absolutely shouldn’t miss while at the show. We started with Fine Cut Sugarcraft Products, based in Nottingham, who produce a seemingly endless range of high quality metal cutters in every shape and size that you can imagine, before heading to The Old Bakery, who, amongst other things, stock Sunrise Wires – superb quality floral wires imported from Japan. Rhianydd recommends them to all of her students as she is yet to find an alternative that are as high quality and reliable.
She also introduced me to Sugar Artistry by Stephen Benison and his wonderfully unique cutters. Oh, and the Squires Kitchen Great Impressions Silicone Veiners – all of which I am now coveting, by the way!
After the heroic levels of willpower I had had to expend while perusing the marketplace, it was definitely time for a coffee at one of the many cafés dotted all around The Maltings and an opportunity to catch up on my cake world gossip with some of the many cakey chums that I had bumped into throughout the day.
And that’s another wonderful thing about the Squires show actually: it’s so lovely and friendly. Which reminds me, I promised the lovely ladies of the British Sugarcraft Guild that I would mention their upcoming Cakes and Sugarcraft Exhibitions. So, if you are local to Ware in Hertfordshire, be sure to head along to the Region 7 show on 8th September 2018. It takes place at Wodson Park on Wadesmill Road and doors open at 10am. For more information, visit bsgregion7.co.uk. And if you’re particularly organised with your diary, the Region 8 show takes place at the Falmer Campus of Brighton University on 18th May 2019. More information can be found at bsgregion8se.org.
I also promised a shout out to Brooklands College, who were in attendance showing off some of their sugarcraft and bakery students’ amazing creations. They offer a variety of courses to suit bakers and cakers of all abilities at their Surrey-based campuses and invite anyone who would like to know more to attend a public exhibition of their students’ work on Tuesday 1st May 2018 – between 10am and 7:30pm.
All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable day at my first ever Squire Kitchen Exhibition and was made to feel very welcome. I would heartily recommend it to cakers and baking fans alike. There are so many opportunities to meet, speak to and learn from your idols, chances to try out products that you might normally only get to see online, tons of wonderful things to see and do and easily enough to fill a whole day out – in fact, I practically had to be escorted from the premises at the end because I was still desperately trying to squeeze in a last few photographs of the amazing multi-tiered masterpieces in the Wedding Cake Showroom!
Thank you to everyone who contributed to making it a truly wonderful day – I will definitely be seeing you all again next year!