So this weekend marks the return of the Squires Kitchen Exhibition to Farnham Maltings and I am excited! Although it’s only about an hour away from me – practically next door compared to some of the trips I take to indulge my cakey passions – I have never been! But that is all about to change, as today I will be heading along, with my blogger hat on, to find out what it is all about.
With a whole host of live demonstrations by star guests to inspirational designs in the Wedding Cake Showroom and Competition Hall, I am told there is much to see and do and I am particularly looking forward to checking out the fabulous creative talents of the entrants in the Squires Kitchen Annual Cake Decorating Competition.
I am also looking forward to perusing the wide array of stands in the Marketplace, where leading sugarcraft suppliers will be sharing their latest tools and materials, with special show offers – although, I hope I can show a bit more restraint that I would have done in the past. But, you know, if there’s something I really NEED…
It’s sure to be a really fun weekend, so if you fancy joining us, you can buy tickets here. Be sure to ping me a Facebook message if you are heading down and hopefully I will see some of you there! xx
On Tuesday, The Great British Bake Off returned to our screens for the first of five 1-hour specials in support of Stand Up To Cancer.
Our post-move-to-Channel-4 presenting line up of Paul, Prue, Noel and Sandi were joined by celebrity bakers, Roisin Conaty, Harry Hill, Martin Kemp and Bill Turnball, who were challenged with a cupcake signature, a Crêpes Suzette technical and a 3D biscuit scene showstopper – all with hilarious results of course.
Going into the first challenge, many of the ‘celebs’ were feeling confident, but as is always the way once the famous cry of ‘Ready… Steady… Bake!’ is uttered, the wheels soon came off! The greatest victim of the seemingly simple technical, Martin, had all sorts of trouble with his cupcakes, with even a re-baked second attempt dropping, but mixing up his bowls and trying to bake his buttercream was probably his lowlight of the experience – although it certainly made entertaining viewing.
When it came to decoration, both Harry and Bill opted to top their cupcakes with jam and sugarpaste (Is a cupcake really a cupcake without lashings of frosting?); while Roisin (who we love by the way after filming an episode of Extra Slice with her in 2017), having professed to never having baked before, went on to wow the judges with her red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting – earning herself a Hollywood Handshake in the process. However, while they looked perfectly tasty, one has to ask, does a channel 4 Hollywood Handshake carry the same gravitas as its BBC equivalent. He certainly seems a bit faster and looser with them these days…
After the trauma of the signature, the technical challenge managed to push all of our celebrity bakers to their limits. Crêpes Suzette, a French twist on the humble pancake that marries it with a buttery orange, caramel and Grand Marnier sauce, is a somewhat retro classic these days, but a final flambé never fails to impress guests at dinner parties!
On perusing the recipe, which remained a mystery until the start of the challenge, Roisin’s queries as to what flambé means or what zest even is immediately let us know that this challenge might not be as simple as it initially seemed…
We were treated to all sorts of delightful pancake-themed montage sequences, including poor Bill’s inevitable toss to the floor, before realising that Harry Hill’s former medical career had clearly provided him with an upper hand when it came to the surgical segmentation of an orange. His beautifully sliced orange segments, with ne’er a hint of membrane coupled with some tasty brandy-infused pancakes to scoop him first place and the least said about the rest of the bakers’ efforts the better.
Finally, we were treated to a showstopper, during which the bakers were challenged to recreate the best day of their life through the medium of biscuits. With creations including a Bill’s bee-keeping themed family portrait, Roisin’s beach bar made out of raw gingerbread and the Live Aid stage itself, it was actually Harry’s depiction of his somewhat questionable holiday with Camilla Parker Bowles that won the day.
Coupled with his impressive Crêpes Suzette, it seemed somewhat inevitable that the funny man would come out on top and sure enough, Harry Hill was crowned our first Stand Up To Cancer Star Baker.
Rather poignantly, it emerged that contestant Bill Turnbull had received his own cancer diagnosis during the show’s filming and there followed an incredibly moving video at the end of the episode during which he discussed his struggle with his diagnosis and encouraged men everywhere to get their prostates checked. I am happy to admit that his story moved me to tears and I’m sure his confession that he had prided himself on the fact that he had not been to see his GP for four years rang true for a lot of people.
He added that, “If I’d had a test a few years ago we would have diagnosed it earlier and knocked it on the head earlier and my survival possibilities would be a lot better.
“I’ve been blessed to have had a wonderful family who still give me joy every day. For me, being a father is the most challenging thing you can do, and the most fulfilling. I have been married for almost 30 years. And that, I consider to be… the best thing I’ve ever done.”
If anything should remind us of the real reason that this series has been recorded, then this surely is it.
Stand Up To Cancer is a joint effort between Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to bring the UK together to accelerate progress in life-saving cancer research.
To donate by text, send TEN or TWENTY to 70404 to give £10 or £20 or you can visit channel4.com/su2c. Alternatively, whether you’re a star baker or prone to a soggy bottom, The Great Stand Up To Cancer Bake Off needs you to get baking this spring. It’s easy – order your pack (https://www.standuptocancer.org.uk/bake-off) full of hints and tips, recipes, bunting and more, hold your own baking event and raise some serious dough to fund lifesaving research.
Sam Hughes is the face behind Aunty Sam’s Cakes, based in in Sheringham, Norfolk. Last week, she was lucky enough to attend a modelling class with the legendary sugar modeller Silvia Mancini at Zoe’s Fancy Cakes in Leeds and she has been generous enough to pen a few words to share the experience with us all.
Over to you, Sam…
The night before my course, we checked the weather forecast ahead of our three-hour drive from North Norfolk to West Yorkshire and things weren’t looking too promising. ‘The Beast from the East’ was due to arrive and conditions were looking rather threatening.
Luckily, the weather wasn’t too bad on the morning in question and remained fairly reasonable throughout our journey. As a result, we arrived quite early and as soon as I had packed the other half off into Leeds for the day, things couldn’t have been better.
Our hosts, Zoe and Richard welcomed us all warmly, with hot cups of coffee and a variety of biscuits and honestly made the whole experience very relaxing and easy before we even got started.
There was plenty of time to explore Zoe’s lovely little shop before Silvia arrived and already I was picking out a selection of tools and other goodies to take home later – and, I have to say, everything was very reasonably priced too.
Upon Silvia’s arrival, she made a point of coming around to meet us all individually and, of course, to introduce the plan for the day. Our goal was to learn how to make a Silvia’s wonderfully animated and character-filled Skipping Girl Topper, under Silvia’s expert tuition.
Everything we needed for the session was provided and ready for us, so we quickly made a start with Silvia first demonstrating the techniques we needed for each individual section, before we all had a go ourselves, while our teacher kept a watchful eye over us attempting to craft our own versions.
Personally, I find this to be the best way of learning – diving in, giving it a go and learning from my mistakes (especially with an expert conveniently on hand to show me the error of my ways!).
Before I had even had time to blink – or so it seemed at least – it was time for lunch, so we stopped for a quick break of tasty sandwiches, more delicious coffee and biscuits and even some brownies and other yummy treats. However, we were all eager to quickly get back to our Skipping Girls again.
As the day progressed, I began to realise just how good Silvia is at explaining everything she does, the tools she is using and the reasoning behind it. She shared her time perfectly between all of the students and was happy to explain things as many times as necessary, without letting any of feel like we were falling behind. This helped create a good bond between all of the students, which only added to the shared feeling of what a superb day it had been for us all.
With about an hour of the course left to go, Gary (the aforementioned other half who had been sent off into Leeds for the day) returned from his day out, but this wasn’t a problem as Zoe, Richard and all of the staff in the shop quickly made him feel welcome with plenty of hot drinks and snacks, while I was finishing off my model.
At the end of the course, we were all presented with our special certificates from Silvia and, of course, I grabbed a quick photograph for my website too! As we said our goodbyes, the first flakes of snow began to fall, but the journey was perfectly fine and gave me time to reflect on what an excellent day I had had. The cost of the course had been well worth it and, honestly, I’m already looking forward to booking the next one!
It sounds like a wonderful experience, Sam. I’m completely jealous if I’m honest and I love your model! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
Silvia Mancini is based in Italy, but regularly travels the world teaching her unique style of modelling. Her next classes in the U.K. are: