Gosh, where I do I even try to begin…?
Can you believe it has been nearly SIX WEEKS since I was last here writing?! If I am honest, it feels like even longer…
If you watched my Facebook Live from around that time (can anyone even remember back that far?!), you will have seen that between Cake International prep and a couple of collaborations that were coming due, I was seriously up against it in terms of deadlines. I made the reluctant decision to pause the online content while I focussed on those projects and, in hindsight, I think it was the right decision. There is literally no way I would have got everything done if I was still writing and shooting content alongside my ‘irl’ workload.
That being said, I am a little bit cross with myself that I didn’t make more of an effort to document some of the creative processes that led to my Cake International pieces OR my collaboration contributions – I’m sure they would have made great YouTube viewing. *facepalm*
Oh well, lesson learned for next time…
Woah, there! I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, talking about what I was doing for Cake International – some of you may not even have seen the fruits of my labours yet!
But actually, before we get into that, I thought I’d also share my contribution to one of the aforementioned collaborations, as one has already gone live.
Sugar Spooks, masterminded by Avalon Yarnes of Avalon Cakes School of Sugar Art is now in its seventh year, and it is seen by many as one of the pioneering online collaborations, paving the way for all that followed. I have honestly looked forward to its release every single year since I entered the world of cake art and design, and I was completely blown away to be invited to join the ranks of legendary artists that make up the Sugar Spooks team this year!
For 2019, the theme of the collection was the Sugar Spooks Haunted Mansion and immediately I was inspired to create a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy, taking my lead from various urban myths and short stories that I have read in the past.
I named him Sinister Sid and, alongside the sugarcraft element, participants in Sugar Spooks also create a back story for their pieces, so this was mine:
“On first inspection, nestling in his little corner of the room, Sid looks like a harmless sideshow oddity – perhaps the souvenir of a neglected hobby or maybe quickly forgotten gift? It’s only on closer inspection that one starts to notice some rather unsettling peculiarities… those rather disconcerting eyes, the rather menacing expression and what is that dripping noise…?
“No, Sid isn’t your typical toy – the Hon. Sidney Edward Watts used to be the respected owner of this grand abode – well, until he fell afoul of one of the many menacing ghouls that walk its halls that is.
“No one quite knows what he did to warrant an eternity of punishment – and Sid certainly isn’t letting on – but he hasn’t taken his punishment lying – or even sitting – down.
“You see, when night falls, and a cloak of darkness descends over his beloved home, Sid stalks its halls, seeking out victims and taking his bloody revenge on any who dare to trespass within its walls.”
I loved how Sid came together and he is certainly pretty darn creepy, but I was even more blown away when I saw the rest of the collection – be sure to swing by the Sugar Spooks website and check them out for yourself. You can find it here.
After Spooks was out of the way, it was time to knuckle down and get seriously cracking on my contributions to 2019’s Cake International – the largest cake show in the world.
This year, I had agreed to create a contribution for the Sugar Witches display and one for the Stephen King feature. I was also entering the prestigious competitions as part of the Sugar Chronicles team (see more about us here) and had somehow volunteered to craft the centrepiece for the Help Harry Help Others charity Santa’s Grotto – a life-sized edible Santa cake that could be SAT ON! *screaming emoji*
When we were originally planning the Santa’s Grotto, I made a rather tongue-in-cheek comment that, ‘One can’t create a grotto entirely from cake without having a Santa that you can sit on.’ The mastermind behind the feature, Hayley O’Beirnes of Gadget Cakes agreed and quite rightly put me on the spot, suggesting that I make one – and honestly guys, a little part of me never thought our pitch would be approved, so I agreed. Then it WAS approved and I suddenly found myself in a position where I had to bring this to life somehow. Cue panic!
Luckily, I was able to draw on support from a number of different parts of my life, including my father, who is a very experienced engineer to help me with the structure (which I had sketched out on the back of an envelope); my dear friend Nicola, who works out of a large commercial unit and was kind enough to lend me a little corner to work in; and some wonderful brands, including Renshaw and Fractal Colors, who both kindly contributed some of the materials that I would need.
Rather than repeat it all here, I have documented the process of creating my life-sized edible Santa cake in a short video, which I will link below. It didn’t go without its dramas and don’t even get me started on the nightmare I had trying to get him to the show, but it all came together in the end (Thanks Rhu, Sharon and Keith) and I think he was a popular addition to this year’s event.
One of the challenges I also had to deal with in the weeks leading up to Cake International 2019 was some fairly inclement weather. My home sits not too far from the shores of a lake and, when it is particularly wet, the humidity here is dire. About a week before the show was due to begin, we were hit by almost biblical monsoon-like rain and both my competition entry and my contribution to the Stephen King display did not survive the ordeal. I found myself in the position of having to start both of them again from scratch, which is not what you want when you also have a life-sized Father Christmas cake to finish.
Unfortunately, I did run out of time in the end and I was unable to bring my Stephen King exhibit to the table. However, the rest of The King of Horror display was absolutely incredible and I don’t think it was noticeable that my tiny contribution was missing. Thanks to the team for being so understanding though and congratulations – you really did create something special. Do you make sure you go and check out The King of Horror feature online here.
Another highlight of the show had to be the stunning Sugar Witches display, tucked away down by the competition area, featuring a whole host of witchy-inspired creations, including no less than FIVE life-sized witches by Kate Bartlett, Graziella Augier, Anna Taylor Dillon, Nicola Gerrans, Lesley Marshall and Julie Rogerson (plus another supersized piece by Kelly McWilliam and an incredible spinning cauldron by Steph Parker).
My piece for the display ended up being a rather rushed affair – I made a tiny hessian voodoo doll – but the same couldn’t be said about the rest of the contributions.
It was an incredible display and every time I walked past, it was absolutely rammed with visitors. It was clearly a very popular addition to Cake International 2019. Congratulations to the whole team.
Another personal highlight of the weekend was being invited to demonstrate on the Ranshaw stand for the first time.
Having used Renshaw products since I first started my cake journey over five years ago, you would be fairly safe to assume that I am a big fan of the brand. They have also been very good to me over the years, supporting many of my charitable endeavours – not to mention contributing to numerous giveaways for you guys too, of course.
During my demonstration, we were using the gorgeous coloured Renshaw extra sugarpastes and some of my favourite moulds from Karen Davies Sugarcraft to create a simple snowman cake with a super realistic woolly hat topper. I even roped in the lovely Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes to cut out the gazillion daisies needed to create the pom-pom.
We had a fantastic time working together and I loved getting to meet loads of you guys too. If you fancy having a go at creating your own woolly hat topper, you can find the full tutorial as part of my Festive Llama Cake tutorial via the tab above.
And then finally, of course, there was my competition entry, which as I’ve already mentioned was in the collaborations category, along with my Sugar Chronicles chums.
I had kind of fallen out of love with competing recently, having not entered since 2017. I didn’t feel that it was always good for my mental health to add on so much additional stress when I already get so much pleasure from creating pieces for features and exhibits at the show. However, I love working with the Sugar Chronicles team (you may have seen our previous Beatrix Potter and Narnia collections at the Cake & Bake Show), so when our illustrious leader Louise Wolfenden suggested a collaboration entry themed all around the wonderful World of Oz, I jumped at the chance to get back on the competition horse.
In spite of the earlier disaster with my piece collapsing due to the humidity, it seems that fate was actually conspiring with us for once, as my second attempt at the Cowardly Lion far exceeded the fast and his new position asleep in the poppy fields added an additional dimension to the display that the first version never would have done.
We were delighted to find out that we had been given a gold award for our collection after the judging concluded, but were completely blown away to find out that we had also scooped the much-coveted Best in Class rosette. As competition results go, you can’t ask for any more than that, so a massive thank you to the Cake International judges and to my teammates for a fantastic competition experience.
Whether it is enough to bring me out of my self-induced competition retirement remains to be seen though, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
So, there you go… That is what I have been up to over the last five or six weeks since we last spoke. Obviously, there is much much more Cake International news to share with you, but I thought I would save that for the first issue back of Something Sweet magazine, which will be out next Sunday, the 17th of November.
As always, if you have something that you would like to be featured in the next issue, be sure to get in touch using the usual channels.
Moving forward, I am also looking to add some regular contributors to my writing line up, so if you would be interested in becoming a regular member of the Something Sweet team, be sure to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, I would also love to hear what you have been up to over the last few weeks. I have really missed speaking to all of you and I do hope that lots of you will be in touch over the next few days so that we can create a Something Sweet: Cake International Special that is truly… Something Sweet. See what I did there?
In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me over the last few weeks and happy caking to you all!