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Cake International 2017 – the rest!

My plan was originally to post a daily digest from each day of Cake International, but I think, somewhat naively, I didn’t realise just how busy I would be, between entering the competitions, co-hosting an exhibit, capturing content for you guys, meeting up with my oh-so-lovely cake chums, checking in with the many wonderful brands that have supported me in my cakey and charitable endeavours and of course, attending the Cake World’s biggest party, the Cake Masters Magazine Annual Cake Awards! So instead, I thought I would save it all up for one monster post and share the rest of all the Cake International fun right now.

When I left you, I was just heading to bed in the early hours of Saturday morning after a first full day of dragon fun. After a sneaky lie-in, I woke up to some amazing news. My competition piece, which you may recall I had all but given up on this time last week, had won me another silver award! I was utterly gobsmacked and genuinely thrilled that all my last-minute hard work had paid off. I have fallen hopelessly in love with my Paddington bear cake, following our rocky journey together, and I love that he proved so popular with many of the visitors to the show!

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Arriving back at the NEC on Saturday, after a brief dragon flyby, it was time to explore the show! The sheer number of incredible displays and collaborations meant that there was so much to see and do!

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Emma Jayne Cake Design’s poignant War Horse exhibit
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Claire Anderson hard at work on her Fantasy Fairy wall
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Peboryon’s stunning seascape in support of the Marine Conservation Society
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Saracino’s Christmas Tree
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The Magical Dragon Machine
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Chocolate Magic by Daniel Diéguez, featuring legendary guest artist, Karen Portaleo © Robby Dee Photography

Thank you to Robby Dee Photography for the special permission to use his image. Robby works tirelessly across the Cake International weekend to capture the full event in all its glory and you can find the rest of his stunning images over at his site: www.robbydeephotography.co.uk

Of course, all of this doesn’t even begin to factor in the many hundreds of beautiful competition cakes on display all weekend!

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My friend Laura’s (Life in Sugar) stunning entry
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And I loved this by Sharon Perrins – Cakes by Sharon

A big highlight of the Saturday though had to be the grand finale of The Cake Off, hosted by Will Torrent and my darling Rosie Cake Diva.

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After the earlier heats at the spring shows, the final, judged by Chef Benny Rivera, Cake International head judge Sally Owens and Dawn Butler, pitted Cake That (Molly Robbins and Phil & Christine of Peboryon) against the Welsh Cakes (Rhianydd Webb, Paul Williams and Cara Maiden). Naturally I had to cheer on my Welsh brother and sisters, but I have to say, both teams managed to create utter masterpieces in only 45 minutes! I was completely thrilled when #teamwales were crowned the victors with this awesome Medusa-themed cake!

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It was also on Saturday that I discovered this wee chap had made his Page 3 debut in the Daily Mirror, although, for the record, Paddington is made out of 100% cake – I never work in polystyrene!

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Saturday evening saw us all getting our glad rags on to celebrate the brightest and best of the Cake World at the annual Cake Masters Magazine Awards, in their new larger home. Rosie and her team at Cake Masters never fail to lay on a fantastic night and I think this year’s bash might just have been the best yet! It’s always the highlight of my social calendar! Congratulations again to all the finalists and winners!

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After a VERY late night at the after party (oops), Sunday was hard work. On The Magical Dragon Machine stand, we were joined by Hendrix from Coffee 4 Craig, the charity we had chosen to support, who cut up the dragon and helped us box it up ready to be distributed to homeless people in and around the Greater Manchester area.

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The team from Snow White: the Grimm Obsession also generously donated loads of leftover cake from their live build to the charity (thanks Emma and team) and then Sweet Success followed suit too.

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It was truly inspiring to see and a memory I will treasure always.

I also made sure to race around and catch as many people and organisations as I could, before we all had to say goodbye again for another year (sob!). It was so lovely to see everyone, particularly my absolute loves, Hayley and Michael of Fabricake!

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And of course, Robin and Brian from Evil Cake Genius who I simply adore (thank you for my presents guys!).

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I must also give a huge shout out and thank you to the lovely team at Renshaw Baking and the Renshaw Academy (and Kayleigh in particular) for taking the time to track me down and give me some of their new goodies. I always use Renshaw products as they are so accessible to home bakers like me (they’ve even starting stocking some of them in my local supermarket!) and it means a lot that they have offered me so much support over the last year. I’m looking forward to sharing their newest lines with you in another post coming soon!

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Thank you to everyone that contributed to making this weekend such a huge roaring success. It really is an incredible event and if you haven’t visited before, you must in 2018! I’m already hearing next year is set to be the best one yet!

Much cakey love!

PS. This weekend also saw the release of the November issue of Cake Masters Magazine, featuring a very special Christmas tutorial! Winter the Grumpy Pug marks the final chapter in my Grumpy Pug collection and I am delighted to be able to share him with you in my first published tutorial.

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Cake Masters Magazine November issue is out now and available to buy in the UK at WHSmith, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s. For international stockists or to subscribe, visit the Cake Masters website

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Cake International 2017 – Day One

Sorry for the radio silence of late, but I have been crazy busy working to get everything ready for Cake International this weekend.

The last week has seen me and my fellow Dragonistas working hard to pull everything together ready for the grand reveal of The Magical Dragon Machine and I must give a shout out to my #teamdragon colleagues, who worked like trojans this week to finish the main build. They genuinely had their work cut out and yet have managed to make him even better than I could ever have imagined!

Of course, I also had a competition entry to do. With all of the other projects that I have had on my plate recently, I had actually pretty much decided not to bother with an entry, but then some of my friends got wind of this and strongly encouraged me to ‘pull my finger out and get on with it’. So as a result, I had three days to get something together. I can’t give anything away about my piece yet – we’re not allowed to reveal them until after the judges’ results are released on Saturday – so you’ll have to come back tomorrow to see what I managed to produce.

Roll on to this morning however and when my alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 3.45am (after going to bed at 1.30am – ouch), I just managed to gulp down a couple of pints of coffee and then it was time for the madness of show life to begin.

The first drama of any cake show is of course getting to the venue. Cakes don’t really like being transported and often have a tendency to misbehave, so when one is transporting a competition piece you really have to be sure that you pack it safely in your car. The best places are where the centre of gravity is lowest – the boot or a footwell ideally. However, when your showpiece is ridiculously huge, you often need to get creative – particularly when you have a tiny convertible! I had to pretty much build a wooden shelf over my minuscule back seat and then put the roof down, place the cake on top of the boot, climb over the side into the back seat, lift the cake into the car and onto the board (on a non-slip mat) and then pop the roof back up – so nice and simple really. Unfortunately, the journey didn’t pass without incident – being cut up by a lorry at one point required an emergency stop and that had an impact (quite literally) on the cake. But bearing in mind, four days ago, I wasn’t even entering, I’m feeling rather zen about everything.

Once my competition piece was on the table, it was time to Dragon! Revealing this awesome collaboration, after almost a year of planning, organisation and more, was amazing. Our cast of tinkers, critters and florals are simply delightful and when coupled with the dragon in all his moving, flapping and smoke-breathing glory, the wonderful projections by the amazing Stu Harris of Motion Mapping and the Stomp-esque soundtrack, it’s simply breathtaking. Do make sure you swing by The Magical Dragon Machine Facebook page to see everything that we’re sharing across the weekend.

We also feature at the end of Cake Masters Magazine’s Facebook Live walkaround video where I tell them all about the project and you can also see a lot more of the display, so feel free to go check it out here.

Of course, across the day, there have been a multitude of fantastic demos, classes and tutorials by all sorts of wonderful talents too!

A personal highlight for me was watching my ‘cakebro’ Ben Cullen, The BakeKing complete his first ever demonstration.

Cake International had challenged Ben to create one of his signature head cakes in only 45 minutes. Only 45 MINUTES! He coped admirably with the pressure, until rather meanly, they then surprised him with an appearance from his muse, the legendary Karen Portaleo herself! In our completely unbiased opinion, we think Ben smashed it – but what do you think?

To be honest, I could write and write and write about the excitement of the day, but I think I need to ration myself – we still have two more days to go! Instead, I’ll end with my other best part of the first show day – the chance to catch up with the whole host of wonderful cake friends that travel here from across the globe. It really is lovely to see everyone and I can’t wait to spend the next few days with my bestest cakey chums!

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A Date for the Cake Calendar…

The summer is winding to a close and that can only mean one thing. It’s nearly time for the UK’s biggest cake decorating, sugarcraft & baking show – and the highlight of my annual calendar, Cake International.

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In its home at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, the show blends a glittering array of demonstrations, hands on workshops, trade suppliers showcasing the latest developments in baking and sugarcraft products, fun challenges and of course the legendary competitions, which bring together some of the biggest names in cake from across the globe.

This year promises to be the best year yet, with many new and exciting additions to the show’s regular line up. I’m excited to see some of my cake buds take part in some new wild and crazy challenges and one of the things I’m most looking forward to is the live final of the Cake International Cake Off – following the earlier heats at the springs shows. Awkwardly, I’ve got friends on both finalist teams, but I think the Welsh team, The Welsh Cakes, will be benefiting from my cheers! It’s my patriotic duty after all! Sorry Molly!

I’ve already had a sneaky peek at the proposed layout for November’s show and it seems that there will also be even more stunning cake displays than ever before and some of the artists involved are my absolute idols!

The world-famous competitions themselves have also had a massive overhaul this year, but still remain open to anyone – from champion award-winners to first time novices, including the ever-growing and usually awe-inspiring junior classes. One thing that sets the Cake International competitions apart from other cake shows is that everyone who wishes to enter can enter. The supportive and experienced judges look at each individual entry on its own individual merits awarding points for originality and innovation, the variety of skills shown, quality of finish and many more factors, meaning that even absolute beginners can receive recognition and awards alongside some of the most talented artists in the world! The sheer variety of categories available also mean that all manner of skill sets are celebrated and I would strongly encourage anyone considering entering to give it a go. I visited the shows a number of times before I was brave enough to enter, but I’m oh-so-glad I finally did! In addition to the fun of competing (which is honestly indescribable), the judges are always on hand to give you feedback on your entry, which you can use to hone and refine your craft – not to mention improve for next time!

Of course, one doesn’t have to be a competing cake artist to enjoy the shows, as there is plenty to see and do besides. Across the weekend, an incredible line up of cake, baking and sugarcraft stars will be presenting some fabulous tutorials, top tips, handy hints and much more and often these are open to all, with no need to book or pay an additional fee. For the more serious sugarcrafter, there are also a huge number and variety of paid-for workshops where one can learn anything from the wonders of traditional royal icing to hands-on modelling in a variety of mediums.

For those less enthused about admiring cakes, preferring to, well… eat them, there are also many stands selling a variety of tasty cakes and bakes for immediate consumption – also useful for bribing partners and family members to accompany you when indulging your cakey passion.

I am sure that Cakers up and down the country and across the wider world are already finalising their competition entry plans – if they haven’t started making their pieces already of course – and many exhibits and displays are already well on the way to completion. In addition to competing (well, if I ever decide which class I’m entering – my previous category is one of the newly-reimagined ones), I’m thrilled to be exhibiting for the second time this November, in collaboration with a simply extraordinary array of talents as part of The Magical Dragon Machine – read more about that here.

In the meantime, I’d better get back to the Competition Schedule and get my entry form in – there’s nothing like leaving things until the last minute though, right…?