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Guest Post: Sam Hughes – Silvia Mancini ‘Skipping Girl Class’

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:

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Hurry down the chimney tonight!

If you’re a regular reader of cake decorating magazines, then I am almost sure that you will have seen the wonderful work of Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar (previously known as Cakey Bakes Cakes). Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Laura to guinea pig one of her new festive cake classes, The Sleepy Santa.


I first discovered Laura when she entered her glorious BFG cake at Cake International in 2016, but she has been hard at work in the cake industry for many years. She has had her own market stall, supplied tea rooms and cafés with homemade cakes, made novelty cakes to order, produced countless published tutorials and taught classes at many locations around the country. It has been a genuine pleasure getting to know her over the last year and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Laura at the new permanent base of Life in Sugar at the Badshot Lea Village Hall and Kiln, where she has set up her own classroom.

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Laura specialises in modelling with modelling chocolate and she is a real advocate of its benefits to cake artists. As primarily a cake sculptor, the thought of modelling often fills me with dread, so I was excited to have the chance to try something new and experience some new products.

On the day of the class, I headed up the A3 from Fareham to Farnham and easily found my way to Laura’s new workspace, where I was thrilled to discover ample free parking – always a plus when one has a cake to carry out to the car later that day. I was also delighted to find out that lunch is provided too.


As soon as I arrived, Laura made me feel incredibly welcome with the first of many coffees (an essential part of any cake class!). Inside the workshop, she has decorated in a wonderful fusion style, pairing vintage fittings with a modern colour palette. Throughout the space, Laura has placed a combination of her own competition entries, tutorial cakes and upcoming class pieces, creating an inspiring work environment.


We quickly got down to business and Laura’s relaxed and unassuming style of teaching immediately put me at ease. I enjoyed using the modelling chocolate to create my piece and thanks to the chilly weather, found it far easier to use than I have done on previous occasions. Laura encouraged questions throughout the class – not just about this particular class’ content either – and was happy to explain different ways that the topper could be customised based on attendees’ personal preferences.

As ever with classes, there are obvious unavoidable time constraints, but Laura never made me feel rushed and I was thrilled with the topper that I made under her expert tuition. The workshop was great fun and we were honestly laughing throughout the day.

The topper I made under Laura’s expert tuition.

I would highly recommend heading over to Life in Sugar if you can. You will have a fantastic time, learn some fabulous new skills and get to spend some time with one of the loveliest cake artists I know.

To find out more about Laura’s classes at Life in Sugar and to book your place, you can visit her Facebook page.

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Mrs Fancy Cake – A Cake Class Dream Come True…


If you’ve ever tried to make a cake at home, then chances are you’ve heard of Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes. Even if you don’t know her by name, you will have seen her work – you literally can’t google a cake decoration tutorial without something by Zoe coming up. This past weekend, I had the chance to spend two days learning from the legend herself and had a fantastic time. Read on to find out more…

When I first started caking back in 2014, Zoe’s YouTube channel (which is chock full of FREE modelling tutorials by the way) was a complete life saver and I quickly fell in love with her signature-style people cake toppers.

Roll forward three years and when I heard that Hayley and Michael Wisken had finally managed to tempt Zoe down the M1 to their home at Fabricake in Southend, I leapt at the chance to learn from the lady herself, signing up for both her Basic Faces and Figure-Making Class AND her Bride and Groom Class.


After an unbearably long wait, the day finally arrived when I woke up (at a truly ungodly hour), loaded up my car with more clothes than would ever have been needed for one night away, collected my best cake chum Nicola and headed off to the home of my favourite cake supplies retailer, in wet and windy Southend-on-Sea.


As soon as we arrived, Hayley and Michael made us feel incredibly welcome in their shiny new classroom and in addition to being thrilled to see Zoe again of course, it was fabulous to finally get to meet the lovely (and absolutely bonkers) Kerry Brown of Mrs Brown’s Barrel Cakes (Megastar of Come Dine with Me, dontcha know?!). A fellow Zoe obsessive, the imitable Mrs Brown ensured our party was lively and really got things off to a fun start.

Day one’s class, Zoe’s Basic Faces and Figure-Making teaches two figures, one seated and one standing and, along the way, offers countless opportunities for customising them, including facial expressions, arm positions, accessories, gender, hairstyles and more. We also got the chance to make an additional more complex adult face, which taught us further skills, such as hand-painting and facial shaping.


Despite the obviously unavoidable time constraints, Zoe managed to keep the class ticking along without making attendees feel rushed or left behind at all. As someone who likes to take their time over their work, I was concerned that this this would be an issue for me when attending a class, but not so with Mrs Fancy Cake.


Everyone managed to produce some stunning work and, at the end of day one, I was thrilled with the little darlings I had made. I can already see a million different ways I could incorporate these charming figures into future cake projects.


Day two was rather a more serious affair – I was pretty tired after the previous day’s early start and I certainly missed my new bestie Kerry livening things up. Luckily, I had another room full of lovely ladies to keep me company and today we were tackling Zoe’s famous bride and groom toppers. I’ll be honest – I LOVE Zoe’s bride and groom toppers and would probably have been happy just to pay to watch her create them herself, but to learn from her and have a go myself was like a dream come true.

Skills that I had never previously been able to master; like securely structuring toppers; stopping them from being dumpy; creating beautiful hair; and more, just emerged from my fingertips under Zoe’s tutelage. It really was an incredible learning experience.


Again, the time constraints of the day meant there were one or two things I had to make do with on my pieces, but I feel absolutely confident that I will be able to master some really stunning figures with a couple more goes – and I’m itching to get started! Perhaps once Cake International is out of the way though – I really must crack on with my competition pieces!

Zoe teaches in many locations, both nationally and internationally. Rather excitingly, she will also be opening her own shop front in the very near future, in her home of Leeds, with its own dedicated classroom! She is a patient, experienced and approachable tutor and I can highly recommend her classes. They really are accessible to both the novice and experienced cake decorator. To find out where Zoe will be demoing next or to book a class, visit her website.

In addition, as well as hosting a wealth of talents at her store, Fabricake, winner of Cake Masters Magazine’s Royal Icing Award at last year’s Cake Oscars, Hayley Wisken also teaches regular classes and you can find out more about these and their other upcoming guest tutors at their website.