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Guest Post: Becky Jenkins – Salon Culinaire 2018

International Salon Culinaire is the UK’s largest and most prestigious chefs competition programme. If that sentence alone isn’t enough to make you want to run and hide, then, like this week’s guest writer, you must love a challenge. Based across two shows, it comprises of four competition categories – Salon Display, Live Theatre, Skills Theatre and La Parade des Chefs – which showcase the terrific skills and talent within the hospitality industry. Included in these competitions are the Senior Sugarcraft Competition Classes – a chance for the brightest and best within the cake world to share their work with a wider audience – and one competitor who scored particularly well at the 2018 show was Becky Jenkins.


Better known as Becky Jenkins – Sugar Artist, Becky is a multiple gold-award-winning cake artist and recently started her training to become a fully accredited British Sugar Guild Demonstrator.

I reached out to Becky to find out more about International Salon Culinaire, hear all of this year’s gossip and to find out how it felt to scoop some of the show’s biggest awards.


I’ve been competing for the last 6 years and attending cake shows and exhibitions annually since the age of 18, so when I was first handed the competition schedule for Salon Culinaire, 5 years ago, I was both intrigued and anxious at the thought of entering. It actually took me a couple of years to pluck up the courage, after hearing tales of their high standards and the fierce competition from the industry’s finest.

Finally, in 2017, I submitted my entry into The Great Hospitality Show and was thrilled to walk away with a Best in Class award and the Best Sugarcraft Exhibit gong for my Wolf and the Picnic Basket display piece. I felt like I had experienced a different kind of competition and felt a whole new level of achievement.

Becky J

As a result, Salon 2018 was a guaranteed fixture in this year’s diary and, now I felt a bit more confident, I even managed to talk a few friends into entering with me.

On entering the show, you are instantly greeted with the wonderful aromas from the trade stands and Salon Kitchens. Samples of food and drink are readily available – as are free products to take away. There are displays showcasing the latest culinary trends, seminars, demonstrations and workshops on the different aspects of the catering and food industry and lots of other things to see and do – if you feel so inclined. The Salon competitions themselves consist of over 100 different classes spread over the four days of the show, with some taking place live and others displayed for you to look at and enjoy.

As I’ve said, 2018 was my second year entering Salon Culinaire and it is still a very new experience. Although similar to the competition set up at Cake International, which readers may be more familiar with, particularly in regard to the rules and schedules, it’s always daunting to step into a new arena.

The organisers and judges are very helpful and welcoming though and on hand from start to finish to answer any queries and give advice and, as the number of entries are far fewer than the bigger more cake-focused shows, feedback is more relaxed.

This year, my entries took over 300 hours and cost me many a sleepless night. I was determined not to rush and end up with a group of half-finished entries, because I knew it would only lead to disappointment later on and – importantly – I started early, originally had the crazy idea of entering five categories! I eventually managed to complete three pieces that I was satisfied I had put my all into them.


For the Miniature Class, I created an artist’s studio, inspired by the fact that I have been getting back into my artwork, so I found it really quite fitting and a subject that I could sink my teeth into. Each piece was hand-modelled from Saracino’s modelling paste and left to harden, before piecing it together. The whole model had to fit within a 6” cube, so details where very tiny and very fiddly.


I painted each piece using a mixture of alcohol and petal dust and the canvases were hand-painted using Saracino cocoa butter and dust colours. In total, my Miniature took around 50 hours to make and won a gold medal and the Best in Class award. I think the best reward though was being told, ‘it was a pleasure to judge and executed to perfection’. I couldn’t have asked for better feedback. I’ve never seen myself as someone who manages to achieve perfection and, even now, I could still sit and find a fault somewhere – I am definitely my own worst critic!


My second entry was entered into the Wedding category and took well over 200 hours (maybe more – I quickly lost count) to complete. It honestly felt like it would never be finished at one point.


The four tiers were covered in hand-painted details, again using Saracino Cocoa butter, and the whole piece sat on a coral pedestal stand, hand-sculpted from Saracino modelling paste and sugarpaste.


It has a total of over 30 handmade sea creatures and fish, more than 200 sea shells and pebbles and nearly 150 individually made pieces of coral adorning its layers, all painted with cocoa butter. It also won a gold medal and the Best in Class award, which I was both thrilled and shocked to receive.


My final piece was entered into the Sculpted Novelty Cake category and was a life-sized sculpted salmon. The rules stated that they wanted to see a good proportion of cake, so I didn’t want to overcomplicate the design and, as it is a chef’s competition, I decided to go with a foodie option.


My salmon was served on a bed of isomalt, with wedges of lemon handcrafted from Saracino products. The scales where individually embossed, which took a total of 2.5 hours, and the details were hand-painted.


Many people were fooled by the realism of this piece and came back for a second glance – just to make sure it really was a cake! I love being able to fool the eye and I feel getting people to interact with your work is sometimes more rewarding than any award.

On the final day of the show, all competitors are invited to attend the presentation of prizes and we were individually called upon to receive our framed certificates and medals for gold, silver and bronze awards. Commemorative plates were also awarded for the Best in Class awards and similar. Although competing for me has never really been about the material rewards, I’ll admit being presented with a lovely shiny gold medal was an added bonus. It gave me a great sense of achievement and pride to walk away from a show respected by professionals from all around the globe and to be recognised as one of them.


All in all, it was a successful day for the cake world, with an array of talent on display from as far afield as New York, Cyprus and Salvador. And let’s not forget the show’s big winners, with the Professional Cake Decorator of the Year going to Jacqui Kelly, the Best Sugarcraft Exhibit to Beth Dove for her amazing chocolate sculpture and the Best Senior and Chairman’s Award to Urszula Maczka for her beautiful Rabbit Figurine – the detail on it was out of this world.

Jacqui Kelly
Professional Cake Decorator of the Year, Jacqui Kelly

There were so many works of art that it’s hard to pick a favourite, but the ones that really jumped out at me were the beautiful examples of pulled sugar work and the gorgeous sugar flowers – things that I currently only wish I had the skills to do, but I hope to have a go them at one day.

One of the other biggest highlights of this year’s competition had to be the turnout of familiar faces and talent from the cake world supporting and cheering each other on. When it came to the awards, the rest of the show certainly knew we were there, which was not only wonderful to see and be part of, but it also showed that while we may only be a small part of the food service industry, together we can make a big impact.

Group Shot 1
Photo courtesy of Rhianydd Webb of Dragons and Daffodils Cakes

If you were to ask me whether you should enter Salon, I would say one hundred percent yes! Don’t ever be afraid to have a go and try something new. The organisers and judges are on hand every step of the way to advise and guide you and they are always more than happy to help. All abilities and levels of experience receive a warm friendly welcome, so don’t put it off as long as I did. You never know, you could be the next cake artist to walk away with a shiny medal or even a Best in Show award.

I will most definitely have my name down to enter next year and really hope that many more of you will join me. Good luck and I hope to see you there!

It sounds like an amazing experience Becky and I am genuinely so sad to have missed it. Thank you so much for allowing us to share in your show journey – it was certainly the next best thing to being there in person.

To find out more about Becky and her incredible cake artistry – including her pieces from this year’s shows – you can find her website here or why not follow her on Facebook?

And if you are interested in finding out more about Salon Culinaire and upcoming shows and events, you can visit their website.

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Squires Kitchen Exhibition 2018

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.

A cheeky selfie with darling Gwen at the dragéekiss stand

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 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

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!

Wedding Cake finished

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making it a truly wonderful day – I will definitely be seeing you all again next year!

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It’s time to get our Squires on…

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