All Content, Blog, The Greatest Showpiece

The Greatest Showpiece unveiled…

I have been hinting at the very special collaboration that I have been working on for some time now, but I had been careful to keep the details under wraps – well, other than a little bit of a preview over at the home of our very lovely and very generous sponsors.

However, on Sunday, I was finally able to reveal the full collaboration in all its glory, going public online a few days later, and I have been thrilled with the response.

A few of you have asked to know a little more about how this came about, so I thought I would pen a little post to let you know the full story of The Greatest Showpiece.

As the son of my very best friend since sixth form college, Jacob is very precious to me and, as he was conveniently born just as I was getting into cake decorating and sugar artistry, I have been very privileged to be able to make all of his milestone cakes throughout his life so far.

Jacob is a massive fan of cake – particularly of eating it – and as his fifth birthday started to loom, he took it upon himself to design his own special cake creation inspired by the vivid colours, dynamic action and stirring soundtrack of his favourite film, The Greatest Showman.

He refused to tell anyone else about his plans, instead insisting that he had to be the one to tell me all about it and, when we managed to coordinate our schedules for a sit down (four-year-olds are busy little bees, you know!), he revealed the impossible confection that only the limitless imagination of a child can dream up.

Naturally we had to watch the film together as he told me of his hopes and as it progress, he pointed out all of the elements that his dream cake would incorporate: his favourite characters and animals, various design elements of the film’s impressive sets and some key inclusions – he wanted Anne the Trapeze Artist to be sat in her hoop – WHICH SHOULD ACTUALLY SPIN – oh, and the cake should play the movie soundtrack too, of course.

I originally laughed off Jacob’s outlandish requests, but on learning that Jacob has been rushed into hospital only a few days later with a suspected asthma attack – coupled with the fact that both his mum and dad were facing redundancy, I decided I wanted to do something wonderful for the family and just see if I couldn’t make this impossible dream come true.

Obviously, I knew that I would not be able to pull off such a huge project single-handedly and so, I decided to reach out to some of my best friends in the world of cake and see if they would be prepared to give me a hand.

Quite honestly, I was blown away by the support I received – this project would not have been possible without the whole incredible team – and my friends Michael and Hayley over at Fabricake Sugarcraft Ltd, who kindly agreed to sponsor the project, donating many of the materials used by the artists involved. I am truly grateful for the hard work and time that everyone donated to the project, entirely free of charge.

Of course, another tricky aspect of the project was to coordinate getting all of the wonderful pieces to me, down on the south coast as my talented team included artists from all over England, Scotland and even Northern Ireland. This is how my Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour road trip came to be, as I embarked on a nine-day cross-country road trip to visit as many of the artists as I could – I am especially thankful though to those individuals went out of their way to assist me in this, either by meeting me partway, or, in some cases, even travelling all the way down to me.

With many of the pieces incredibly well-packed for safe transportation, I was reluctant to unpack them ahead of the party and so, it was until I assembled them all together at Jacob’s fifth birthday party in Southampton last Sunday that I finally was able to see them in the flesh. And in all honesty? I was gobsmacked. They all did me incredibly proud.

The finished cake featured seven hand-created tiers, including the big top featured at the end of the movie; Barnum’s original museum, adorned with intricately hand-painted character banners; the elaborately embroidered outfit worn by the film’s star, Hugh Jackman, along with his unique Prince of Humbug top hat and crown combo; and a box of peanuts.

Oh. and of course, as requested, a topper of Anne the Trapeze Artist, which actually rotated.

The museum part of the design also featured a built in sound system, which allowed the movie soundtrack to be played throughout the party.

Surrounding the main cake was an extravagant recreation of the film’s final ensemble scene, featuring incredibly realistic edible sculptures of lions, horses and elephants, as well as a whole host of characters from the film – and a lifelike recreation of Jacob himself as the ringmaster.

The impressive display features contributions from Angie Harris of Angie Scott Cakes, Claire Anderson of Clairella Cakes, Rob Baker-Gall of Mr Baker’s Cakes (that’s me!), Trudy Smith of The Chain Lane Cake Co., Emma Stewart of Truly Scrumptious Cakes by Design, Hayley O’Beirnes of Gadget Cakes, Vicky Teather of Yellow Bee Cake Co., Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes, Kelly Alger of Caked Away, Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar, Julie Rogerson of Julie’s Cake in a Box, Jacqui Kelly of Totally Sugar, Kelly McWilliam of Kelly McWilliam – Cake Artist, Becky Jenkins of Becky Jenkins Sugar Artist, Zoe Burmester of Sugar Street Studios, Etty van Urk of Cake Dutchess and Sarah Bray of Daisy Cakes, and, as I mentioned above, it was generously sponsored by Fabricake Sugarcraft Ltd, in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Jacob was completely awestruck by the incredible display, spending most of the party just staring at it and all of his friends and family were equally blown away! They took what was left after the party home with them and I love that their house is now adorned with all of the incredible models and sculptures. I was so very beyond thrilled with the response both at the party and online, and I am already starting to worry about how I will top this next year!

In the meantime, be sure to visit ‘The Greatest Showpiece’ over on Facebook to see more of the mesmerising pieces and to check out the reveal video.

All Content, Blog

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!

All Content, Blog

GUEST POST: The Magical Dragon Machine

Coming to Cake International at the NEC, Birmingham in November, The Magical Dragon Machine was originally the brain child of The Cake Illusionist, Hannah Edwards. Late in 2016, Hannah had an idea – an idea that quite honestly seemed completely crazy – a giant mechanical dragon to enthral visitors to one of the largest cake shows in the world. Inspired by the mystical, the mythical and the downright weird, the idea evolved and grew and soon Hannah was reaching out to other cake artists, like myself, who soon fell under its wondrous spell. I have been wanting to tell people more about the project for so long, but really it should be Hannah that spills the beans. So after much begging and pleading, Hannah has agreed to pen a guest post here to let you all in on the secret of The Magical Dragon Machine…

Dragon Mouth

The Magical Dragon Machine was imagined with community at its heart and cake art as its soul. It will be a four-dimensional experience, created in delicious cake and sweet edibles and we might have thrown in a little flare and a few tricks with the aim of bringing together something truly magical.

Our scrapyard dragon will stand over seven feet above you and stretches over 17 feet long, from riveted nose to scrap-metal tail. Built around a secret internal structure containing all sorts of wonderful surprises, the dragon will also be filled with around eight hundred servings of delicious cake, donated by the brilliant Sweet Success.

Towering above his scrapyard home, the dragon will be surrounded by a huge array of mystical clockwork creatures rising up out of the scrap itself and all of this wonder is being worked on by a cast of fantastical sugar characters, including our tinker children and the mad inventor.

Ana Mourinho Remigio

Scale and logic are irrelevant when imaginations run wild, so look out for oversized bugs, sea creatures on land, all manner of nuts and bolts floristry and why not see if you can spot the tinker tasked with spray painting the dragon. And don’t forget, all of this will be crafted in sugar and other edible decorations.  You’ll see some of the finest sculpting, the most intricate floral work, amazingly detailed modelling and all the other sugar specialisms that the cake world has to offer.

To bring our magical friends to life, we have been so incredibly fortunate to receive help from a whole host of wonderful individuals and organisations and must offer our sincere thanks to Renshaw Baking, Rainbow Dust, Dummies Direct (who crafted our head, feet and tail), Sweet Success, Mr. Blister and Caterline, The Old Piping Bag, dragéekíss™, Cake Dutchess, Platinum Paste, The Black Horse Pub, Atherstone and, of course, Cake International. We couldn’t have done this without them – or the 60 artists all pulling together to make this happen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In addition to creating a stunning sugar experience, this project has a few more core aims. One being that it truly is a community-based project, where different artists at varying stages of their journey all take part as equals. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity and platform to shine.  Secondly it was of paramount importance to us all to ensure there was considerable amounts of real cake involved – what can we say, we’re cake purists – and thanks to Sweet Success, our dragon is chock full of it. Sure, this brings with it extra challenges most definitely: it shortens the amount of time we have to build the dragon and means we have to ensure that food safety is front and centre of everything we do. It also creates considerable weight issues! But these are challenges we are more than happy to face to ensure we can stay true to the art of cake.

Teaser

Finally, mindful of the problems with excess and waste in westernised countries, particularly while others struggle to get by, we wanted to ensure that a worthwhile home was found for the considerable amounts of real food that are enabling us to play our arty games. We were so fortunate to be able to find our sponsors, Mr. Blister and Caterline, who have donated enough sealed plastic containers and forks for every single serving of dragon cake. These will be donated to Coffee4Craig, a charity for the homeless, who run mobile kitchens three times a week and will be able to distribute the cake to those that need it most.

We’ve been working on this project for almost a year now and it’s truly humbling to see the amount of effort, love, blind faith and dedication people are putting into this. From the artists themselves, to their families and to our sponsors, who continue to surprise us with their generosity.

I’m so proud of what we are doing. All of it. But don’t just take my word for it – come and see for yourself!

The Magical Dragon Machine and the Mystical Scrapyard will be at Cake International, at the NEC Birmingham from 3-5 November 2017. Come and let your imagination run wild and see the story unfold in front of your eyes.

I look forward to seeing you there…

Hannah  The Cake Illusionist

Tickets for Cake International, Birmingham are available in advance (with an early bird discount) from the Cake International Website or you can buy on arrival at the NEC.

And why not visit The Magical Dragon Machine Facebook Page?