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Ideal Home Show 2018: Royal Wedding Cakes Competition`

As I may have mentioned a few times last week, on Sunday, I headed up to merry old London to attend the Ideal Home Show and to check out the Royal Wedding Cake competition.

Although we now know that the actual royal wedding cake is being created by Claire Ptak of Claire’s Violet Bakery in Hackney, east London, the Ideal Home Show set entrants the challenge of creating a stunning wedding cake inspired by the upcoming royal nuptials. I have to say that many of the results were rather fabulous!

What struck me the most was the many different ways the competitors had interpreted their brief – with traditional wedding cakes sitting alongside, sculpted churches, caricature-laden confections and even an actual whirlwind! And while some of the entries went for the more traditional route, opting for a white wedding cake with merely a subtle nod to the bride and groom, others made them quite literally front and centre on their cakes.

Although the show is running for seventeen days, I decided to head up on Sunday because that was the day that the judge’s decisions were to be announced and the winners would be crowned. I was also lucky enough to be able to monopolise one of the judges for a personal tour of the collection and her inside scoop on how the judging had gone.

As Rosie ‘Cake-Diva’ Dummer, explained, she and fellow judge, Leeanne Cooper, editor of Cake Decoration and Sugarcraft Magazine, found the judging really tough as many of the cakes had lots of stunning individual elements. Unfortunately, it was the case with many of the entries that when you put these together that the total effect didn’t always work. She gave the example of how some cakes had truly beautiful royal icing work, but then the sugar-floristry might be less precise.

To help them choose the overall winner, Rosie and Leeanne looked the entrants interpretation of the theme, the originality displayed, the skills shown, level of workmanship and the overall impression and impact of the complete piece.

 

After taking all this into account, they crowned Emma Matthews of Happiness Factor Cakes their first-place winner for her beautiful two-tone cake, featuring some wonderfully cute nods to the royal couple. Rosie explained that Emma had managed to produce a really ‘wow’ cake that told a beautiful story through the use of delicate clapperboards, a nod to Meghan Markle’s successful acting career, which managed to remain sympathetic to the overall design.

In spite of the fact that Emma had used both moulds and cutters, she had done so delicately and in a creative way and her sugar floristry was some of the best seen. Her use of just two colours ensured that the cake remained classy, rather than garish and they were particularly impressed by the consistency of Emma’s hand-modelling, questioning whether had actually used a mould, her guards were so… uniform (see what I did there?).

Emma was presented with her prize, a swanky new Smeg Stand Mixer, in a Live ceremony on the show’s main stage and I took a few minutes to speak to her afterwards:

“Honestly, I’m still in shock! There were some amazing entries by some very talented cake artists and I feel very honoured to have won. It has been lovely to just stand back and watch the public smiling at my cake and enjoying it.”

 

In other exciting news, I have also managed to convince Emma to put together a guest post – exclusively for Mr Baker’s Blog – about her ‘journey to success’. I am looking forward to sharing that with you later this week!

In second place, the judges chose this towering beauty by Keshini Illukkumbura, of Dlux Cakes. In spite of some damage at the hands of inquisitive show attendees, both Rosie and Leeanne were struck by Keshini’s beautiful piped royal work and floristry.

Made over a period of two weeks, with many a sleepless night in the mix, Keshini managed to represent each country of the U.K. as well as some beautiful hand piped plaques, including this stunning royal coat of arms.

In fact, it was a close-run thing between Keshini and Emma’s Cakes, and it was only because of the overall flawlessness of Emma’s piece that Keshini was pipped to the post.

Third place went to one of the few cakes that had decided to move away from the traditional wedding cake format, in favour of something altogether more sculptural. Julie Cain of Julie Anne Cake Design created a stunning piece to represent both the public and private face of the couple’s relationship.

The front of the design is St George’s Chapel at Windsor castle where Harry and Meghan will be married – the public face – while the inspiration for the sides and back of Julie’s creative piece tells their story away from the public eye – just a young couple in love, in a bas relief hidden garden behind a stone wall. Personally, I loved Julie’s hidden extra, due to the fact the couple got engaged over a roast chicken, she hid a tiny roast chicken in amongst the bas relief. the judges loved her delicate and clever use of moulds and that the design told a story.

One of the other cakes that almost certainly deserves a special mention, in spite of just being nudged out of a top three place, was this stunning wedding cake by Daisy Brydon Creations. In fact, Rosie explained that if there had been a fourth-place winner, then Daisy Brydon would have taken the title.

The overall impact of Daisy’s cake was absolutely breath-taking and, although the key elements were truly exquisite, it was felt that in some cases, they were not quite as perfect as those in the top three – I told you the judges had it hard! In fact, the main reason this beauty was edged out of a place was because the judges felt it didn’t make enough of the royal theme, with it appearing more of a wedding cake with a monogram than a themed royal wedding cake. I know Daisy’s cake was particularly popular with show attendees though, so I will be very interested to see how it does in the public vote, when the results are announced on Easter Monday.

Another cake that seemed very popular with the public, particularly the youngsters, while I was there was this fun and whimsical take on the theme by Cara Maiden of the Polkadot Teapot. I loved spotting all of the different characters that made up the overall display and particularly loved the cheeky corgi hiding in the royal carriage and the flag-waving seagull! Such fun!

I must offer my congratulations to all of the competitors though. It is such an honour to be chosen to compete at such a high profile event and they should all be very proud. I should also say a quick thank you to both Rosie Cake-Diva for taking me around the Royal Wedding Cakes display and to Emma for taking the time to chat with me. I had an absolutely fabulous day!

Have you made it along to the show yet? If so, which cake was your favourite? Don’t panic if you haven’t though! The Royal Wedding Cakes are being displayed throughout the 17 days of the Ideal Home Show, which runs until the 2nd April, so you still have time to go and see them for yourself. For more information and to book tickets, visit the official Ideal Home Show website.

And if you can’t make it along, check out the full collection in my handy slideshow.

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Don’t forget to keep an eye out for first-place winner, Emma Matthews’ guest blog coming soon!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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