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Did you miss the CAKE LIVE Demonstration Day? Well fear not…

If you read my midweek post last week, then you will have seen that, at the weekend, I was invited to attend the very first CAKE LIVE Demonstration Day, hosted by FMM Sugarcraft and Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine. If you missed it, fear not because I’ve got you covered…

Taking place at the stunning Chateau Impney Hotel & Exhibition Centre, near Droitwich Spa, the day, which will hopefully be the first of many, promised us a masterclass in cake decorating, from caking legends Cassie Brown and Carol Haycox.

As the day dawned bright and early, I jumped in the car and made the journey up to Droitwich Spa, finding the hotel nice and easily. There was ample free parking, which is always a nice touch and I was greeted at the door by the lovely team from Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine.

Proper attendees (i.e. paying guests, rather than bloggers who had snuck their way in) were presented with a bumper-stuffed goodie bag, which contained a whole host of exciting products, including a voucher to pick up three FMM products of your choice from their stand, a cake board and box, two food-grade cake decorating stencils from Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine, some Jem flower stamens, the two most recent copies of Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine (including the Bumper Christmas Issue), some Foodie Flavours extract, some Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing in their Colour of the Year 2019, Cassis, a Renshaw pen and tote bag, some Magic Colours gel colour, a delicious piece of vanilla madeira cake from Sweet Success, a cake tool and even more besides. If you caught my Facebook Live from the event, you might have seen that I didn’t get one… *sad face* …but more on that later.

As we arrived, we were served tea and coffee, alongside a huge selection of hot and tasty pastries (I do love a pastry) and there was ample time to check out the various shopping opportunities – with a huge array of products available from our hosts, FMM Sugarcraft (all available at 50% off!!), including an exclusive first chance to buy their two newest cutters.

Cassie also had a stand selling her books (including her latest stunning publication, The Kew Book of Sugar Flowers), her huge range of flower cutters and her new set of metal tools, while Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine were also on hand with some fabulous subscription deals – including some that would be perfect for Christmas presents for the cake decorators in your life.

I was also really excited to see that Cassie had some of the aprons with her that we had seen the incredible airbrush artist Giorgio Uccellini painting at Cake International earlier this month. Priced at just £20, it was an incredible opportunity to own a unique piece of fabulous art and ALL of the proceeds from the sales of the aprons was being donated to charity too. I may have had to pick one up – got to do my bit for charity… 😉

Once we were all assembled, the day started with a demonstration from Carol Haycox, who I am embarrassed to admit I did not know of before this event. Carol has been working in the industry for 38 years and with FMM Sugarcraft for a significant period of that time. She is also an absolute scream! If you ever get the chance to see her demonstrate, you must must must do it. I’m pretty gutted that it has taken me this long to meet her!

During the demonstration, Carol showed us how she bakes, fills and covers her buttercream cakes, using real cakes that she had baked for the event, flavoured with Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavoured Icing Sugars. She then went on to show us how she uses some of the FMM Sugarcraft range to achieve some very quick, simple and effective finishes – including a Hawaiian floral cake tier, some intricate-looking borders and a leaf pattern with the new Totally Tropical Leaves cutters.

What I loved the most about Carol’s demonstration was how, at every stage of the process, she was showing people how they can work quickly and efficiently to ensure that no time is wasted – very important when you are making cakes and charging for your time. Her no-nonsense approach to cake decorating was clearly very gratefully received by the assembled attendees, but she still managed to combine her very sound advice with the perfect dose of fun and humour too. The small and intimate setting also meant that everyone had the chance to ask their questions and even grab some one-on-one time between the demonstrations too.

After Carol was finished, we broke for more coffee and tea – plus snacks, which included the cake that Carol had just decorated (a delicious lemon and lime cake) – and more shopping time, before it was time for our first demonstration from Cassie.

Sticking with the tropical theme, Cassie showed us how we can use the same FMM cutters to create stunning 3D wired Hawaiian flowers in either sugar or cold porcelain. As someone who hasn’t got a great deal of experience with sugar floristry, I was particularly interested in this and may have picked up the all-important cutters that Cassie used to have a go at these myself. I have never worked with cold porcelain either, so I was eager to check that out too. I couldn’t believe how light it was!

Cassie went on to assemble her blooms together with some tropical leaves (yup, using the same FMM cutters as Carol) and some bamboo to create a beautiful spray, which would be perfect to adorn a modern, tropical-themed wedding cake and I am itching to have a go at it myself…

After that, it was time for lunch, during which we were served a delicious hot and cold buffet, and I took the time to get to know some of the day’s attendees a little better. There were a huge variety of visitors to the CAKE LIVE Demonstration Day, with everyone from grandmothers who just make their family’s birthday cakes, right through to professionals who are churning out celebration and wedding cakes, week after week. I was also struck by just how far people had travelled to attend the day, with just my lunch table containing people from Kent, Lincolnshire, West Sussex, Hampshire and even more besides! It was great getting to know all of the lovely ladies (there were some chaps there too though) and I must thank them for their company and willingness to speak to me while they enjoyed their tasty lunch.

In the afternoon, we were talking Christmas cakes, with Carol teaching us how to properly cover a cake with sugarpaste, achieving a smooth and professional finish every single time, before using the Press-Ice to mark out a pattern, which she then piped using royal icing.

FMM cutters were used to create a variety of festive finishes, including snowflakes, delicate reindeer, icicles and snowy grass and my biggest takeaway here was her simple way of removing even the most intricate shapes from Tappits – something I know that many of us find tricky! I would tell you what it is, but I feel like you should learn it from Carol herself… 😉

Then, after more snacks, coffee and tea, we were back to Cassie, who got us all inspired to create a variety of flowers to create a stunning festive display, using dahlias, filler flowers, chilli peppers, and leaves. As Cassie explained, why limit ourselves to only certain types of flowers and sprays for our Christmas cakes? We can create a whole multitude of stunning Christmassy finishes if we think outside the box a little.

I have to say, I left the day feeling incredibly inspired by what I had seen. Carol and Cassie summed it up perfectly: for those who make simple cakes at home, Carol shared some top tips on how you can enhance what you are doing, using some shortcuts that will enable you to work quickly and efficiently, and how to use the range of FMM cutters in a variety of different ways to get the best value for money from them.

Cassie then provided us with the aspirations to take our creations to the next level, using more complex skills, but that are still achievable with a bit of practice.

I think everyone who attended the day left feeling like they had learnt something new and, between Carol and Cassie’s banter and the special exclusive offers available on the day, we definitely had all had a fantastic time!

 

As I mentioned above, FMM Sugarcraft and Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine are hoping that the CAKE LIVE Demonstration Day will be the first of many, so if you missed out this time and would be interested in attending a future event, FMM Sugarcraft want to hear from you! Who would you want to learn from? What would you want to see? To let them know, you can either get in touch with them directly, via their Facebook page or, if you’d prefer to contact me through the usual channels, I’ll be happy to pass your comments on. You can reach me by commenting below, messaging my Facebook page, posting in the dedicated Mr Baker’s Blog from Mr Baker’s Cakes Facebook group or by emailing me directly.

Oh, and as I was helping pack up the day, I was delighted to be presented with my very own GOODIE BAG!!

What’s more, they even gave me two extra bags to share with my subscribers – which means you! While not as stuffed as those given out on the day (you won’t get to choose some FMM Sugarcraft products, I’m afraid), they still have a lovely selection of goodies for you to play with.

To get your hands on one, just get in touch and tell me who would be your dream demonstrator. If you could spend a day learning from any cake artist, who would it be and why? Post your answers in the comments below and I’ll pick two at random to receive the goodies. You’ve got until this time next week – Wednesday 28th November – to get your responses in.

I would like to say a huge thank you to FMM Sugarcraft and Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine for inviting me to attend their first CAKE LOVE Demonstration Day and also to Cassie and Carol for giving us all a fabulous learning experience. I hope that this will be the first of many wonderful Demonstration Days to come, because I will definitely be back for more!

All Content, Blog

Who needs a cure for the post-CI blues?

So, come on then… Who has the post-CI blues?

If I’m honest, I think they mostly passed me by this year, but I’m wondering if that is because, unlike in previous years when I just went back to work – usually with a bit of a #cakebreak to recover – my life is still very cake-centric, thanks to Mr Baker’s Blog. Hopefully, it is providing a little bit of a crutch to all of you too.

I do think that my body has decided to punish me for burning the candle at both ends of late though – once I had finally managed to catch up on all of the sleep I missed in the run up to the show, it decided the time was right for a particularly nasty dose of man flu. I’m powering through naturally (with only the smallest amount of whining – sorry, work colleagues), but I have decided to postpone one or two of my upcoming features until later in the month and actually sleep for once.

However, that doesn’t mean that I am not looking forward to my upcoming cake-filled weekend and, for those that are still missing some cakey fun, I may have a bit of a solution.

This weekend sees Cake Decoration and Sugarcraft Magazine and FMM Sugarcraft uniting to lay on their first ever CAKE Live Demonstration Day – a full day of sugarcraft demonstrations – on Saturday 17th November 2018 at the stunning Chateau Impney Hotel & Exhibition Centre, near Droitwich Spa.

The magazine and FMM Sugarcraft have joined forces to bring us a must-have masterclass in cake decorating! Not only will we learn some invaluable skills to take home, but we’ll also get first-hand access to the tricks of the trade from fabulous talents like Cassie Brown, Carol Haycox and Cake Decoration and Sugarcraft Magazine editor, Leeanne Cooper.

Included in the day are:

  • Four up-close and personal demonstrations with two great cake decorating specialists, during which we will be able to ask all those burning cakey questions
  • A must-have exclusive goody bag full of handy products – including three you can choose ourselves
  • 10 golden tickets for the chance to win Cassie Brown’s fabulous new book The Kew Book of Sugar Flowers, in association with the prestigious Kew Gardens (I have this and it is STUNNING)
  • Be the first to know about FMM Sugarcraft’s BRAND NEW product, launching on the day
  • Money off Cassie’s new book for those who weren’t lucky enough to find a golden ticket
  • 50% off all FMM Sugarcraft products at the event
  • See how to make the most of our FMM Sugarcraft products first-hand
  • A FREE copy of the latest issue of Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine
  • A tasty hot or cold buffet lunch as well as hot drinks and snacks throughout the day
  • Enjoy stunning grounds and a relaxed atmosphere at Chateau Impney in Droitwich Spa

On top of this, we will also learn all sorts of desirable techniques from Carol and Cassie, such as:

  • Preparing the sponge correctly to get great results with buttercream
  • Making wired and non-wired flowers
  • Creating floral arrangements and tropical leaves
  • Using support dowels to stack multi-tiered cakes securely on a cake board
  • Adding colour and texture correctly for a modern look
  • Achieving a smooth and professional cake finish

If this sounds like the sort of day out that could help your post-CI come down then you need to head over to the Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine Facebook page where you can find more information.

I hope I’ll get to see some of you there!

 

Oh, and while you’re here, I learned yesterday that Mr Baker’s Blog has been shortlisted for the UK Blog Awards!

I think they struggled to know where to place me – I mean, it’s not the most common format is it? Larger than life projects, recipes, cake tutorials, interviews, event coverage, class previews, product reviews and whatever else I can squeeze in..?

However, the powers that be have decided that the Best Culinary Blog category was the best fit.

To proceed to the finalist stage, it is now down to your votes, so if you enjoy reading Mr Baker’s Blog and feel like you would like to give me your vote, then you can find the voting form at this link – handy hint: I am on the second page of the culinary blogs.

While you’re there, you can also vote for your favourite blogs in all of the other categories if you want to, but you don’t have to.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support!

All Content, Blog

Getting my Bake Off on at The Thame Food Festival 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I had the very real pleasure of being invited along to the Thame Food Festival 2018 and I was delighted to accept. A fair few of my Twitter chums have headed over in the past and I have always enjoyed living vicariously through them, but I decided that this was the year that I checked it out for myself.

Since its inception in 2008, the festival has been based in the small market town of Thame, about 13 miles east of Oxford, and, over the years, it has attracted the fantastic support of scores of celebrity and local chefs, who come to the festival to demonstrate for absolutely NOTHING simply because they love what they do and are happy to be part of this glorious celebration of local British produce.

Run as a non-profit by a small group of local people, this is a business with primarily social objectives whose profits are reinvested back into the festival or into the local community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners – and that community feel flows through every individual element of the festival, including their ‘Local Artisan Producer Bursary’ and the free space provided to local charities, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Thomley and the WI at Denman College, enabling them to raise both money and awareness over the two days of the event.

When deciding which day of the two-day Festival I would head up for, I scoured the event programme, where I was captivated by the incredible line up of chefs and bakers who would be appearing on the Magimix Stage. The Saturday was to feature appearances from the youngest ever GBBO contestant and now successful author and Waitrose columnist, Martha Collison; 2016 MasterChef champion, Jane Devonshire; Raymond Blanc OBE; and Bake Off: The Professionals judge and Chef Patissier at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Benoit Blin and it certainly seemed like an event not to be missed. However, I have to say that my inner GBBO fanboy squealed when I saw who would be demonstrating on the Sunday!

With a line up set to include Suzy Pelta, Lotte Duncan and a whole host of former GBBOers, such as series one’s Miranda Gore Browne, series four’s Howard Middleton, series seven’s Jane Beedle and Candice Brown (who would be accompanied by her Dancing on Ice partner, Matt Evers) and series eight’s Steven Carter-Bailey, the decision was made for me and so, on Sunday, I headed off up the A34 on my first ever visit to Thame.

In spite of travelling solo, I was warmly welcomed on arrival by members of the festival’s ‘Foodie Force’, an army of friendly and enthusiastic volunteers who immediately made me feel at ease – even after I tripped over a fence navigating my way through the huge (and FREE!) carpark! They quickly gave me directions to the show’s main feature, the Magimix Stage, where I planned to set up camp to ensure that I would have a prime view of all of the day’s incredible demonstrations.

First up was a demo by food blogger, author and fellow member of team #creamfirst, Suzy Pelta who would be acting as our host throughout the day’s events and it was great to have the chance to talk to her in person after being twitter chums for a fair old while now. In fact, if you’d indulge me jumping ahead briefly, that was one of my favourite aspects of the entire day. Thanks to the wonderfully intimate nature of the festival, I was able to grab a few minutes with every single one of the special guests. Having been Twitter  chums with many of them for some time, it was great to finally be able to have a proper chat.

Yes, I had trimmed my beard too short only that morning. No, I don’t want to talk about it… 😉

But back to the action…

After Suzy’s quick and tasty S’mores Cookie Squares, we were joined by one of The Great British Bake Off’s inaugural bakers, Miranda Gore Browne who wowed us all with an essential guide to the perfect royal-iced biscuit. Having wanted to turn my hand to this art form for a long while now, I picked up a lot of top tips that I hope to be able to put to good use sometime soon.

Of course, I couldn’t come all this way without checking out some of the other incredible sights and smells on show, so I dashed out after Miranda’s demo to have a wander around the festival ground taking in the headline sponsors Magimix’s marquee and show favourites, the Pop-up Pub and the Botanical Gin Garden, conveniently located either side of the festival’s newest feature, the live Music Stage, which featured a fabulous programme of musicians throughout the weekend.

I managed to show some real restraint in Humble Country – a marquee full of tempting hand-picked and unique homeware – but sadly (or not in actual fact) my restraint didn’t last quite so long in the Artisan Market or the Street Food Zone, where I was tempted to indulge in the wonderful selection of fabulous local ingredients and some hot and tasty dishes and bakes.

Yeah, I found some cake, because… cake.

After that, I headed back to the Magimix Stage to catch the end of Liam and Ryan Simpson-Trotman of Orwells’ fabulous cooking demonstration, before it was time for the biggest draw of the day, Dancing on Icing Sugar – with Candice Brown and Matt Evers, during which we howled with laughter. These was to become a theme for the rest of the day!

In fact, as I tweeted during the afternoon, my jaw actually hurt from laughing so much. The GBBO bakers really are an entertaining bunch!

Between Suzy, Candice, Matt, Steven, Howard and Jane, I would be hard-pressed to choose a favourite demonstration and that is without including some of the industry insider gossip shared by show director and patron, Lotte Duncan.

What repeatedly struck me, particularly as I stood back and watched the chefs and bakers engage with their fans, was how accessible they were. If you compare the Thame weekend with other, bigger events like last weekend’s The Cake and Bake Show (stay tuned for a special guest post all about that soon), you rarely have the chance to meet all of your baking heroes at such a big event, simply because they are so big. Yet, just one week earlier, many of the same faces were right there in Thame, happily chatting away, posing for photos and giving the public as much time as was needed to ensure that everyone got a look in – why are more of us not heading along to this incredible event?

And of course, in addition to the fantastic demonstrations, amazing local produce and dazzling array of cuisines on offer, the little ones are also well taken care of, with their very own Children’s Activity Area, with swings, rides and plenty of other activities to keep them busy. The festival is also ‘dog-friendly’, which means that even the smallest members of the family are welcome along – I loved meeting so many adorable bundles of fluff, including some of the pooches brought along by the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People charity, who were hosting a Fun Dog Show.

Add on to this the Vintage Tea Tent from Dottie about Cake and a fabulous demonstration schedule from members of The WI, courtesy of Denman College, WI HQ, there really was something new to see and do whichever way you turned!

A whole shack of crumble! Autumnal heaven!

In fact, the only thing missing from the whole weekend was a lil’ cake decorating demonstration from a humble little cake blogger – how’s about it, Lotte? 😉

In all seriousness, I had an absolutely fabulous time at the Thame Food Festival and I would heartily recommend it as a fun day out for anyone with a love of cooking, baking, eating or even just drinking (Make sure you bring a designated driver though people – safety first!). The fact that you can bring the dog, the kids and pretty much any of your friends (as there really was something for everyone) means that you are guaranteed a top day out, but don’t just take my word for it – The Thame Food Festival returns to the Thame Showground next year on 28-29 September 2019. Head on down and find out for yourself!

Thank you so much to Rachel and Lotte for having me along to the Thame Food Festival 2018 and for being such wonderful hosts both during the build up to the event and on the day. I will definitely be back for more next year!

Hopefully I’ll see you all there too!

x

To stay up to date with the latest news and information about the Thame Food Festival 2019, head to the official festival website here.