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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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The Ideal Home Show 2018

As featured in Something Sweet Issue 2 and sponsored by Zoopla, the Ideal Home Show has returned to Olympia London from the 17th March to the 2nd April 2018. In their own words, ‘From kitchens and bathrooms, to bedrooms and basements, fixtures and fittings to fine food, gardens and the latest in home renovation, to fashion beauty and gifts, you’ll find it all under one roof at this award-winning show.’

‘But why are you mentioning this in your cake and baking blog?’, I hear you cry! Well, this year, to commemorate the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19th May 2018, the Ideal Home Show has invited amateur and professional bakers to enter the Royal Wedding Cake Competition being held at this year’s show. Tasked with constructing a wedding cake fit for the royal wedding itself, entrants’ creations displayed are being displayed throughout the 17 days of the Ideal Home Show for visitors to see.

Although we now know who will be making the actual royal wedding cake, naturally, I still have to pop along to check out these wonderfully constructed masterpieces for myself and will be heading up to the big smoke this coming Sunday, the 25th March.

I’m told that the show is well worth a visit – not only to check out the cakes on display – but also to see some of the incredible displays, exhibits and panellists in attendance.

Oh, and the cake competition is also being judged by our very own Rosie Cake-Diva, so I’m looking forward to a jolly good catch up and gossip with the queen of Extreme Cakes herself.

If you fancy joining us, tickets for the show are available from seetickets.com and do let me know if you are heading down, so I know to look out for you on Sunday!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Class 6: Pastillage Cup and Saucer – Creative cup and saucers crafted from pastillage, decorated with any edible medium and displayed however competitors wish.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 bsgregion7.co.uk. 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 bsgregion8se.org.

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.

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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!

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