All Content, Blog

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

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!

All Content, Blog

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.

IMG_0807

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!

IMG_0862

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.

IMG_0930

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.

IMG_0866

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!

IMG_0814.jpg

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.

IMG_0904.jpg

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.

IMG_0860

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.

IMG_0877

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

IMG_0869

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.

IMG_0895

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.

IMG_0942

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.

IMG_0964

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!

IMG_0972

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.

IMG_8857
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.

IMG_0987

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.

IMG_8862

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.

IMG_0980

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!