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Guess who’s back… tell a friend!

Gosh, where I do I even try to begin…?

Can you believe it has been nearly SIX WEEKS since I was last here writing?! If I am honest, it feels like even longer…

If you watched my Facebook Live from around that time (can anyone even remember back that far?!), you will have seen that between Cake International prep and a couple of collaborations that were coming due, I was seriously up against it in terms of deadlines. I made the reluctant decision to pause the online content while I focussed on those projects and, in hindsight, I think it was the right decision. There is literally no way I would have got everything done if I was still writing and shooting content alongside my ‘irl’ workload.

That being said, I am a little bit cross with myself that I didn’t make more of an effort to document some of the creative processes that led to my Cake International pieces OR my collaboration contributions – I’m sure they would have made great YouTube viewing. *facepalm*

Oh well, lesson learned for next time…

Woah, there! I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, talking about what I was doing for Cake International – some of you may not even have seen the fruits of my labours yet!

But actually, before we get into that, I thought I’d also share my contribution to one of the aforementioned collaborations, as one has already gone live.

Sugar Spooks, masterminded by Avalon Yarnes of Avalon Cakes School of Sugar Art is now in its seventh year, and it is seen by many as one of the pioneering online collaborations, paving the way for all that followed. I have honestly looked forward to its release every single year since I entered the world of cake art and design, and I was completely blown away to be invited to join the ranks of legendary artists that make up the Sugar Spooks team this year!

For 2019, the theme of the collection was the Sugar Spooks Haunted Mansion and immediately I was inspired to create a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy, taking my lead from various urban myths and short stories that I have read in the past.

I named him Sinister Sid and, alongside the sugarcraft element, participants in Sugar Spooks also create a back story for their pieces, so this was mine:

“On first inspection, nestling in his little corner of the room, Sid looks like a harmless sideshow oddity – perhaps the souvenir of a neglected hobby or maybe quickly forgotten gift? It’s only on closer inspection that one starts to notice some rather unsettling peculiarities… those rather disconcerting eyes, the rather menacing expression and what is that dripping noise…?

“No, Sid isn’t your typical toy – the Hon. Sidney Edward Watts used to be the respected owner of this grand abode – well, until he fell afoul of one of the many menacing ghouls that walk its halls that is.

“No one quite knows what he did to warrant an eternity of punishment – and Sid certainly isn’t letting on – but he hasn’t taken his punishment lying – or even sitting – down.

“You see, when night falls, and a cloak of darkness descends over his beloved home, Sid stalks its halls, seeking out victims and taking his bloody revenge on any who dare to trespass within its walls.”

I loved how Sid came together and he is certainly pretty darn creepy, but I was even more blown away when I saw the rest of the collection – be sure to swing by the Sugar Spooks website and check them out for yourself. You can find it here.

After Spooks was out of the way, it was time to knuckle down and get seriously cracking on my contributions to 2019’s Cake International – the largest cake show in the world.

This year, I had agreed to create a contribution for the Sugar Witches display and one for the Stephen King feature. I was also entering the prestigious competitions as part of the Sugar Chronicles team (see more about us here) and had somehow volunteered to craft the centrepiece for the Help Harry Help Others charity Santa’s Grotto – a life-sized edible Santa cake that could be SAT ON! *screaming emoji*

When we were originally planning the Santa’s Grotto, I made a rather tongue-in-cheek comment that, ‘One can’t create a grotto entirely from cake without having a Santa that you can sit on.’ The mastermind behind the feature, Hayley O’Beirnes of Gadget Cakes agreed and quite rightly put me on the spot, suggesting that I make one – and honestly guys, a little part of me never thought our pitch would be approved, so I agreed. Then it WAS approved and I suddenly found myself in a position where I had to bring this to life somehow. Cue panic!

Luckily, I was able to draw on support from a number of different parts of my life, including my father, who is a very experienced engineer to help me with the structure (which I had sketched out on the back of an envelope); my dear friend Nicola, who works out of a large commercial unit and was kind enough to lend me a little corner to work in; and some wonderful brands, including Renshaw and Fractal Colors, who both kindly contributed some of the materials that I would need.

Rather than repeat it all here, I have documented the process of creating my life-sized edible Santa cake in a short video, which I will link below. It didn’t go without its dramas and don’t even get me started on the nightmare I had trying to get him to the show, but it all came together in the end (Thanks Rhu, Sharon and Keith) and I think he was a popular addition to this year’s event.

One of the challenges I also had to deal with in the weeks leading up to Cake International 2019 was some fairly inclement weather. My home sits not too far from the shores of a lake and, when it is particularly wet, the humidity here is dire. About a week before the show was due to begin, we were hit by almost biblical monsoon-like rain and both my competition entry and my contribution to the Stephen King display did not survive the ordeal. I found myself in the position of having to start both of them again from scratch, which is not what you want when you also have a life-sized Father Christmas cake to finish.

Unfortunately, I did run out of time in the end and I was unable to bring my Stephen King exhibit to the table. However, the rest of The King of Horror display was absolutely incredible and I don’t think it was noticeable that my tiny contribution was missing. Thanks to the team for being so understanding though and congratulations – you really did create something special. Do you make sure you go and check out The King of Horror feature online here.

Another highlight of the show had to be the stunning Sugar Witches display, tucked away down by the competition area, featuring a whole host of witchy-inspired creations, including no less than FIVE life-sized witches by Kate Bartlett, Graziella Augier, Anna Taylor Dillon, Nicola Gerrans, Lesley Marshall and Julie Rogerson (plus another supersized piece by Kelly McWilliam and an incredible spinning cauldron by Steph Parker).

My piece for the display ended up being a rather rushed affair – I made a tiny hessian voodoo doll – but the same couldn’t be said about the rest of the contributions.

 

It was an incredible display and every time I walked past, it was absolutely rammed with visitors. It was clearly a very popular addition to Cake International 2019. Congratulations to the whole team.

Another personal highlight of the weekend was being invited to demonstrate on the Ranshaw stand for the first time.

Having used Renshaw products since I first started my cake journey over five years ago, you would be fairly safe to assume that I am a big fan of the brand. They have also been very good to me over the years, supporting many of my charitable endeavours – not to mention contributing to numerous giveaways for you guys too, of course.

During my demonstration, we were using the gorgeous coloured Renshaw extra sugarpastes and some of my favourite moulds from Karen Davies Sugarcraft to create a simple snowman cake with a super realistic woolly hat topper. I even roped in the lovely Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes to cut out the gazillion daisies needed to create the pom-pom.

We had a fantastic time working together and I loved getting to meet loads of you guys too. If you fancy having a go at creating your own woolly hat topper, you can find the full tutorial as part of my Festive Llama Cake tutorial via the tab above.

And then finally, of course, there was my competition entry, which as I’ve already mentioned was in the collaborations category, along with my Sugar Chronicles chums.

I had kind of fallen out of love with competing recently, having not entered since 2017. I didn’t feel that it was always good for my mental health to add on so much additional stress when I already get so much pleasure from creating pieces for features and exhibits at the show. However, I love working with the Sugar Chronicles team (you may have seen our previous Beatrix Potter and Narnia collections at the Cake & Bake Show), so when our illustrious leader Louise Wolfenden suggested a collaboration entry themed all around the wonderful World of Oz, I jumped at the chance to get back on the competition horse.

In spite of the earlier disaster with my piece collapsing due to the humidity, it seems that fate was actually conspiring with us for once, as my second attempt at the Cowardly Lion far exceeded the fast and his new position asleep in the poppy fields added an additional dimension to the display that the first version never would have done.

We were delighted to find out that we had been given a gold award for our collection after the judging concluded, but were completely blown away to find out that we had also scooped the much-coveted Best in Class rosette. As competition results go, you can’t ask for any more than that, so a massive thank you to the Cake International judges and to my teammates for a fantastic competition experience.

Whether it is enough to bring me out of my self-induced competition retirement remains to be seen though, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

So, there you go… That is what I have been up to over the last five or six weeks since we last spoke. Obviously, there is much much more Cake International news to share with you, but I thought I would save that for the first issue back of Something Sweet magazine, which will be out next Sunday, the 17th of November.

As always, if you have something that you would like to be featured in the next issue, be sure to get in touch using the usual channels.

Moving forward, I am also looking to add some regular contributors to my writing line up, so if you would be interested in becoming a regular member of the Something Sweet team, be sure to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, I would also love to hear what you have been up to over the last few weeks. I have really missed speaking to all of you and I do hope that lots of you will be in touch over the next few days so that we can create a Something Sweet: Cake International Special that is truly… Something Sweet. See what I did there?

In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me over the last few weeks and happy caking to you all!

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New Video Alert: Attending the launch party of The Sugar Lair

Hey cake chums!

As you saw in my exclusive interview with Kate Parsons earlier this week, on Friday, I was invited to attend the rescheduled launch of the new Cake Design Academy – The Sugar Lair, where we were joined by a rather Extreme Cake Maker and his paw-some creation (see what I did there?!), and naturally I brought you guys along for the ride!

Check out the video:

Quick PSA: Not all of my videos are going to be event vlogs – I promise! I’m working hard to sort out my new cake studio, after which you can expect lots of more cake-focused content.

Feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments of what you would like to see on my channel.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Check out my interview with Kate Parsons of The Sugar Lair here.

Find out more about classes at The Sugar Lair over on Facebook or at the official website here soon.

You can see more from Peboryon over at their website or find them on Facebook here.

Catch up on past episodes of Extreme Cake Makers on All4.

I hope you enjoyed my latest video, guys! Don’t forget to subscribe!

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Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour: Day Two

Day Two of Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour dawned bright and early this morning and, after an absolutely shocking night of sleep (or pretty much no sleep to be more specific), it was time to head to the launch of the Bolton Food & Drink Festival.

Organised by Bolton Council, with the support of generous event sponsors Aldi, Willmott Dixon and Stateside Foods, the Bolton Food & Drink Festival is the largest festival of its type in the north and across the weekend, celebrity chefs including Michael Caines, Ainsley Harriot, James Martin and everyone’s favourite GBBO winner, Nadiya Hussain, will be hosting a series of live demonstrations and events.

Now in its 13th year, the organisers are constantly building and improving the attractions on offer to keep it fresh for the thousands of visitors and this year is no exception. It’s looks set to be a bumper weekend once again.

In addition to attending the morning’s VIP launch event, I was going to spend the rest of the day shadowing one of the stars of Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers, Rose Dummer – AKA Rosie Cake-Diva as she delivered the Extreme Cake that she had cooked up for the event.

The glamorous reality of celebrity appearances…

Now, it has to be said: I had always assumed that the ‘extreme’ in Extreme Cake Makers referred to the extreme size of the cakes produced or even the extreme levels of talent on display during each episode. However, after spending a day walking around in Rose’s shoes (not literally, you understand – although she had enough of them with her), I now realise that ‘extreme’ refers to the extreme stress of delivering these giant creations.

As soon as I met up with my dear friend Rose, she confessed that she only currently had half of the cake on site. Her husband Jamie was supposed to have followed on with the other half in a hire van, but he had broken down and was waiting for a replacement vehicle! For a while there, we were worried that he wouldn’t make it in time! But, luckily, he arrived with time to spare however, the dramas didn’t end there…

The weather also seemed to be acting against us, with bright sunshine one moment and torrential downpours the next. In fact, all day we were faced with insane weather – one minute we were worried about the cake being in the car in blazing sunshine, the next, we were panicking about transferring the cake into a venue during an actual deluge.

After practically backing the cars into the marquee, we were still faced with one final foot of open air. We experimented with umbrellas, but then someone had the bright idea of forming a tunnel of fabric to keep the cake dry. It was inspired!

Mr Cake-Diva (as I’m sure he will be thrilled to be known) and I managed to carry the first half of the cake into the marquee without incident, but as we were lifting the second half, disaster struck. I won’t go into huge amounts of gory detail, but imagine trying to lift something extremely heavy at an odd angle and your knee makes a crunch noise – that was me. Luckily, we managed to put the cake back down safely, but I think it will take me quite some time to recover from the embarrassment of being attended by first aiders in front of the assembled press and VIP guests – although I must say a huge thank you to the Bolton team for looking after me so well. I’m not sure what I’ve done to it to be honest, but it certainly didn’t enjoy the experience. I’m hoping that a good night’s sleep (fingers crossed) and a handful of painkillers will help.

Rose’s incredible cake was inspired by the current refurbishment taking place at the Bolton Museum, which contains an incredible collection of around 12,000 objects from over 65 sites in Egypt.

After being unveiled at the launch event, we would then be taking it on to the Market Place Shopping Centre, where it will be displayed for the rest of the festival alongside the Market Place’s Egyptian Adventure experience, before being donated to Urban Outreach – a charity that supports the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and complex adults and young people in Bolton.

However, I am getting ahead of myself! The launch event kicked off with a surprise opera-singing waiter, before Rosie invited all of the assembled special guests to take their seats, if they could navigate their way past the very exciting goodie bags, which even included a whole herb garden!

As a delicious brioche brunch was served, we heard from the leader of Bolton Council, Councillor Linda Thomas; the CEO of Bolton Council, Tony Oakman; and Director of Logistics at headline sponsor Aldi, Virgil Simpson, before Double-Michelin-Starred chef, Michael Caines took to the stage with an exclusive brunch-themed demonstration: How to create the perfect Omelette Arnold Bennett.

Rosie then told us a bit more about the cake, revealing that she had signed her name on it in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, as well as the name of her Extreme Cake Makers camera man and her daughter Maddie. The sarcophagus’ cartouche however, features the word Bolton written in the traditional pictograms.

As the event drew to a close, the Lady Mayor declared the event officially open and then it was all hands on deck to redress the venue ready for the evening’s VIP gala dinner. I didn’t get an invitation to that one though! But that’s fine – I enjoyed my Creamy Cheese Pasta Mug Shot!

The next job for us was to relocate the cake to its home for the rest of the festival, the Market Place Shopping Centre – a task that was easier said than done! After my earlier injury, I decided to stay out of the way during the heavy lifting this time, but this seemed to go with a hitch (Jamie really is a marvel you know). Navigating the crowds however, especially as many of the roads around the main festival area had been blocked off, was an entirely different can of worms.

We eventually made it though, after looping around some one-way systems, sending members of the Bolton team racing across the town centre to retrieve keys for various vehicles (they really do work hard to make the weekend a success), relocating a row of Portaloos and some fairly impressive driving by Mr Cake-Diva (seriously, a marvel) – then we met up with the Extreme Cake Makers crew (only a few hours later than expected), Roger & Blaze, to record the all-important arrival footage.

These guys have the patience of saints!

I think they missed a trick by not joining us at the launch party though. Between Jamie’s breakdown (the van, not him personally), the weather and my injury, I think it would have been TV gold! Although, I am thankful that the embarrassment factor was not compounded by it being shown for all the world to see in national television.

Once we were all set up, it was time to cut the cake and I’ll tell you what, when the public think that they’re going to get a free slice of cake, they’re vicious! I’ve never been elbowed out the way so much in such a short space of time! It really was lovely to see how excited everyone was by Rosie’s incredible creation though and the word on the street is that the chocolate orange cake tasted just as good as it looked! I didn’t even to get to try any myself though – the risk of further injury ensured that I stayed at a safe distance from the action.

All in all, I really enjoyed my day shadowing Rosie Cake-Diva, but I don’t know if I could do this all the time. Just like her husband, she really is a marvel and great fun to be around. Thank you so much for letting me join you my dear Rose and for a really fun day!

Of course, I only managed to see a tiny corner of the festival today, so I am looking forward to exploring the rest of the sights, smells and delights on offer tomorrow. But in the meantime, I think it is time to head back to the hotel to ice my knee and take it easy for rest of the evening!

So, there you have it! Day two and we already have dramas, injuries and celebrity encounters! I told you Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour was going to be exciting! If you enjoyed today’s post, do pop a comment below and let me know, and don’t forget to hit the subscribe button (over on the right) to ensure you can follow the rest of my UK tour! You will also need to hit confirm in the email I send you.

Until tomorrow, sweet dreams… x