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Guest Post: The Irish Sugarcraft Show by Rhianydd Webb

The weekend before last saw the Irish Sugarcraft Show head to the Citywest Hotel, in Saggart, Dublin, promising a fantastic weekend of live demonstrations, a host of wonderful trade stands, fun for the children and, of course, the fabulous cake competitions – with the legendarily high standard of work that the country is well-known for.

While I was gutted to not be able to attend in person (and believe me, I came close to impulsively booking a last-minute flight SO many times), I did manage to secure my own special undercover agent to report back on the show on my behalf. The wonderfully-talented lady in question really needs no introduction, so without much further ado, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Rhianydd Webb of Dragons & Daffodils Cakes to Mr Baker’s Blog with her very first guest post…

We were very excited to be attending The Irish Sugarcraft Show at the Citywest Hotel in Saggart, Dublin last weekend. It was actually our first trip to Ireland and the promised Irish hospitality truly delivered. From easy public transport out to the hotel, with its stunning hotel rooms, to a genuinely friendly Irish welcome wherever you went. We had a great time.

The show, organised by Marian McCormack (Chairperson of the Dublin Sugarcraft Guild) and her team, had a great selection of traders from around Ireland – and beyond, with Karen Davies Sugarcraft popping along to share her fantastic products too. Literally everywhere you turned, there were incredible cake artists – honestly too many to name. Ireland really does have a wealth of talent and they are all huge supporters of the show.

No show can run without a lot of support and Marian and her team are incredibly thankful for the help and assistance of the show’s sponsors: Cakers World, Stuff 4 Cakes, Sweet Revolutions by Domy, Vera Miklas, Kitchen Aid, Homebaking.ie, Strictly Sugarcraft, Karen Davies, Select Sugarpaste Ireland, Sweet Creations (Miriam Pearson), Saracino, Decobake, Ribbon Shack and The Celtic Cakers.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the official launch of the Celtic Cakers Tutorial Book. Celebrated Ireland-based sugar artist, Corinna Maguire had a grand idea (see what I did there?) to celebrate all things Irish and all things sugar and over the last year has been compiling tutorials from Irelands finest sugarcrafters to create a truly wonderful book. It is enhanced further with some stunning photography of spectacular landscapes Ireland is well-known for, submitted by each of the cake artists involved and this is all brought together to showcase the all-encompassing sense of community that we found during our stay on the Emerald Isle (and yes, I did have a great time running around collecting signatures from all of the cake artists in the book). I know you have already seen a special post about this fabulous book, but I couldn’t not include a picture of all the talents involved when I saw them at the show.

Thanks to Emma Stewart of Truly Scrumptious Cakes by Design for the photograph!

As always, there was a huge display of competition cakes and there were subjects to interest everyone, including rare breeds, a beach theme and even witches and wizards. The competitors really let their imaginations run riot.

BSG Judge, Steven Kirkby in action

There was such a wonderful range of sugarcraft skills on display too – too many to feature in one short post – but I managed to talk to as many as possible during my visit. Representing the young artists’ categories, I spoke to Gabrielle, 9, who was awarded Gold for her Tom and Jerry cake, while her sister Jessica, 11, was also awarded Gold for her Angry Birds design. I’ll be honest, I know professional cake decorators who strive for this level of neatness.

I was completely mesmerised by the stunning mermaid created by Kelly McWilliam, who was awarded Gold and Best in Class for her unique take on the subject. I went with her to the lovely BSG judge, Julie Askew, for her feedback, which was not only fabulous, but it was wonderful listening to Julie’s tips for achieving the best result possible. My favourite tip? If you shine a torch around your piece, it will help you find flaws that you can neaten (Find an interview with Kelly over on my Dragons and Daffodils Facebook page).

I also adored this hand painted cake by Sylwia Sobiegraj.  When I caught up with Sylwia at the show, she told me how delighted she was with her Gold award. All of the details on her piece were hand-painted with Saracino cocoa butter and edible dusts, with the middle tier being inspired by the painter, Vie Dunn-Harr, “I love her colourful and vibrant art”.

Anjali Tambde achieved an incredible THREE gold awards and TWO Best in Class gongs for her flawless and inventive work. Truly inspirational.

I must offer my sincerest congratulations to all of the competitors, and also to the fabulous team of British Sugarcraft Judges who had the tough task of judging them all. I certainly didn’t envy them!

There was a fabulous and varied list of demonstrations over the course of the weekend – both on the main stage and on the Dublin Sugarcraft Guild Stand – ensuring that there was something for everyone. I managed to catch a few of the demonstrations, including: Tanya Ross, who gave us fabulous tips to use when airbrushing; Corinna Maguire, who had us in stitches, while still teaching us all about gelatine (You can also find her top tips for working with gelatine in her book); and Lynda Gilbey; who pulled two helpers from the audience to create a beautiful floral teddy bear – showing that not only is she a fabulous artist, but a wonderful teacher too. The final demonstration I was lucky enough to catch was by Gavin Puttick of Putty Cakes, who beat his own record by decorating a realistic handbag cake in… 45 minutes! Wow!

But the demonstrations didn’t stop there! Lots of stands had demonstrations running throughout the weekend and I could quite happily have sat down and watched the whole time.

One of the biggest draws of this year’s show was orchestrated by the fabulous Paul Redmond of Purple Feather Cake Design: The Big One – Ireland’s Largest Cake. A huge cake sculpted in the shape of Ireland itself, it was decorated with beautifully recreated Irish landmarks and characters created by cake decorators from around Ireland and internationally too. The cake was decorated on the Friday, with the final pieces being added throughout the show. It was a huge honour to be invited to be involved in the project and to meet some of the other sugarcrafters that took part. To find out more, you can see my chat with Paul about the project over on my Facebook page, while Paul himself shared a segment from Saturday’s TV3 morning show, were he brought along some of the pieces that would be on display. Huge thanks to the sponsors, Select Ireland, Sunnycakes by David and Larry’s DIY for supporting the collaboration.

And just before I go, I hadn’t realised that the Irish show moves around, with Dublin hosting the even years and Cork the odd, which means that 2019 will see the turn of the Cork Sugarcaft Association to host – make sure you plan your trip accordingly, because you won’t want to miss it!

Thank you so much to Mr Bakers Blog for letting me ramble on – I mean guest post! It has been so much fun.

Rhianydd x

Thank YOU Rhianydd for a wonderfully detailed account of what sounds like a truly inspiring weekend. While I’m still a bit glum that I missed it for myself, you have done a beautiful job of bringing it to life for us all with your words.

Rhianydd Webb is the Wales-based talent behind Dragons & Daffodils Cakes by Rhianydd Webb and she regularly teaches classes, both near her home in Pontypridd and nationally as well. You can find out where she will be teaching next by visiting her website and don’t forget to subscribe to her blog and YouTube channel while you are there.

I’ll actually be heading up to Pontypridd myself later this week to take part in Rhianydd’s Wafer Paper Peony and Blossom Class. As a complete novice to wafer paper flowers, I am a little bit apprehensive if I’m honest, but, as a fantastic teacher, I know that Rhianydd will look after me. I can’t wait to share it all with you soon!

Blog, Guest Post

Guest Post: The Cake Retreat 2018

Regular readers may recall that last year I interviewed the very talented Emma Stewart of Truly Scrumptious Cakes by Design. During the exclusive interview, she told us all about a project she was working on called The Cake Retreat: an all-inclusive, four-day cakers’ break in Northern Ireland.

She explained that it was going to be a long weekend of being wined, dined, massaged & well and truly CAKED, which she was organising with Jill Condell from Caledonia Cake Studio.

The weekend before last, Emma’s plan finally came to fruition and the first ever Cake Retreat was held and, although I couldn’t make it along myself, I reached out to one of the attendees, Helen Ducker of Helen Ducker Cake Design to tell us all about it.

Welcome to Mr Baker’s Blog, Helen…

It was last year when my fabulously-talented friend, Emma Stewart told me about her idea for a cake retreat: ‘Imagine spending the weekend in beautiful Northern Ireland, surrounded by like-minded people, being wined, dined, massaged and caked!’ My immediate response was a resounding, ‘Erm… Hell yes! Sign me up!’ and that is how I found myself on a flight from Manchester to Belfast a fortnight ago, ready to make more new cake friends and learn new skills, whilst fitting in a spa treatment and a nine-course meal at a castle.

I’m always a little apprehensive before going to any new venue or class – particularly as I would be spending a whole four days with lots of people that I had never met before. Fortunately, there was a Meet & Greet planned for the Wednesday evening at the Caledon Cake Studio, the venue where all of our classes would take place and Emma and I headed into the studio.

I had cake shop/studio envy immediately!

The Caledon Cake Studio is light and airy, with an amazing teaching area set up and plenty of space for us all to spread out. We were also greeted with a lovely gift box, but, as I was the first one there, I had to wait until all the other guests arrived before I could open it – it was practically torture!

I was introduced to Jill, who owns Caledon Cake Studio and had helped to create the retreat with Emma, and also to Ann, who, it turns out, is the best cook and would be responsible for us all piling on the pounds in just a matter of days!

Slowly, as everyone started to arrive, introductions were made and any nervousness I had had was quickly put to bed. When everyone has the same passion – cakes and sugarcraft – then you already have something in common!

Once we were all assembled, we FINALLY got to open our gift boxes and… wow!

Inside, we found a stunning copper travel mug to keep our teas and coffees nice and hot, a Cake Retreat branded apron to keep us neat and tidy during our busy long weekend of classes, a Cake Retreat pencil and pad for any essential note-taking, a selection of dusts and brushes, which would be the ones used in our classes and a Cake Retreat branded bag to take it all home in.

Then it was time to head downstairs for dinner, where we were delighted to find the shop had been set up with tables and chairs so we could have our lunches each day – and even some of our dinners. All of our food across the four days was included in the price – even breakfast and snacks and the team even managed to cater for my coeliac disease.

After a lovely first meal together, we were off to our accommodation: some absolutely gorgeous cottages not far from the studio.

Thursday morning saw our first full day of learning and it was an action-packed day!

Emma Stewart was our tutor and taught us how to create stunning sugar flowers and leaves, using veining boards, cutters, veiners and wires. I’m fairly experienced with sugar floristry, but it was still fantastic to learn how to create a more-realistic look – and I also created my first ever Dahlias and Cosmos. Emma then went on to show us how to get some incredible sharp edges on our cakes, how to lustre them with ease and how to create and apply a stunning ruffle effect. I was definitely ready for my bed that night!

After a thoroughly well-deserved sleep, it was on to day two and we were joined by Louise Vincent of The Rose on the Cake.

Well-known for her stunning hand-painted cakes, Louise taught us how to paint on to our cakes using cocoa butter and Squires Kitchen powder colours. She was a fabulously patient and attentive teacher as she demonstrated how to slowly layer and build colours to create stunning flowers. I’d tried painting cakes before using vodka and powder colours, but I had never achieved the results that I managed under Louise’s expert tuition.

Although it was nerve-wracking making that initial mark onto the clean cake canvas, with Louise’s guidance, my confidence grew.  It was such a relaxing and therapeutic class and the perfect way to lead us into the next part of the day – the spa visit! Life is usually pretty hectic back at home, so I had really been looking forward to this part of the retreat – and I wasn’t disappointed.

On arrival at the Castle Leslie estate, we were shown to the Victorian Treatment Rooms and, after changing into our swimming costumes and robes, we entered the relaxation area for our treatments. I had chosen a facial and, although I am no stranger to a facial (life in sunny Bolton can be harsh on the skin!), I can honestly say that this was one of the best I have ever had. It was unbelievably relaxing and I didn’t want it to end.

After my heavenly facial, we enjoyed mango shots and green tea, followed by a dip in the outdoor hot tub and, as we were in the midst of some particularly warm weather, it was a perfect opportunity to get to know some of the other Retreaters little better.

Later, it was time to get buffed and bronzed, ready to make our way to Castle Leslie’s Snaffles Restaurant for an incredible nine course tasting menu. The food was incredible and we all tottered off to our beds, completely stuffed with food and maybe a little wine too!

Day three dawned with a slightly fuzzy head, but we had the perfect antidote in the form of Corinna Maguire of Lovin From The Oven and her bridal figure class.

Again, although I do make models and figures back home, it was wonderful to have Corinna’s expertise on hand to share her hints and tips to make more realistic arms and facial figures. I usually only use Saracino Modelling Paste, so it was great to be able to try some other popular products, such as Cake Duchess Modelling Paste and Laped Modelling Paste.

 

Once we had finished with our bridal figures, we had a relaxing afternoon being taught how to create fresh flower arrangements suitable and safe for wedding cakes by a florist from Willow & Twine.

She talked us through which flowers are toxic and non-toxic, how to use oasis wet foam, how to create different arrangements using flowers and foliage and how to display them on our cakes. I have always stayed well away from fresh flowers in the past, as quite frankly, I have been scared of putting them anywhere near my cakes, so the hints and tips picked up in this class were invaluable.

As this was our last evening together, we headed off to the Ambleside Cottage – a quaint little restaurant on the grounds of Castle Leslie, where they specialise in pizzas. Yet again, my coeliac disease was totally catered for and I’m fairly confident that my garlic bread was even better than everyone else’s!

Sunday was the final day of the Cake Retreat and I think we were all feeling a bit tired after such an intense few days. Luckily, all that was left to do with our cakes was finish off our flowers.

It was back to Emma to show us how to dust and steam them, before taping them together to form a pretty arrangement. We then placed them on our cakes, stacking them ready for photographs…

Which is where our expert photographer, Catriona Corrigan of Divine Photography, stepped in for our final session.

This was honestly invaluable as, like many cake artists, photographing my cakes is somewhere I fail spectacularly – I have all the gear and no idea! Catriona showed us how to use lighting, different camera settings and backdrops effectively, whilst also demonstrating how to capture stunning photos even with a phone camera. We then had the chance to take final photographs of our cakes using all the tips she had shown us.

All too soon, it all came to an end and, after Emma had expertly packed our cakes and figures ready for our homeward journeys, it was quite sad saying goodbye to everyone. I really feel like I have made a whole new bunch of firm friends and I’m so pleased that I decided to ignore my nerves and give The Cake Retreat a go. I honestly can’t recommend the experience enough – when the dates for The Cake Retreat 2019 go live later this year, I will be insisting that everyone I know books a place!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my cake, bride and flowers all made it home in one piece!

Thank you, Helen, for sharing your Cake Retreat experience with us all! It sounds like you had an amazing time and I only wish I had been there to share it with you all! I will definitely be looking out for The Cake Retreat 2019 announcement!

All Content, Guest Post

Guest Post: Emma Matthews – Royal Wedding Cakes Competition

Earlier this week, I published my post from the Ideal Home Show and Eat & Drink Festival, live at the London Olympia. In that post, I divulged that I had been lucky enough to convince the first-place winner of the Royal Wedding Cakes competition, Emma Matthews of Happiness Factor Cakes to pen a few words to share with us all her experience of competing at such a high-profile event. I am very pleased to be able to welcome Emma to Mr Baker’s Blog with her first (of what I hope will be many) guest blogs…

When the email initially arrived inviting me to submit a design for the Royal Wedding Cake Competition, I had already entered another competition that was being held two week’s prior to the Ideal Home Show and there was no way that I would be able to produce two competition-standard cakes in such a short space of time.

Fortunately, I realised that the rules for the Ideal Home Show competition stated that you could enter a previously-shown cake as long as it fitted their competition schedule, so I decided to create one design that I would be able to enter at both Salon Culinaire and the Ideal Home Show.

I had had an idea for guardsmen surrounding a cake roaming around in my head for some time and, as I already knew how I wanted them to look, these were my starting point. Now, I just needed to figure out the rest of the design.

I spent a couple of evenings researching Prince Harry and his fiancé Meghan Markle and decided I wanted to include both a nod to their collective charity work with World Vision’s Clean Water campaign, The Invictus Games and The Royal Foundation and to Meghan’s acting career. I also wanted the cake to be traditional, but with a novelty twist, so I decided on an ivory and gold colour palette, with three rows of flowers, clapperboards, crowns and the charities’ symbols hidden amongst hearts on the top two tiers.

Having never made flowers for a competition before, this was a first for me and the guardsmen were also made one-by-one, piece-by-piece. In fact, the only parts of my cake that were made using moulds or cutters were the tops of the crowns and the flowers.

Over around four weeks, working in the evenings and sometimes late into the night between other commitments, the cake began to take shape.

Eventually it was finished and I think it turned out pretty much as I had imagined it.

At its first stop Salon Culinaire, where it was entered into the wedding cake class, my cake was awarded a gold medal and I received some lovely comments from the judges, fellow cake artists and the public.

Unfortunately, the cake didn’t make it home in one piece though and I only had a week to fix and improve my design before it needed to be delivered back to London. I removed all of the flowers, added some smaller filler flowers to bulk it out and then re-stacked it.

Luckily, the journey to Olympia was less eventful – well, until we hit the speed bumps and potholes right outside that is! With our collective breaths held and our eyes shut, the cake arrived in almost one piece and made it onto the table, minus only a few broken petals.

When we arrived, a film crew from Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers were on site filming for a Royal Wedding Special and asked if I would be able to answer some questions – it was probably around this point that I really wished I had thought about doing my hair!

Even worse though was the moment when we had to leave. It’s always a horrible moment when you have to walk away from your creation and leave it to the mercy of the general public, knowing all of the hard work, love and hours that have gone into it.

Fortunately, my daughter and I had already bought tickets for the show, before I had even considered entering the competition and, the following day, we travelled back down to London to check on my cake, see all of the other entries and take in the rest of the show.

It’s always interesting to see other people’s interpretation of a design theme, with traditional and novelty cakes; huge and small cakes; and the very colourful and the very muted all displayed in the competition area. They were all amazing and all lovingly created by some very talented artists.

Part of the competition is a public vote that goes on during the full 17 days of the show and watching people stop to vote for my entry was truly heart-warming. If I could have thanked every single one of them (without seeming a bit odd), I would have done!

Midway through the show, the cakes were inspected by the competition judges, Rosie Cake-Diva and Leeanne Cooper of Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft Magazine and we had been informed that, if we placed, we would get a phone call on Saturday afternoon – as you can probably imagine, it was a fairly nerve-wracking day! It seemed that every five minutes, friends and family were messaging, ‘Have you placed?’ or ‘Have you heard yet?’

By 5:30pm, I had managed to convince myself that it was not meant to be and had settled down with a cup of tea to wait for my family to come home. Then my phone rang with the incredible news that, not only had I placed, I had come first! I literally cried! I rang my daughter, my family, messaged some cake friends and then sat on my own, like a doughnut, crying lots of happy tears.

The prize giving was on the Sunday, so my husband, my daughter and two of my sisters came with me to pick up my prize. Little did I know that there was to be a full prizegiving ceremony on the Super Theatre stage, smack-bang in the middle of the show and this was also filmed by the Extreme Cake Makers team.

Rosie Cake-Diva and one of the show’s own presenters hosted the ceremony whilst myself and the 2nd place winner, Lankika Illukkumbura of Dlux Cakes, waited nervously backstage. Unfortunately, third place winner Julie Cain of Julie Anne Cake Design couldn’t attend that day.

Walking out in front of so many people was a little bit scary, but Rosie was so friendly, chatty and bubbly, it really helped to calm my nerves. I was presented with a huge rosette and a very gorgeous pale blue SMEG stand mixer. The Extreme Cake Makers team then asked if I would do another piece to camera, so we went upstairs to the competition area and filmed next to my cake.

I’m so glad that it was all very quick as I didn’t even have a chance to worry about what was going on and actually it was a fabulous day meeting up with cake friends and being part of the show. And while it’s lovely to be successful in competitions, seeing people smile and enjoy something you have created really is the best feeling of all…

 

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Emma! Your cake was fabulous and the win was well-deserved. I hope you enjoy your new mixer and look forward to seeing what you manage to cook up next!

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 are unable to make it along in person, check out my full post from the show – including photographs of all of the competitors’ entries.