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.