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Guest Post: Sam Hughes – Silvia Mancini ‘Skipping Girl Class’

Sam Hughes is the face behind Aunty Sam’s Cakes, based in in Sheringham, Norfolk. Last week, she was lucky enough to attend a modelling class with the legendary sugar modeller Silvia Mancini at Zoe’s Fancy Cakes in Leeds and she has been generous enough to pen a few words to share the experience with us all.

Over to you, Sam…

The night before my course, we checked the weather forecast ahead of our three-hour drive from North Norfolk to West Yorkshire and things weren’t looking too promising. ‘The Beast from the East’ was due to arrive and conditions were looking rather threatening.

Luckily, the weather wasn’t too bad on the morning in question and remained fairly reasonable throughout our journey. As a result, we arrived quite early and as soon as I had packed the other half off into Leeds for the day, things couldn’t have been better.

Our hosts, Zoe and Richard welcomed us all warmly, with hot cups of coffee and a variety of biscuits and honestly made the whole experience very relaxing and easy before we even got started.

There was plenty of time to explore Zoe’s lovely little shop before Silvia arrived and already I was picking out a selection of tools and other goodies to take home later – and, I have to say, everything was very reasonably priced too.

Upon Silvia’s arrival, she made a point of coming around to meet us all individually and, of course, to introduce the plan for the day. Our goal was to learn how to make a Silvia’s wonderfully animated and character-filled Skipping Girl Topper, under Silvia’s expert tuition.

Everything we needed for the session was provided and ready for us, so we quickly made a start with Silvia first demonstrating the techniques we needed for each individual section, before we all had a go ourselves, while our teacher kept a watchful eye over us attempting to craft our own versions.

Personally, I find this to be the best way of learning – diving in, giving it a go and learning from my mistakes (especially with an expert conveniently on hand to show me the error of my ways!).

Before I had even had time to blink – or so it seemed at least – it was time for lunch, so we stopped for a quick break of tasty sandwiches, more delicious coffee and biscuits and even some brownies and other yummy treats. However, we were all eager to quickly get back to our Skipping Girls again.

As the day progressed, I began to realise just how good Silvia is at explaining everything she does, the tools she is using and the reasoning behind it.  She shared her time perfectly between all of the students and was happy to explain things as many times as necessary, without letting any of feel like we were falling behind.  This helped create a good bond between all of the students, which only added to the shared feeling of what a superb day it had been for us all.

With about an hour of the course left to go, Gary (the aforementioned other half who had been sent off into Leeds for the day) returned from his day out, but this wasn’t a problem as Zoe, Richard and all of the staff in the shop quickly made him feel welcome with plenty of hot drinks and snacks, while I was finishing off my model.

At the end of the course, we were all presented with our special certificates from Silvia and, of course, I grabbed a quick photograph for my website too! As we said our goodbyes, the first flakes of snow began to fall, but the journey was perfectly fine and gave me time to reflect on what an excellent day I had had. The cost of the course had been well worth it and, honestly, I’m already looking forward to booking the next one!



It sounds like a wonderful experience, Sam. I’m completely jealous if I’m honest and I love your model! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Silvia Mancini is based in Italy, but regularly travels the world teaching her unique style of modelling. Her next classes in the U.K. are:

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Hurry down the chimney tonight!

If you’re a regular reader of cake decorating magazines, then I am almost sure that you will have seen the wonderful work of Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar (previously known as Cakey Bakes Cakes). Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Laura to guinea pig one of her new festive cake classes, The Sleepy Santa.


I first discovered Laura when she entered her glorious BFG cake at Cake International in 2016, but she has been hard at work in the cake industry for many years. She has had her own market stall, supplied tea rooms and cafés with homemade cakes, made novelty cakes to order, produced countless published tutorials and taught classes at many locations around the country. It has been a genuine pleasure getting to know her over the last year and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Laura at the new permanent base of Life in Sugar at the Badshot Lea Village Hall and Kiln, where she has set up her own classroom.

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Laura specialises in modelling with modelling chocolate and she is a real advocate of its benefits to cake artists. As primarily a cake sculptor, the thought of modelling often fills me with dread, so I was excited to have the chance to try something new and experience some new products.

On the day of the class, I headed up the A3 from Fareham to Farnham and easily found my way to Laura’s new workspace, where I was thrilled to discover ample free parking – always a plus when one has a cake to carry out to the car later that day. I was also delighted to find out that lunch is provided too.


As soon as I arrived, Laura made me feel incredibly welcome with the first of many coffees (an essential part of any cake class!). Inside the workshop, she has decorated in a wonderful fusion style, pairing vintage fittings with a modern colour palette. Throughout the space, Laura has placed a combination of her own competition entries, tutorial cakes and upcoming class pieces, creating an inspiring work environment.


We quickly got down to business and Laura’s relaxed and unassuming style of teaching immediately put me at ease. I enjoyed using the modelling chocolate to create my piece and thanks to the chilly weather, found it far easier to use than I have done on previous occasions. Laura encouraged questions throughout the class – not just about this particular class’ content either – and was happy to explain different ways that the topper could be customised based on attendees’ personal preferences.

As ever with classes, there are obvious unavoidable time constraints, but Laura never made me feel rushed and I was thrilled with the topper that I made under her expert tuition. The workshop was great fun and we were honestly laughing throughout the day.

The topper I made under Laura’s expert tuition.

I would highly recommend heading over to Life in Sugar if you can. You will have a fantastic time, learn some fabulous new skills and get to spend some time with one of the loveliest cake artists I know.

To find out more about Laura’s classes at Life in Sugar and to book your place, you can visit her Facebook page.

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“A bad day for your ego is a great day for your soul.”

So this week gave me a real opportunity for some personal growth. If you caught my last post, you will know that I have been working on a cake for my friend’s birthday. Paris was turning 30 and he is a huge Star Wars fan. I’d had a certain Star Wars-themed cake languishing on my bucket list for ages and had decided that now was the time – I was finally going to get to make a BB8 cake!

I love BB8. He holds a special place in my heart – not just because he is soooo adorable and he is – but also because he was actually designed by the uncle of one of my former pupils. But wait! There’s more! My pupil’s mum and aforementioned uncle managed to conspire together to make something amazing happen last year – with special permission from Disney, they were allowed to bring him to school. Not a model! Not a replica! The real BB8 robot from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was a truly magical experience seeing him bring joy to the faces of our 632 pupils (and the adults too!) and it made for a day I will never forget…


As such, I had a very clear idea in my head for how this cake would look and as you saw in the previous post, it didn’t go to plan.

If you’ll forgive the temporary narcissism of quoting oneself, I declared in my last post,

“However, every now and then, as cakers, I think we have to be realistic about the state of play with a particular project and decide whether a piece can be salvaged or whether it is time to jack it in and start again. I think I’m going to have to face the fact that today is one of those days where it just wasn’t meant to be. It’s happened before and I’m sure it’ll happen again.

Unfortunately, this is where being a part-time cake artist and a full-time teacher has its drawbacks, because there simply isn’t time to start again and still pull off my vision for this cake. And if a bucket list cake isn’t living up to my vision, then it isn’t leaving my kitchen.”

But the following day, I couldn’t help but think, what would bring more excitement to Paris’ birthday? A slightly less-than-perfect BB8 cake (in MY opinion) or a quick bashed-together round Star Wars cake with no real thought or emotion behind it? I think I allowed myself to get a bit caught up in my ego there – I think I got a bit too hung up on the ‘artist’ part of Cake Artist and forgot the first part for a moment.

Luckily, I had told the Other Half to hold off eating the BB8 cake and came home from work on Friday with a renewed sense of determination. This isn’t about creating my chef-d’œuvre – it’s about making a cake that my friend will love. And isn’t it true that as Cake Artists, our own greatest critics are ourselves anyway? I’ve lost count of the times that I haven’t been happy with a finished cake, only for the recipient to be absolutely blown away by it. We see flaws because we have the image in our minds of what we wanted it to look like. Nobody else can see that – they just see the cake in front of them.

As I started to add detail (and using them to hide the ‘problem areas’), I started to feel a bit more confident with him again. And as with most cake projects, I faced additional crises – like when I was a bit heavy-handed with my ‘dirt’ on the bottom tier. But I didn’t mind anymore. It will still be an awesome surprise for my friend. I didn’t even mind when I got the usual, “Did you mean to do that?” comment, when the Other Half immediately picked up on the fact that I was a bit heavy handed with my ‘dirt’ on the bottom tier. How do they always do that?


As I was walking into the restaurant tonight to surprise Paris with his special gift, not once did I think, “Oh gosh. Look at the state of this cake.” I just enjoyed being able to bring a bit of extra sparkle to my friend’s day and I feel quite silly now for my earlier freak out. In fact, I genuinely feel like this little chap has taken me on a bit of a learning journey this week. Is he the best BB8 cake ever created? Certainly not. But is he the best BB8 cake Paris has ever been given for his birthday? I think so.

And isn’t that what really matters?