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Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour: Day Five

Today it was the turn of my gorgeous friend and local Boltonian star, Kay Gajra of Kaykes to have me shadowing her (or basically following her around like a bad smell) as she delivered an incredible showpiece cake to the Bolton Food & Drink Festival, to celebrate James Martin’s tenth year of supporting the event.

Before we get into the events of the day, can we all just take a minute to appreciate the sheer amount of work that Kay has put into this cake?!

She explained that she wanted to make the cake as personal as possible, so lots of research was required to ensure that all those special details were spot on:

“When James first saw it, he was clearly a bit taken aback – possibly even a little overwhelmed and choked up – calling his mum and his sous chef to come and check it out!”

“He was even telling all the press about it during his interviews, saying I was ‘on another level’. I’m absolutely over the moon that he liked it – it clearly really meant something to him to have something that wasn’t just the norm.”

Kay had sent me a lil’ preview of the cake over the weekend and I have been in total awe ever since. However, the pictures couldn’t even begin to compare to seeing it in the flesh. It really was incredible! As Kay’s cakes always are!

Obviously, I had to stick around to catch one of James’ demonstrations too, during which he whipped up a Tomahawk Steak, with a lobster mac ‘n cheese, some delicious looking eggy mozzarella parcels, with a flavoursome tomato sauce and a Funnel Cake cake with a blueberry and gin compote.

And while he cooked, guests were treated to a slice of fresh strawberry cake – the recipe that James prepared during his first ever Bolton Food & Drink Festival demo, ten long years ago!

The other big event today, as far as us caking types were concerned, was the Official Bolton Food & Drink Festival Cake Competition. Whether a budding amateur or an experienced pro, entrants were invited to join in with the festival’s fabulous cake-making competition to design and make a show-stopping cake to represent the traditional festival theme – with a fun edge and a focus on entertainment!


The festival was looking for people with a love of baking who would like to be in with a chance of winning some wonderful prizes, including premium stand mixers, a hamper of goodies from the show’s headline sponsor Aldi and a complete airbrush system from Spectrum Flow.

The competition entries were judged by a panel of experts, including Kay Gajra, Greenhalgh’s bakery boss David Smart, Aldi Logistics Director Virgil Simpson, Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Linda Thomas and Molly Robbins of Molly’s Creative Cakes.

The standard of the entries was really high and the judges certainly had their work cut out.

Despite some disagreements within the judging panel – nothing better than some lively debate – they ultimately chose these incredible entries as their winners.

Under 16 Winner – Emily Newcombe, Adult Hobby Winner – Becky Wareing and Adult Professional Winner – Lisa Elliott.

Special congratulations must go to Becky Wareing for also scooping the Best in Show prize!

Once the competition was over and our winners had been crowned, it was unfortunately time for me to say goodbye to Bolton, as I headed off on the next stage of my road trip adventures. With all the riotous fun of the last few days, you could be forgiven for forgetting that the main reason for my tour is to collect some of the amazing contributions to my secret collaboration project.

With that in mind, the next stop on my journey was to Beverley, in East Yorkshire to visit Julie Rogerson of Julie’s Cake in a Box. Julie has created some incredible pieces for our project and I can’t wait for you to see them next month! Thank you for having me Julie and thank you for all your hard work – I love them!

Then it was back to one of my favourite places in Cakedom, Zoe’s Fancy Cakes in Leeds!

Home of Zoe Hopkinson and partner Richard, Zoe’s beautiful store is where I took park in my wonderful class with Carla Puig earlier this year and it was wonderful to be back again. Zoe was just finishing off the tail end of her fabulous Horse Model Making Class (literally, they were on the tails) when I arrived and I have to say a massive well done to all of the course participants – all of the models looked amazing!

Then we were off out to dinner, where I allowed Zoe to take my Nando’s virginity. Did you know, they have FOUR different types of veggie burger?! I actually really enjoyed my meal, so thanks for the recommendation, Zoe – and the fabulous company of course!

Tomorrow is an incredibly busy day, as I’ll be scooting back to Manchester to judge a Charity Bake Off and THEN I’m heading up to Glasgow!

If you want to find out why, be sure to hit the subscribe button to the right (or at the bottom of the page if on mobile) and don’t forget to hit confirm in the email I send you.

See you then!

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Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour: Day Four

Sorry for the mega late-night posting – I have not long been ‘home’ from a very fun, but fairly surreal night!

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but today the north has been positively awash with non-stop rain and as my date for the day had to cancel at the last minute, I decided to have a bit of a break from Festival shenanigans and instead do a little exploring of the local area.

Unfortunately, this did mean that I was going to miss today’s headline star – none-other than Mr Ainsley Harriott himself – which was a real shame, but it has been a fairly full on few days, so I figured a bit of a rest was in order.

Well, that was until I heard from my buddy Rosie Cake-Diva that tonight’s evening entertainment was set to be an absolute riot and we had to be there. The Sunday Club, with Simon Wood of WOOD Manchester and Andrew Nutter of Nutters Restaurant, would be featuring a live Comedy Cook Off! Well, clearly this wasn’t an event to be missed, but more on that later!

In the meantime, I decided to head into Bury town centre, where I was hoping I would discover a handy Wetherspoon’s – I have a bit of a weakness for a Wetherspoon’s veggie breakfast you see. The town didn’t disappoint on that front, but unfortunately, the only parking I could find close enough to the pub to avoid drowning was cash only and I wasn’t prepared to park further away. You see, I’d made the mistake of coming away without either a coat OR an umbrella. Not my brightest moment, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I figured I’d head to somewhere under cover instead and remembered visiting the Trafford Centre when we had come up to Cake International Manchester in the past. Yeah, that was a good idea on a Bank Holiday weekend…

When we’d come up for the Cake International shows, we stayed in a Premier Inn, just across the car park from the Trafford Centre itself – meaning that we had never actually had to contend with the Trafford Centre car parks. Oh, my word! I did manage to find a space eventually, but I don’t think I could have been any further from the entrance if I tried – cue a mad, sodden dash across the car park.

I did have fun exploring the centre though, in spite of how busy it was and may have picked up a couple of new books (I’m hoping you don’t remember what I said about not buying any more books while I am away) – oh, and an umbrella! Hooray!

After that, it was back to the hotel for a chill, before it was time to meet up with my gorgeous date for the evening.

I have to be honest, it has been really fantastic to be able to spend some of my time at the Bolton Food & Drink Festival with Rose, because she has been involved with the event for so long now that she knows absolutely everyone. Which means that I have been able to meet some truly amazing people – and I don’t mean the special guests either, but rather the staff of Bolton City Council. It is clear that this event is so incredibly important to council employees at all levels and it has been a pleasure to share it with them this weekend.

But anyway, I digress… On to the evening’s festivities!

As I explained earlier, the Sunday Club event was an adult-only event, during which the two celebrity chefs would be taking part in almost a Ready Steady Cook-style cook off, while hilarious comedian Steve Royle compered the night. We were promised laughs a-plenty and a sumptuous burger with a variety of garnishes to create our own masterpieces – basically building our own burgers at our tables!

As the boys were presented with their bags of goodies, we were presented with our burgers (including a thoroughly tasty veggie option for me – although there was a moment there when I thought I would be sent packing with a flea in my ear!).

There were so many options on the table to help us be as creative as possible with our burger-building and we were encouraged to tweet our results using the hashtag #boltonfoodfestival as there would be a prize for the best one. Luckily Rose hadn’t listened to my advice to leave her Mary Poppins-esque handbag in the car and we realised that she had a random packet of black sugarpaste in her bag! Clearly this was going to be a chance for her to play to her strengths and get creative (although black is a fairly limiting colour on its own).

I convinced Rose to create a follow up to last year’s Big Ben and this year’s Little Ben, by creating Benny Burger. I’m sure you’ll agree that he’s absolutely adorable (including his cheese eyes and real bacon)!

In the meantime, Simon and Nutter were hard at work on the stage, with Simon creating a pigeon dish and, in the same amount of time, Nutter creating so many dishes, I couldn’t really keep track of them!

Some volunteers were called up to judge the results of their endeavours and Nutter was declared champion, for the second year running. It was ok though, because Simon won MasterChef after all. 😉

After that, we were into the serious comedy part of the evening. The chefs were next faced with a three-egg omelette challenge (think Saturday Kitchen), not realising that Mike Harrison of Chef to Go (the lovely chap who had been hard at work cooking our burgers) had screwed Nutter over by hard-boiling his eggs! Things instead descended into a round of egg roulette, with a poor member of the audience falling foul of the raw egg!

As the evening began to wind up, the results of the Build Your Own Burger Challenge were announced and we were delighted that Rosie came in in third place – winning a bottle of champagne – while second and first went to these creative individuals.

For those of us who stayed on, the event was followed up with a live Q&A with Simon and Nutter and, if you have ever heard Andrew Nutter share any of his anecdotes, you’ll know that I literally cannot publish any of them here at all. They are strictly NSFW!

I’d love to be able to say more, but we all agreed that what is said in the tent, stays in the tent – well, unless you happened to be walking past! Oops!

Yes, he is juggling full-size guitars!

Our brilliant evening was brought to a close with comedian Steve showing off his incredible juggling skills, inspiring Rosie to show off her own party piece, which I may have caught on video. If you want to see it, I could probably be persuaded to post it in the Mr Baker’s Blog Facebook group if enough people ask – I guess you’ll have to let me know in the comments… 😉

All in all, it was a really fun night and I had a great time – a massive thank you to Rose for inviting me along and to the wonderful Bolton Team for having us.

Tomorrow is the final day of the festival and I’m hoping to spend the day running around after another of my gorgeous northern lovelies – Kay Gajra of Kaykes. To find out what we get up to, hit the subscribe button to the right (or at the bottom of the page if on mobile) and don’t forget to hit confirm in the email I send you.

Until then, I’d best get to bed! Sweet dreams… x

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Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour: Day Three

I’ve been looking forward to today all for absolute ages, as the celeb chef joining us at the Bolton Food & Drink Festival today was the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015, Nadiya Hussain herself. Across the day, she was making a number of appearances including two cookery demonstrations and hosting the Slattery Afternoon Tea, with special guests.

Obviously, I wouldn’t able to contain my enthusiasm for any longer than was necessary, so I was ready and raring to go at her first session of the day, a Saturday Brunch cookery demonstration with recipes from her new book, Nadiya’s Family Favourites.

While we were served a tasty continental brunch, courtesy of headline sponsors Aldi, the demonstration was launched by host and compere, Gary Hirst and it immediately became clear that this was a really family-friendly session. As the host of the BBC’s Junior Bake Off, Nadiya has a lot of young fans and many of them were in attendance today.

As she recreated three recipes from her latest book – an unusual crunchy take on a traditional Spanish omelette, a cucumber and cod broth and a no-bake mango cheesecake, Nadiya explained that this was her first festival appearance of the year, confessing that she was almost relieved to be back at work after the long school holidays. I’m sure many of the parents amongst you can relate to that.

Speaking of families, Nadiya explained that her new book had been inspired by her children, as she wanted to create recipes that could be created quickly, with things that she already has in the house.

One such shortcut, was the use of crisps – vegetable crisps in particular – in place of the more commonly-used potato in her ‘Spanish’ omelette recipe (the inverted commas are Nadiya’s).

I was also intrigued by the use of cucumber in a hot dish. It’s not something I have ever done before and I must say I’m really interested to experiment with it myself!

I also really want to have a go at Nadiya’s no-bake mango cheesecake. I love mango and think the addition of mint sounds really interesting.

During the demonstration, we had plenty of opportunities to ask lots of questions and this was a brilliant way to include the younger members of the audience too – particularly as they were rewarded for good questions with signed wooden spoons. In all seriousness, if you ever find yourself in the position where you are considering attending a food fair with children, a Nadiya Hussain demonstration is sure to be a hit with all the family.


I’d said on Twitter this morning that my goal for the day was to get a selfie with Nadiya, so I hung around at the end for a chat and, of course, the all-important pic. If it’s possible, Nadiya seems even more lovely in person and this was the one time that the old adage of ‘Never meet your heroes’ did not apply.

Once I had been torn away from Ms Hussain, it was time to explore the festival proper and in amongst all of the incredible varieties of world street foods, I was also looking to see that us baking-related producers were well-represented.

I wasn’t disappointed. From pastries to churros and cupcakes to cottage loaves, the baking fraternities were out in force and it took some real restraint not to unload all of my spending money on food. I did enjoy a rather tasty cheese and jalapeño pasty from Carrs Pasties though – I have a real weakness for pasties.

After that, I was delighted to meet up with two of my absolute favourite Twitter baking chums, @Rob_C_Allen and @thebakingnanna1 – hosts of the #TwitterBakeAlong. I have known these guys for years via Twitter, so it was amazing to finally be able to meet in person – with the added bonus of Nanna’s beautiful granddaughter Maggie too! I said to Nanna, it felt like I was meeting a celebrity, having watched Maggie grow up from afar for so long.

Quite possibly the worst picture of me ever taken…!

We had a brilliant time putting the baking world to rights over some much-needed beverages, before heading off to meet up with another of my favourite GBBO alumni, Luis Troyano and former MasterChef champ and restauranteur, Simon Wood. Luis was back at the Bolton Food & Drink Festival hosting some amazing professional chefs on the chef’s demonstration stage, the Crompton Kitchen – where all of the chef demonstrations are completely free to attend!

I hung around to catch Simon’s incredible live demonstration, during which he cooked up one of the starters from the à la carte menu at his restaurant, WOOD Manchester: a pigeon, fig and endive dish.

The Crompton Kitchen demonstration stage is a really small venue, so I felt really privileged to be able to watch such a talented chef cook in such an intimate setting.

He also had lots of top tips that we can use in our own kitchens, including the importance of mise en place, how to ensure a perfect finish when cooking poultry and how to balance the various different tastes on a place.

It was also great to finally chat to Luis too, as the last time I bumped into him at an event, I was far to shy to say anything. He’s such a friendly guy and remains one of my all-time favourite GBBO bakers.

It has been such an amazing day taking advantage of all of the incredible sights, smells and opportunities available at the Bolton Food & Drink Festival and there are still two more days to go! Tomorrow, the celebrity guest chef is none other than Ainsley Harriott and he will be providing two cookery demonstrations and hosting a beer and pasty tasting. This is in addition to a brand-new event, the Sunday Club – a night of beer, burgers and comedy with two of the regions finest chefs, Aiden Byrne and Andrew Nutter.

If you fancy coming along for the day, then tickets for Ainsley’s paid-for sessions are available from the Bolton Food & Drink Festival website.

Tomorrow, there is a chance that I might be going a bit rogue and taking a wee break from the festival to meet up with some more of my local cakey chums, so you’ll have to come back tomorrow to see what I ultimately decide to do! If you hit the subscribe button (over on the right), I’ll ensure you never miss another post – you’ll need to hit ‘confirm’ in the email I send you too!

Don’t forget tomorrow also brings with it the latest issue of Something Sweet too! So, I’ll see you then!