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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.

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Ideal Home Show 2018: Royal Wedding Cakes Competition`

As I may have mentioned a few times last week, on Sunday, I headed up to merry old London to attend the Ideal Home Show and to check out the Royal Wedding Cake competition.

Although we now know that the actual royal wedding cake is being created by Claire Ptak of Claire’s Violet Bakery in Hackney, east London, the Ideal Home Show set entrants the challenge of creating a stunning wedding cake inspired by the upcoming royal nuptials. I have to say that many of the results were rather fabulous!

What struck me the most was the many different ways the competitors had interpreted their brief – with traditional wedding cakes sitting alongside, sculpted churches, caricature-laden confections and even an actual whirlwind! And while some of the entries went for the more traditional route, opting for a white wedding cake with merely a subtle nod to the bride and groom, others made them quite literally front and centre on their cakes.

Although the show is running for seventeen days, I decided to head up on Sunday because that was the day that the judge’s decisions were to be announced and the winners would be crowned. I was also lucky enough to be able to monopolise one of the judges for a personal tour of the collection and her inside scoop on how the judging had gone.

As Rosie ‘Cake-Diva’ Dummer, explained, she and fellow judge, Leeanne Cooper, editor of Cake Decoration and Sugarcraft Magazine, found the judging really tough as many of the cakes had lots of stunning individual elements. Unfortunately, it was the case with many of the entries that when you put these together that the total effect didn’t always work. She gave the example of how some cakes had truly beautiful royal icing work, but then the sugar-floristry might be less precise.

To help them choose the overall winner, Rosie and Leeanne looked the entrants interpretation of the theme, the originality displayed, the skills shown, level of workmanship and the overall impression and impact of the complete piece.

 

After taking all this into account, they crowned Emma Matthews of Happiness Factor Cakes their first-place winner for her beautiful two-tone cake, featuring some wonderfully cute nods to the royal couple. Rosie explained that Emma had managed to produce a really ‘wow’ cake that told a beautiful story through the use of delicate clapperboards, a nod to Meghan Markle’s successful acting career, which managed to remain sympathetic to the overall design.

In spite of the fact that Emma had used both moulds and cutters, she had done so delicately and in a creative way and her sugar floristry was some of the best seen. Her use of just two colours ensured that the cake remained classy, rather than garish and they were particularly impressed by the consistency of Emma’s hand-modelling, questioning whether had actually used a mould, her guards were so… uniform (see what I did there?).

Emma was presented with her prize, a swanky new Smeg Stand Mixer, in a Live ceremony on the show’s main stage and I took a few minutes to speak to her afterwards:

“Honestly, I’m still in shock! There were some amazing entries by some very talented cake artists and I feel very honoured to have won. It has been lovely to just stand back and watch the public smiling at my cake and enjoying it.”

 

In other exciting news, I have also managed to convince Emma to put together a guest post – exclusively for Mr Baker’s Blog – about her ‘journey to success’. I am looking forward to sharing that with you later this week!

In second place, the judges chose this towering beauty by Keshini Illukkumbura, of Dlux Cakes. In spite of some damage at the hands of inquisitive show attendees, both Rosie and Leeanne were struck by Keshini’s beautiful piped royal work and floristry.

Made over a period of two weeks, with many a sleepless night in the mix, Keshini managed to represent each country of the U.K. as well as some beautiful hand piped plaques, including this stunning royal coat of arms.

In fact, it was a close-run thing between Keshini and Emma’s Cakes, and it was only because of the overall flawlessness of Emma’s piece that Keshini was pipped to the post.

Third place went to one of the few cakes that had decided to move away from the traditional wedding cake format, in favour of something altogether more sculptural. Julie Cain of Julie Anne Cake Design created a stunning piece to represent both the public and private face of the couple’s relationship.

The front of the design is St George’s Chapel at Windsor castle where Harry and Meghan will be married – the public face – while the inspiration for the sides and back of Julie’s creative piece tells their story away from the public eye – just a young couple in love, in a bas relief hidden garden behind a stone wall. Personally, I loved Julie’s hidden extra, due to the fact the couple got engaged over a roast chicken, she hid a tiny roast chicken in amongst the bas relief. the judges loved her delicate and clever use of moulds and that the design told a story.

One of the other cakes that almost certainly deserves a special mention, in spite of just being nudged out of a top three place, was this stunning wedding cake by Daisy Brydon Creations. In fact, Rosie explained that if there had been a fourth-place winner, then Daisy Brydon would have taken the title.

The overall impact of Daisy’s cake was absolutely breath-taking and, although the key elements were truly exquisite, it was felt that in some cases, they were not quite as perfect as those in the top three – I told you the judges had it hard! In fact, the main reason this beauty was edged out of a place was because the judges felt it didn’t make enough of the royal theme, with it appearing more of a wedding cake with a monogram than a themed royal wedding cake. I know Daisy’s cake was particularly popular with show attendees though, so I will be very interested to see how it does in the public vote, when the results are announced on Easter Monday.

Another cake that seemed very popular with the public, particularly the youngsters, while I was there was this fun and whimsical take on the theme by Cara Maiden of the Polkadot Teapot. I loved spotting all of the different characters that made up the overall display and particularly loved the cheeky corgi hiding in the royal carriage and the flag-waving seagull! Such fun!

I must offer my congratulations to all of the competitors though. It is such an honour to be chosen to compete at such a high profile event and they should all be very proud. I should also say a quick thank you to both Rosie Cake-Diva for taking me around the Royal Wedding Cakes display and to Emma for taking the time to chat with me. I had an absolutely fabulous day!

Have you made it along to the show yet? If so, which cake was your favourite? Don’t panic if you haven’t though! 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 can’t make it along, check out the full collection in my handy slideshow.

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Don’t forget to keep an eye out for first-place winner, Emma Matthews’ guest blog coming soon!

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The Ideal Home Show 2018

As featured in Something Sweet Issue 2 and sponsored by Zoopla, the Ideal Home Show has returned to Olympia London from the 17th March to the 2nd April 2018. In their own words, ‘From kitchens and bathrooms, to bedrooms and basements, fixtures and fittings to fine food, gardens and the latest in home renovation, to fashion beauty and gifts, you’ll find it all under one roof at this award-winning show.’

‘But why are you mentioning this in your cake and baking blog?’, I hear you cry! Well, this year, to commemorate the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19th May 2018, the Ideal Home Show has invited amateur and professional bakers to enter the Royal Wedding Cake Competition being held at this year’s show. Tasked with constructing a wedding cake fit for the royal wedding itself, entrants’ creations displayed are being displayed throughout the 17 days of the Ideal Home Show for visitors to see.

Although we now know who will be making the actual royal wedding cake, naturally, I still have to pop along to check out these wonderfully constructed masterpieces for myself and will be heading up to the big smoke this coming Sunday, the 25th March.

I’m told that the show is well worth a visit – not only to check out the cakes on display – but also to see some of the incredible displays, exhibits and panellists in attendance.

Oh, and the cake competition is also being judged by our very own Rosie Cake-Diva, so I’m looking forward to a jolly good catch up and gossip with the queen of Extreme Cakes herself.

If you fancy joining us, tickets for the show are available from seetickets.com and do let me know if you are heading down, so I know to look out for you on Sunday!