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2019: A Year in Review…

Can you believe it? We have come to the end of yet another year – and actually, another decade too?!

Every year, I think to myself that there is no way that this year could top the previous, in terms of cakey fun, excitement and adventures… and every year, I am left completely surprised – in a good way!

In this week’s issue of Something Sweet magazine, I (along with a handful of the members of my Cake Chums – with Mr Baker’s Cakes Facebook group) shared some of my highlights of 2019 as well as looking ahead to 2020, so if you haven’t read it yet, do check it out at this link. But I thought, as 2019 comes to a close, I would expand a bit on some of my answers and reflect on another crazy year in cake….

 

January:

In January of 2019, I was rather excited to discover that Cake Masters magazine were releasing a second edition of their hugely popular colouring book. And what’s more, I was blown away to find out that one of my own cakes had been included in this year’s edition. Did you have a go at colouring in my wintry creation?

January also saw Sarah Bray of Daisy Cakes by Sarah reveal a truly awesome birthday surprise when she unveiled her miniature versions of my Grumpy Pug collection in cupcake form. I was absolutely enchanted by her tiny take on some of my favourite cakes and I know that they proved very popular online too.

February:

In February, after months and months of planning, I was super excited to head off to the first ever Welsh National Cake Show, in Cardiff. The show, which was a real celebration of the amazing cake talents in Wales, saw me demonstrating alongside Rhianydd Webb, Cara Maiden and Paul Williams; judging the competitions, which was an incredible experience; and contributing to a rather fantastic collaboration display – the Pharaoh’s Tomb. I loved how my little mummified cat came out and he was a popular addition to the display. I also gave my pirate ship a refresh to be displayed on the roll of honour table.

The show was also the subject of the first video to be uploaded to my brand new YouTube channel. It’s pretty painful to watch now (deer in headlights anyone…?), but it is also amazing to see how far I have come already, in less than a year. The increase in confidence in front of the camera alone is a sight to behold…

In February, I also headed off to the launch party of the Sugar Lair, the brand new cake design academy, which was also being filmed by Extreme Cake Makers. I honestly don’t know what happened to the Sugar Lair (does anybody have an update?), but I definitely had a good time making some new cake chums that evening… as well as enjoying some tasty cake from Peboryon.

 

Here on the blog, I was delighted to finally be able to feature a rather gorgeous tutorial from Vicky Teather of the Yellow Bee Cake Co. – which naturally HAD to be pug-themed! Be sure to check out Vicky’s adorable step-by-step guide on how to make Pascal the Puppy cake topper, if you missed it at the time!

February also saw me start work on what would eventually end up being probably the most ill-fated project I have ever undertaken… the setback-plagued, almost-year-long project to create my purpose built (well, converted) new and improved cake studio here at home.

March:

March was a busy one as it saw months and months of hard work come to fruition with the first ever Northern Ireland Sugar Expo, masterminded by Emma Stewart. I had been incredibly proud to be part of the team that put this incredible event together and loved doing my first ever main stage demonstration as part of the weekend. I know that everyone who attended had a brilliant time and my biggest takeaway from the entire weekend was getting to know some of my most beloved cake chums even better – big kisses guys… you know who you are.

We also celebrated my sister’s hen weekend in March and you KNOW I was going to shoehorn in some cake-themed fun. You can check out my video to see how the hens did at the Mr Baker’s Cakes Hen Weekend Cupcake Challenge.

I was also delighted to be invited to attend a rather fabulous class with Rhianydd Webb at Cakeart Creations the Studio, where we learned how to make a fabulous gravity-defying turtle cake. If you have yet to take a class with Rhianydd, I can’t recommend them highly enough!

We closed out the month with the reveal of the Holy Cake Batman Collaboration, to which I contributed my Nightwing bust cake. As a huge fan of both Marvel and DC Comics, any collaboration or project that allows me to combine my passions of both comics and cakes is always going to get me excited and this one was no exception.

April:

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a month as much as I was looking forward to April 2019.

The month started with a flying visit to London for Cake International on Tour. For the first time in a long time, I had decided not to contribute anything to the show, and instead attended merely as a visitor. Well, technically, as a member of the press, with my vlogging camera in hand, but I had a fantastic time actually being able to take in the whole show.

April also saw us celebrating my sister’s wedding, during which I fulfilled the role of ‘man of honour’, as well as making the cake of course. It was a wonderful day, during which many happy memories were made.

Straight after the wedding, the Other One and I were jetting off on what has literally been a lifelong dream holiday… yup, we were finally – FINALLY – off to New York! We had an amazing week seeing all of the sights, including a rather wonderful day with Jean Schapowal experiencing New York in Cake, during which we visited a whole host of bakeries, cake shops and cake supplies stores.

While we were stateside, I was also thrilled to be able to share my contribution to one of this year’s most popular collaborations, Americake Horror Story.

AND if all that wasn’t enough, when we got back, I had a super fun day filming with Bake with a Legend and star of The Great British Bake Off, Jane Beedle.

May:

Gosh, I’m almost out of breath already and we’re only five months in!

In May, we were off travelling again, heading over to Germany for Cake & Bake, Essen. After a rather ill-fated attempt to make it to the show in 2018, I was finally able to attend, and have the experience of flying with cake for the first time. I’m pleased to report that my contributions to the Sweet Impressions charity feature survived the journey entirely unscathed and I was incredibly proud to be a small part of such an inspirational display.

I was also thrilled to be asked to attend the BSG Annual Exhibition in Brighton, where I took great delight in catching up with a whole host of my cake chums.

June:

By previous standards, June was a somewhat quieter month, with another family wedding – this time it was the Other One’s sister who was tying the knot. Naturally, I made the cake again!

It also saw the reveal of the What have WHEDON collaboration, and my first attempt at hand drawing and painting on a cake. I loved my Dark Willow and I had a lot of fun experimenting with isomalt to create her mystical magicks for the piece.

July:

In July, I was off to Wales to take another class with Rhianydd – but this one was all for me. Rhianydd’s Leaping Fox Cake class is probably one of the best classes I have ever seen advertised; gravity defying, real cake and one of my favourite animals to boot? There was no way I was missing this one!

August:

As is always the case when the school summer holidays arrive, my August was jam-packed full of cake-related content, including the relaunch of Something Sweet magazine in its new format AND I finally cracked under immense peer pressure and made my take on the popular unicorn cake trend.

August also saw the launch of the Mr Baker’s Cakes apparel store – I really need to hurry up and get my new designs finished and added to the store! Consider that one of my new year resolutions! Have you seen that we now have hoodies though? After a LOT of requests…

 

I also relaunched my Bakealong with The Great British Bake Off series – and this year, I was filming them! SO much more traumatic than just writing about it!

September:

September was a quieter month cake-wise. What with starting at a new school, welcoming my new niece to the world and saying an emotional goodbye to one of our beloved fur babies, there wasn’t a lot of time for cake, but I was still managing to continue with my Bakealong with The Great British Bake Off through most of the month. In fact, it was the loss of Buster that put the final nails in the coffin of this year’s attempt, although I had fun while it lasted. I’ll be making some changes to the format in 2020 to hopefully make it a little bit more sustainable.

October:

As the year was drawing to a close, the case show season was upon us once again, starting with the Cake and Bake Show, where, once again, I was there supporting my buddy Rosie Cake-Diva and ‘hanging’ out with her incredible Boris cake. It is always a full-on weekend, but always chockfull of laughs too.

2019 also saw me receive a very exciting invitation (one that I completely didn’t have time for incidentally), but when one of the original and the best collaboration teams asks you to join their ranks, you do not say no! Yup, for the seventh year running, October saw the release of the annual Sugar Spooks collaboration and this year, the theme was a haunted mansion. I created my Sinister Sid cake, inspired by creepy ventriloquists’ dummies and creepy was definitely the word. He was hanging out in our conservatory for weeks leading up to the reveal and I lost count of how many times he made me jump, when I ventured out there after dark…

November:

In November, we were off to Cake International at Birmingham’s NEC and I was finally able to reveal the project that had been keeping me busy for most of October – my life-sized Father Christmas cake for the completely edible Santa’s Grotto feature. Sponsored by Renshaw masterminded by the gorgeous Hayley O’Beirnes of Gadget Cakes, the display was raising money money for the incredible charity, Help Harry Help Others.

My Father Christmas was decorated entirely with edible materials (yes, including his chair) and, as you can probably imagine, weighed an absolute ton. I ended up having to hire a small truck to get him to Birmingham and finding a driver to help me out was a whole other drama all in itself! Thankfully, the lovely Rhu Strand of Cake Minds was able to bail me out at the last minute and I shall forever be grateful to her for her much-needed help. Thanks again, Rhu!

Across the Cake International weekend, I also demonstrated for Renshaw on their stand (ably assisted by the lovely Zoe Hopkinson of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes). Different to a main stage demonstration, I loved how much I was able to interact with the people watching and had a brilliant time. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

I also finally – FINALLY – won my first ever gold award in the show’s competitions, as well as the much-coveted Best in Class rosette, for the collaboration category with my Sugar Chronicles chums for our Wizard of Oz display. It really was an incredible weekend…

Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, later that month saw the release of the Couture Cakers collaboration, where I was celebrating my Welsh heritage!

December:

And that brings us to December – and of course, we weren’t slowing down with the cake excitement. This month has a seen a brand new tutorial for Renshaw – my utterly delicious S’mores Cake; I was thrilled to partner up with Bake Diary to promote possibly one of the best online competitions I have ever seen – their opportunity to give a special gift to one of your bestest cake chums; I finally finished the studio (yup, after starting in February, remember?) and started filming in it, including sharing some of my favourite festive recipes AND a super fun Facebook Live during which a fair few of you joined me to help decorate this year’s family Christmas cake.

And breathe! Congratulations if you have managed to keep reading up to now! I wouldn’t blame you if you started skimming… I’m sure that there are even more things that I have forgotten, but amongst another year-long crazy whirlwind of cakey adventures, it’s easily done.

 

Looking ahead to the new year (how is it 2020?!), I already have some exciting things planned in. In fact, in the next couple of weeks alone, I will be heading ‘oop north’ to visit one of my favourite cake talents and will hopefully filming a couple of fun collaborations together while I am there. I will also be celebrating yet another birthday, so look out for some awesome, themed content around that too. Oh, and towards the end of the month, look out for a big – and rather exciting – announcement. I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now and can’t wait to share it with you all!

Do you know, I have a feeling that 2020 might end up being even more action-packed that 2019…

 

Thanks for sharing my year in review, guys and for being a part of my cake adventures over the last twelve months. Whether you were there in person, have been reading the blog, watching my videos, contributing to Something Sweet magazine or following along on social media, I am incredibly grateful for all of the support and encouragement that you give me along the way and I look forward to doing it all again with you in 2020.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you the happiest of new years and I hope that you are all blessed with good health and happiness in 2020.

Until next time…

Rob xx

All Content, Blog

2017: A Year in Review

It’s a total cliché, but without fail, I get to the end of each year and think to myself, ‘what a whirlwind’. Since I started this little hobby of mine, only three years ago, I have often had to pinch myself as I reflect on some of the amazing opportunities that it has afforded me. But this year? Well this year has been something else!

I made a little video earlier this week to post on my social media channels and it made me realise just how much has happened this year and it’s crazy! I don’t even know how I have managed to fit it all in.

If you’ll indulge me for a while, I thought I would take a look back over the year and share some of the highlights with you.

Starting in January, I had just started in a new school, after spending my entire teaching career in the same place and so everything was rather new. I took things easy cake-wise while I learned the ropes a bit and it wasn’t until February that my first project appeared.

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Designed for the Anya’s Stargazer’s collaboration, put together by my friend (and the collaboration queen) Vicki du Plessis of Tiki’s Bakehouse, I created Albert the Monkey, an homage to the first monkeys in space – quite literally the first stargazers. The collaboration was to support Anya Waugh, wheelchair racer. Anya was born with Spina Bifida and, after watching the Paralympics in 2012 (when she was aged just 6), she was inspired to take up wheelchair racing. At the end of 2016 Anya was the fastest u11 in the country and this year has been classified as a T54 wheelchair racer. Taking her inspiration from Stephen Hawking, Anya took his words as her motto: “Look at the stars, not at your feet”. We couldn’t help but be inspired by Anya’s determination and dedication to her sport and wanted to do our bit to help, by sharing Anya’s story and drawing attention to her cause. As a nod to her motto, we all included a gold star in our collaboration designs. You can find out more about Anya and follow her continuing journey here.

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February also saw Renshaw run their Renshaw Runway competition in celebration of London Fashion Week. I submitted my Singer sewing machine cake, created for my grandmother-in-law’s 80th birthday and I was thrilled to win (I never win anything!). They sent me an amazing hamper of Renshaw products, which I was able to put aside for the Victory Cake Off – more on that in a bit!

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In March, Cake International returned to the NEC Birmingham for the first of the spring shows and I teamed up with some of my best cake chums, Molly (pictured), Ben, Kay and Robert to bring the Blue Peter Pets exhibit to life. Working with the BBC, we recreated a selection of the most memorable Blue Peter pets in cake form, including Shep, Mabel, Petra, Kari, Oke, Shelley and Iggy the guide dog puppy. Researching the history of the various pets was a real blast from the past and it was amazing to be able to contribute to a little bit of Blue Peter history. I’d always wanted a Blue Peter badge of my very own too and now, finally I have one! Definitely one of my proudest possessions!

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At the end of the month, I had the genuine pleasure and privilege of being able to share my passion with the children I teach. Generously supported by Renshaw (not only with the hamper I had already been given but also an additional donation of supplies), Fabricake Ltd and my dear friend Nicola of Sweet Creation Ltd, I was able to take a group of 30 children to Nicola’s cake workshop for a whole week of baking celebration cakes, cupcakes, scones and biscuits. We also learned how to decorate our bakes and held a cake decorating competition, with gorgeous prizes donated by Hayley and Michael at Fabricake Ltd. It was an amazing week and I absolutely loved it.

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In April, Cake International was back at Alexandra Palace in London for the second spring show and with no exhibit to worry about, I was back competing. Unfortunately, the fates conspired to give me a nasty dose of the flu during the half term break leading up to the show, but I managed to pull my entry together in time – leaving it there whilst I returned to my sick bed. I was thrilled to receive another silver award and my entry, Spring joined the line-up of my ongoing Grumpy Pug Collection.

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May was a quieter month, but still saw the big rebrand of Mr Baker’s Cakes, with my new logo and colour scheme and was celebrated with a competition. I had planned to wait until the relaunch of my new website portfolio to reveal the rebrand, but as I’m still waiting for that to happen… (snarky look at my web guy) …it all worked out for the best!

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In June, I was proud to support the Beau Halo Trust by contributing a cake to the raffle at their first annual fundraiser ball. The design, adapted from an original piece by Cake’s by Timbo with his kind permission, was inspired by the theme of the ball: Through the Looking Glass and the ball was a huge success, raising almost £20,000 for the fledgling charity.

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June also saw the publication of another collaboration, this time coordinated by the effervescent Isabel Tamargo of Tartas Imposibles. The Cakeflix Collaboration was a celebration of all things film and television and I was happy to contribute two pieces: A Hairspray: the Musical diorama and a sculpted Bagpuss cake.

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In July, I had my first experience of teaching cake (well, that wasn’t to primary age children), when my friend Kelly came to me for some help with the wedding cake she was planning on making her cousin. In just a day, Kelly was able to master the wonder of ganache, covering a square cake with sugarpaste and those all-important square edges AND sugarcraft roses. We both really enjoyed our day together and she went on to create a beautiful cake for her cousin too.

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As the summer holidays loomed, my caking calendar exploded with numerous friend and family birthday cakes and the wedding of my friends, Demi and John. I love the freedom the holidays give me to really spend time on my bakes and cakes and I think my summer schedule always ends up producing some of my favourite pieces. I also get to help out at my friend’s bakery when I can and, of course, spend time with my various godchildren. It turns out Jacob is a natural with a piping bag!

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It was also a particularly exciting month, as it was during August that I launched Mr Baker’s Blog – to coincide with my appearance on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice. I won’t bore you with repeats of the earlier posts, as most of the rest of the year is already recorded for prosperity in dedicated entries – rather, I will link them where appropriate.

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As the summer holidays came to an end, I again took part in my #bakealongwithGBBO and really enjoyed trying some new and interesting bakes (stroopwafels nothwithstanding) and also added a recipe and tutorial section to the blog. I also had another go at 121 teaching, when Hayley joined me in the Mr Baker’s Cakes kitchen to craft her daughter’s The Little Mermaid-themed birthday cake.

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It was in September that I was invited to submit a tutorial to Cake Masters Magazine for their November issue. I was given free reign over what to create and so decided to design the final instalment in the Grump Pug collection: Winter. It was a major learning curve, but one that I really enjoyed. You can read more about the whole experience here.

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Also in September, I headed off to Fabricake Ltd in Essex to attend courses with Zoe of Zoe’s Fancy Cakes (meeting the inimitable Kerry Brown of CDWM fame in the process – a personal highlight of the year) and I have enjoyed being able to incorporate some of the new skills I have learned into other projects over the rest of the year.

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Heading into October, the Cake and Bake Show returned to London’s Excel and I was there, with the Cake Diva herself Rosie Dummer, to look after her very special guest. Lying directly opposite the entrance, Rosie’s display featured a huge British Bulldog, dressed in his regal best and sat atop a beautiful handmade throne. The work Rosie had put in to bring her display to life was incredible: she had built the thrones; decorated them using a wide variety of plaster-of-paris details crafted using real sugar moulds; sewn the cushions for the empty throne and matched these out of cake on Ben’s throne; and of course created a huge bulldog made entirely out of real cake and RKT, so fully edible. As a result of Rosie’s hard work, her display was very popular and it was busy! Sooooo busy! I’ve manned exhibits before, but that usually just involves standing nearby and talking to visitors about the display, but throw in an interactive element and suddenly the job is a lot bigger! I literally did not stop talking to visitors and snapping their pics all day (other than a quick dash to the loo when Rosie was freed up to come and release me) and met thousands of people – many of whom were stunned to realise Rosie’s piece was made out of real cake. Read more here.

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October also saw me start working with the lovely Hayley and Michael Wisken of Fabricake Ltd to create a Halloween tutorial for their new-look website, which you can find here: https://www.fabricake.co.uk/blog/creepy-cauldron-cake/

As always, November is a big time of year in the cake world, seeing the flagship Cake International show at the NEC Birmingham. It also marked the grand reveal of The Magical Dragon Machine exhibit.

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Towering at over seven feet and stretching over 17 feet long, from riveted nose to scrap-metal tail, The Magical Dragon Machine Towering was certainly show-stopping. Surveying his scrapyard home and surrounded by a huge array of mystical clockwork creatures and futuristic florals, he was also joined by a cast of elaborately modelled tinker children made by an array of talented professionals. Originally the brainchild of The Cake Illusionist, Hannah Edwards, The Magical Dragon Machine brought together the skills of over 70 different talented individuals: The Dragonistas, including cake sculptors, sugar artists, projection specialists, sound engineers and even a mad inventor or two.

Almost a year ago to the day, Edwards envisioned the project as a fully immersive four-dimensional experience and it continued to grow and evolve as more specialist talents were added to the team and as more fantastically generous sponsors came on board. Mad inventors, Steph Parker and her genius Dad, formed the highly secretive internal structure to contain all sorts of wonderful surprises, including fully functioning wings and a rotating head, light up eyes, real smoke breath and a beautiful rotating sugar rose right at the very heart of the piece. Because it was of paramount importance for the team to ensure there was considerable amounts of real cake involved, the dragon was also chock full of it, thanks to Sweet Success. The scrapyard also featured innovative animations and a fantastical soundtrack seamlessly integrated by Motion Mapping. Finally, to ensure that a worthwhile home was found for the considerable amounts of real food that enabled the Dragonistas to play their arty games, we were fortunate to be able to find sponsors, Mr. Blister and Caterline, who donated enough sealed plastic containers and forks for every single serving of dragon cake. These were donated to Coffee4Craig, a wonderful homeless charity who run mobile kitchens and were able to distribute the cake to those who needed it most.

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The weekend also saw me compete again, with my Paddington cake, although originally with all of the other projects I had had on my plate, I had actually pretty much decided not to bother with an entry. Then some of my friends got wind of this and strongly encouraged me to ‘pull my finger out and get on with it’. So as a result, I had three days to get something together. I was thrilled with how he turned out, particularly within such a short timeframe and to win another silver – particularly in a new category for me.

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We also recognised some of our biggest and brightest stars at the Cake Masters Awards, the highlight of the cake social calendar. Rosie and her team at Cake Masters Magazine never fail to lay on a fantastic night and I think this year’s bash might just have been the best yet!

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Mr Baker’s Blog itself has seen some new additions recently, with a new interviews section, already featuring exclusive chats with Emma Stewart of Truly Scrumptious Cakes by Design and Laura Dodimead of Life in Sugar. Laura also invited me along to experience one of her new classes at the end of November, while Emma also kindly created an exclusive tutorial for us earlier this month too.

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Finally, as the year draws to a close, my focus has been my Christmas fundraising. Every year, I team up with some of my cake friends to take part in the For The Little Ones collaboration. As part of the collection, we all make a cake (or sometimes even two) and either donate, raffle or sell it to raise money for a children’s charity. This year, as you will have seen, I decided to raffle two cakes: one online in support of Wave 105’s Cash for Kids charity and one for my own school. Between them, the two cakes raised a huge £389.50, which is quite simply amazing! Thank you again for all of your support with them!

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The Fairy Cake Mother’s fabulous cake, inspired by my Winter the Grumpy Pug tutorial

Finally, ending the year on a real high, I was genuinely thrilled when I received a tag in a Facebook post from Jenny, the Fairy Cake Mother, a couple of weeks ago. She had made this awesome cake, inspired by my Cake Masters Magazine tutorial. It’s amazing to think that people out there are being inspired by what I do and I can think of no better way to have ended the year.

Looking ahead to next year, there are already some very exciting projects lined up and I can’t wait to share them with you all. But until then (and if you’ve managed to persevere through this entire post until the end – well done!), allow me to thank you for your ongoing support and wish you a very happy new year.

Have an amazing 2018!