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  1. Hey everyone, so last week was a first for me - I went to the London Cake & Bake Show! Me and my baking-mad friend Mary usually go to two cake shows a year - Squire's Exhibition (because it's just such a LOVELY venue, everything's pretty and it's only an hour away from my house) and Cake International Birmingham (because it's the biggest and the best so they say, and, erm, that's where Mary lives!). So, a random visit announcement from Mary prompted me to see if there were any cake shows and lo-and-behold, the Cake & Bake was on! We'd often considered it but never quite got around to it, so we decided it would be a fab day out and also a great opportunity to take my 4yr old along for her first ever cake show (she was very excited). 

    So, I was expecting pretty much the same type of thing as CI if I'm honest and was pleasantly surprised at just how different it was! I thought I'd do a bit of a comparison for you to show how the shows differed and what my personal views were:

    Layout: For starters, the C&B show has PINK CARPET throughout, which is obviosuly a winner to begin with! The stands seem to be more spacious and there was definitely room for browsing. CI tends to feel a little more crowded in with smaller stands - I kept warning my little'un that it would be VERY busy and VERY crowded and she HAD to hold my hand the whole time - turned out that she managed to do happy little dances all the way around and I never lost her ;)


    Stalls: C&B had an ENORMOUS amount of actual cakes-you-can-buy-and-eat stalls. You might wonder why I think that's weird - at CI there are virtually NO cake stalls just selling yummy stuff to eat so we were very impressed that we could actaully eat cake all day at a cake show for once!

    There was a lovely little market area for these stalls and they were selling all sorts from cake pops, cupcakes, chocolate, macarons to savoury stuff like bruschetta, cheese and sausage rolls - this was awesome (particularly for the little'un, who managed to taste something from every stall she saw).

    I also wanted to buy lots of cake decorating stuff (of course) but I did find that there weren't actually that many stalls selling cake decorating specific things - at CI there are so many stalls selling equiment that people bring suitcases with them, there are also a large number of international stalls with new and interesting products - at C&B, whilst there were stalls, there was nothing new or exciting to me from a decorating perspective. This might be because I'm so familiar with the huge range of products on the market (and own most of them already!) - if you are new to cake decorating, I imagine you would have a slightly different experience to me and would find lots of things that would interest you :)  Mary was disappointed that there weren't more 'baking' stalls - she is a very keen bread maker and there wasn't anything specific to that at the C&B, which surprised us.

    Demonstrations: the C&B demo theatres were lovely - pink, branded, comfy looking seatng areas and they even had see-through segments in the walls so that you could watch from outside which I really liked. There were also two larger open theatres for watching demos - the Bake-Off area and the main theatre - both were lovely and big and really nicely laid out. I think I preferred this aspect of C&B compared to CI as it was a very inclusive set-up and nice and spacious.

    Cake Competition: At CI, about 1/4 of the entire show is the cake competitions, so I guess I was expecting something similar at C&B. However, C&B just had two long tables for the competition cakes, so it was a huge difference (even the little'un asked why there weren't more cakes to look at!). I was genuinely a bit disappointed in this and there was also a really random queue to see the cakes so everyone was going around the display in a kind of snake making it hard to have a good look, take photos or just view particular pieces. Some of the cakes were beautifully made and there were some lovely entries in the junior categories (I love to see kids decorating) but on average I would say the standard of decorating was significantly different to what you would see at CI. This might be just because there were so few cakes in comparison though but I guess I just thought that it would be bigger (Mary was fine with this as she pointed out that the show is more focused on baking than decorating, which is probably true, so it's just my own feeling really).

    Children: There were lots of children visiting the show and I loved how welcome my little'un was made to feel (you get way more samples when you have a cute child with you) - she really enjoyed it and found all the stalls really interesting, I probably won't ever take her to CI as I feel it's a much more crowded show...

    So in general, a very different experience to what I had expected. I loved the Cake & Bake Show for a fun day out - the whole day was fun, relaxed and easy to get around. I think if I'm honest though, I personally prefer Cake International - probably because I am more of a decorater than a baker and I guess I look to these shows to teach me something new or show me new techniques / products and I didn't feel the Cake & Bake did that for me on this occasion.

    I'd love to hear your own comments and experiences

    x Kirsty

  2. So this is the story of a cake that took WAY longer than expected and used WAY more tools than I ever thought it would (mainly because I wanted it to be easier for myself and I'm lucky enough to have every cake tool known to man ;)

    My mother's best friend asked me to make a cake for her daughter's 40th - 'oh something simple, she loves Miss Marple'.. Can you make Miss Marple's Cottage? The truth is, I'm not sure I'd EVER watched Miss Marple in my life so I got straight on to my lovely student group and asked them what it should include! Luckily they were much more clued up than me so they were pretty good at helping with my random questions about the few photos I could find online - like Is that wall a part of the fence???? (no, it's not apparently ;) - why do I get so consumed with such things???

    Miss Marple's Cottage

    So of course a cake will never look exactly like a specific house, but I like to think I made somehting quite lovely - I thought it would be nice to take you through how I made the cake as lots people are often scared of such cakes and they're really not so bad..

    I started with two sheet cakes baked in small roasting tins and cut rectangles from them, stacked them to create a large rectangular building.  I then use the left over bits (that weren't big enough) and pieced them together to make the roof, which was then carved into a triangular shape. The cake was ganached and then covered in white sugarpaste.  I had a major stress about the upstairs windows and then decided to just make them out of blocks of sugarpaste (maybe a bit heavy but it worked - they weren't as big as I'd imagined). 

    I then used a strip cutter tool to emboss the brickwork and used a small fold of card to mark the individual bricks (I didn't have a small brick embosser and the bigger one looked wrong on this scale). I used the same method for the rook but did squares instead (I couldn't bear the thought of making a million overlayed strips to make it look more realistic but would probably have done that if I had more time).. I then stuck the sugarpaste windows on and airbrushed the cake.  It turned out quite a bit browner than intended but I liked the look of it :)

    IMG_3437  image2  image3

    I'd played aorund with the board as I intended to pipe grass all over it, then made a decision to just pipe grass inside the fenced bit. I would usually use a new stiff brush for marking grass but I didn't have one so I eneded up using a cheese grater (I know, totally random!) to mark the green paste. It didn't matter that it was a bit basic as a lot of it was being covered anyway.. The cake was placed onto the green board and was then ready for it's accessories (my favourite bit!)! (oh, and I don't have a photo, but I made a 'brick' archway to cover the door which you can just about see in the end photos - that was dried and airbrushed separately before assembling).

    So here's a breakdown of what was then added:

    • Pathway - marbled grey sugarpaste and the FMM cobbelestone mat.
    • White Perimieter Fence - (painstakingly) made from florist paste using the smallest JEM strip cutter (I can't even begin to tell you how annoying that was to make, but I feel it was worthwhile in the end as it looked just as I'd hoped!) - the fence was left to dry overnight so it was hard and easier to handle.
    • Door - brown sugarpaste and the FMM wood embossing mat and little square cutters to cut the holes out.
    • Window Frames - JEM strip cutters again
    • PME Blossom Cutters - I'd cut lots of tiny blossoms (using a PME plunger cutter) in a few different colours
    • Tiny Roses  - mould (Alphabet Moulds) in the same colours and wanted these to surrond the door and fill the garden.

    Using green royal icing, I filled two bags - one with a Jem No.2 Round Tip and one with a Wilton 352 Leaf Tip. I used a comnbination of both tips to pipe a massive amount of leaves and twines around the windows, door and up the sides of the house. I then piped layers of leaves to create little rose bushes. I stuck the pre-made flowers on as I went along. I piped grass using a Wilton 233 Tip and stuck the fence straight into the grass to hold it in place.

    I completed the cake with a couple of edible prints for the newspaper and the 'St Mary Mead' sign and of course personalised it for the birthday girl.

    Here's the finished cake:

    missmarple2  missmarple5  missmarple3  missmarple1  gazette

    I hope you've found it interesting - let me know your thoughts! 

    x Kirsty

  3. I have a brand new class!!!

    A few years ago, I had the honour of making the wedding cake for my gorgeous friend's Matt & Charli. They wanted something a bit different but weren't really sure what to do.. I love to try new things and there were a few trends emergin at the time - so I suggested the 'bauble' cake to them. They loved the idea, so I set to work...

    Now, let me tell you, figuring out how to make those little b****rs was one of the biggest challenges I've ever come across - they can be lumpy, hard to cover, hard to fill and a nightmare to ice (if you get bad icing like I did - I'll tell you about that in the class!) and then actually quite difficult to 'stand up'. And don't get me started on transporting them!!! It was the longest night of my cake career getting them finished (I think it was 3am), however, the end result was so beautiful that people still go on about them to this day.

    My new class will cover every experience I had so that you don't have to go through the pain and anguish that I did!! I'm so excited to run this class and am delighted with the designs I'll be teaching too - if you've never done mini cakes or worked with Royal Icing before then it's a fabulous class for you to get your teeth into!

    Click here to find out more and book your space!

    Sphere Cake Class