Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Win Afternoon Teas With Mary Berry
London is facing a cake invasion. After making my first visit to the annual Cake & Bake Show at Earls Court, I have just found out that the BBC is launching their very own Good Food Bakes & Cakes show between the 25th - 27th October and the Business Design Centre. I've done my service to the city, bravely battling my way through battalions of pastry, but if you want to sign up to the cause and defend London against the growing armaments of flour, butter, catapulting eggs, I thought I would share my experiences on the front line, so you can be prepared for whatever comes your way.
The opening times for the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes are 9.30am Saturday and Monday, and 10am on Sunday. I arrived ten minutes before the door opened, and was expecting a long queue, but surprisingly, it was not that busy. This is great because it means you don't have to arrive hours beforehand and wait for ages. I would recommend arriving at opening time for several reasons though. First, it gives you an hour or so to familiar yourself with the layout, so you know where all the demonstration and talk areas are. There is nothing worse when you want to see an event, and can't find where it is being held.
Delicious Classic Cakes
Second, the cakes sellout like hotcakes (forgive the pun). I hadn't been inside more than fifteen minutes when I reached Sponge, who had already sold out of a quarter of its range. Sponge was the first stall I went to, and remained my favourite throughout the day. Their cakes are based on classic British treatss, such as Bounty, Snickers, Apple Crumble, Victoria Sponge, etc. You can get them in three sizes: a whole cake, a large slice, and a baby cake. They were really good value too. The slices were £1.50 and the babies £1. I bought several for my dad and I to share. We tried the Snickers when we got home, and it tasted exactly like the chocolate bar, only better.
Exhibitors weren't just selling food, but baking supplies and equipment as well. Neff were the most impressive. This large kitchen appliance company have the most innovative ovens I've ever seen. Despite meaning we'd have to completely redesign our kitchen to fit it, I wanted one straight away. They are the same ovens used on The Great British Bake Off, and features a Slide & Hide door, telescopic rails, proving drawer, and an AquaAssist which keeps roasts moist and turns bread crusty.
There were a number of fun free activities to take part in. Over at Modelling Magic and Renshaw you could have a go at making your own sugar paste creations , or watch the masters at work. One guy was busy building a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
What's your best bakeface?
Over at the Billington's area they had a photo booth, where you could take a picture of yourself making a 'bakeface'. This contest can also be entered online. As well as free activities, there were a number of classes you could sign up for here. The BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes have masterclasses in sugarcraft, baking, decorating, and chocolate.
What were the RSPB doing there?
Although it is a show about baking, there were other exhibitors who didn't quite fit the theme. Amongst the most bizarre were animal charities such as the RSPB and Cats Protection. There was also a lady selling artificial flowers.
The Cheshire Cheese Company
Other stalls were slightly more related. I came across a number of places doing roasts, sausages, and cheese. I was annoyed at myself when I saw the Cheshire Cheese Company there because I had a voucher for a free cheese which I hadn't taken with me. Still, I bought their limited Halloween themed toffee apple cheese, which is absolutely gorgeous.
There were also exhibitors selling wine, smoothies, coconut water, etc. Mozart Spirits make the most beautiful walnut and chocolate liqueurs.
We all love cake (otherwise why are you reading this?), but a show like this can be very detrimental to the waistline. If you are watching your fat intake, there is still plenty to enjoy in the bakery section. There were about half a dozen bread stalls, all of which were displaying fabulous looking loaves. The two I remember are Oliver's Bakery and Karaway. They are both at Borough Market, and when providing samples to taste, give you large chunks or fingers rather than little cubes, so you can get a proper taste. My favourite was Karaway's fruit & nut rye, but based on appearance, Oliver's dark rye won the day.
Paul & Mary Cake
If you are well a truly full, then your enjoyment can move onto a visual level. The exhibition had a rows of glorious cakes on display. One of the artists was called The Cake Illusionist, which is an accurate description. These cakes were so elaborate that they did not look like cakes at all. Great British Bake Off fans will adore the creation by the Tattooed Bakers, which featured Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood with a unicorn in Candy Land. Artists that will be displaying their work for the Cake Parade at the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes include The Bakery Lounge, Cakings, Rosalind Miller Cakes, and more.
Exotic Adventures Entries
It's not just professionals who were displaying their cakes either. There were several competitions which visitors could enter, including Exotic Adventures. Contestants had to bake a cake inspired by far away lands. I don't know who won, but I would have voted for the treehouse cake. If you enter the BBC Food Bakes & Cakes [LINK=http://www.bbcgoodfoodbakesandcakesshow.com/Content/Show-Competition]competition you have a chance of winning afternoon tea with Mary Berry, as well as an autographed book and Kenwood mixer.
A prize for one of the contests at the show I went to was the chance to demonstrate your baking skills on stage. Two winners were selected to compete in the Competition Theatre, and it was fun to watch the different techniques they used. One contestant baked a sweet pumpkin bread, and the other a cheese a pepper loaf. Audience members are allowed to have a taste after the show, but you have to be quick because people swarm in like there was a food shortage. I was in the front row, and before even had a chance to stand up, there was not a scrap left.
Great British Bake Off Winners
The second competition I watched was a head-to-head with all the previous finalists of the Great British Bake Off. Ed Kimber, Jo Wheatly, John Whaite and Francis Quinn were in teams and had to make prune brownies. While we were watching, the host asked them questions about what they are doing now, and their upcoming recipe books. The audience also got to ask questions about the show. The main highlight of this event, however, was the surprise appearance by contestants from the current series. Louis and Nancy were even kind enough to have their photos taken with all the fans. Jo, John, and Francis will also be at the BBC Food Bakes & Cakes, along with judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Other cooking personalities at the show will be Lucy Young, Paul A. Young, and Eric Lanlard.
Book Signing Area
The guests will take part in a number of activities, including free demonstrations in the Bakes & Cakes Theatre, answering Q&As on the Interview Stage, and giving booking signings. I considered taking my Great British Baking Bake Off books to get signed, but since each contestant was from a different series, it would have meant taking all four, and one was big and heavy enough, so I decided to leave it. You can buy recipe books at the show too if you want.
I didn't go to any classes, and only went to two demonstrations, but was at the show for four and half hours. If you want to do everything (shop, attend demonstrations, take part in classes), then you might not have time to fit everything in, and should consider buying tickets for the whole weekend. Tickets to the BBC Food Bakes & Cakes are £20-£23 for adults, £18-£20 concessions, £2-£10 children, and free for under 5s.
So now you are well informed and well armed to tackle the cake invasion. Good luck and may the fork be with you.