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.
Get Tips from Bake Off Champions
Shortlisted? Again? Why I'm blushing. Not from a sense of pride, but from a sense of embarrassment as I look at all the other amazing entries. There is no need to guess which cake was made by the amateur (moi) and which cakes were made by the professionals (everyone else). But I don't mind; baking the cake was fun and it granted me free entry to the Cake & Bake Show across all three days. A single day adult ticket is usually £12.50 when booked in advance and £15 when bought on the day. Even so, if you are a baking enthusiast, it is well worth it.
This Big Friendly Giant is made entirely from sugar.
The Cake and Bake Show is an annual event that takes place at both ExCel London and EvenCity Manchester. It features all kinds of activities, including trade stalls, classroom sessions, celebrity talks, competitions, displays, and a whole host of other interactive experiences.
My Jellybean Stalk Cake
As you can guess, this year's London show has been and gone and I had a fabulous weekend, but all you Mancunians out there (and those willing to travel) can enjoy the show in Manchester between the 11th - 13th November. If you like the idea of free tickets and like being creative in the kitchen, then you can also try your hand at entering one of the cake competitions, which includes birthday cakes, cupcakes, and fantasy cakes. I made a Jellybean Stalk Cake to represent the fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Best in Show Cake Competition Winner
The winning entries were somewhat more impressive, and included a Frog Prince, Enchanted Woodland Nymph, and an incredibly detailed dragon structure, all of which was completely edible.
As well as entering the competition, I also enjoyed a number of demonstrations given by former Great British Bake Off champions, such as John Whaite, Frances Quinn, and Nadiya Hussain. During the demonstrations they recount memories of Bake Off, talk about life after the show, and make one of the recipes from their recently published books.
You can buy their books and others from the bookshop, which is situated next to a signing area. You can either buy a book on the day or take one with you to get signed by the bakers.
Although I missed his demonstration, I loved admiring a display by Paul Jagger, who famously made a lion centrepiece made out of bread. His display featured several new bread masterpieces, my favourite of which was Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter.
Aside from Bake Off contestants, other guest speakers include Rosemary Shrager, Paul A. Young, Charlotte White, and many others.
I did not attend any of the decorating classrooms (these cost extra and can sellout quickly), but classes include baking with children, decorating without fancy equipment, and how to give your cake a professional finish.
New this year is A Slice of Advice, where visitors can sit down quietly on a sofa for a one-to-one chat with the guests and ask any baking questions they may have. There is no booking required, so it is run on a first come first serve basis.
What I probably enjoyed most about the weekend was browsing all the stalls. There were a variety of traders, from those with special kitchen gadgetry to those tempting my tastebuds with freshly baked morsels.
Both the Continental Bakery and J&S Artisans had a wide selection of scrumptious patisserie treats, amongst which included that largest Chelsea Buns and Eccles Cakes I'd ever seen. They wouldn't have had any problem supplying the Calendar Girls with the necessary coverage.
To my disappointment there were not many artisan breads available to buy, but there were a number of stalls from which you can buy bread mixes. One of my favourite brands is Wright's Baking, who have wonderful time saving mixes such as Brioche and Sourdough. These mixes are difficult to find elsewhere, so I like to stock up at the Cake & Bake Show.
For anyone with a gluten allergy, Rana's Bakery provide gluten free bread mixes, such as 'Nearly Rye', 'New Italian', and 'Winter Spice'.
I sampled a lot of condiments over the weekend, and because it is so close to Christmas, they will make unique gifts for foodies in the family. Mr Hughs specialises in rapeseed oil, which has less saturated fat than olive oil, is full of vitamin E, and can be heated to temperatures of 230℃. There were several flavours to try, including garlic, chilli, basil vanilla, and orange. He also made a lemon cake using lemon infused rapeseed oil instead of butter, which made the cake extra moist. My favourite out of the selection was the hazelnut.
Briscoe's Jellies are a delightful alternative to your standard jams and sauces. They make truly unique jellies that are so versatile that they can be served just as well with a roast dinner as simply spread on toast. Paula and Jon Briscoe used to run an award-winning pub in Reigate with an initiative to reduce waste. They encouraged customers to donate any surplus home grown fruit and veg they might have in exchange for discounts at their pub. A glut of apples led Paula to experiment making condiments. The result was beautifully clear apple-based jellies. Paula and Jon sold their pub in 2015 to embark on a jelly-icious journey, and they have certainly succeeded. Flavours available are suitable for both sweet and savoury dishes. My favourite is the cinnamon and the thyme, but they also have cranberry, chilli, mint, Thai, rosemary, etc.
For those looking for something healthier than peanut butter on toast, another stall holder had an amazing array of spreads made out of 100% nuts or seeds. Not added sugar, oils, or fats, just nuts ground down to the smoothest finest paste. Choose anything from cashew nut butter, pine nut butter, walnut butter, pumpkin seed butter, pistachio nut butter - the list goes on. While I enjoyed the taste, I personally found these a bit sickly in texture as they stick to the roof of your mouth.
As much as I like savoury, I do have a sweet tooth, so Pavitra was right up my street. A Latvian woman greeted me to her stall, which was full of bee products. One item that particularly intrigued me was bee bread, which is I had never heard of before. She explained to me that bee bread is fermented pollen and used to feed bee larvae because it is so nutritious. The excess bee bread is harvested for humans to take as a natural nutritional supplement, which can be eaten by the teaspoonful. I was even more interested by the flavoured honey on offer, which was infused with different fruits, such as blackberry and strawberry.
If you feel everything so far has been too veggie and vegan centric, the carnivores amongst you need not worry for many piggies went to this market.Heck is a family sausage business that prides themselves on service, flavour, and quality. Their sausages are made with fresh herbs and in small batches to ensure the best taste possible. As well as your traditional pork sausages, Heck also make seasoned chicken sausages too. These include zesty lime and smoky paprika.
After tasting everything there was possibly to taste, I then turned my attention to some nifty kitchen equipment. The first I came across was FryAir. I already have an old model of an air fryer at home, but these latest models are much more versatile and allow you cook just about anything without the need for oil and in about half the time of using an oven or deep fryer. For example, you can roast a whole chicken in forty-five minutes, cook kebabs on a rotary, and churn fluffy chips with breaded fish. The stockist had them on special offer for £200 new or £120 for models which had been used in demonstrations. I was sorely tempted, but both the size, weight, and fact that I was saving my money in case I spotted anything else (which I did) stopped me from splashing out on this occasion.
I did, however, splash out on a number of other things, including a set of excellent Magic Knives that made slicing and dicing a breeze, a Diablo toast maker, to replace my aged not-so-non stick Breville, and a set of Nova colour changing ceramic frying pans, which require no oil and are super easy to clean.
Make soup and ice cream with the whizz of a button.
Most of the items on offer at the Cake & Bake Show are at Trade Show prices, so you will be getting a significant discount off the RRP price. Not only that, many of the companies are from abroad (Nova is a German brand), so you will not find them on UK high streets. This makes the Cake & Bake Show a great opportunity to get some unique bargain - although there is a risk of going a bit mad and wanting to get everything in sight.
Whatever it is that you love about food and baking, you'll be able to indulge your passion and your tastebuds.