Friday, 20 November 2015

The Cake & Bake Show 2015

Last weekend I went to The Cake & Bake Show in association with Neff at Event City in Manchester. The show has been running in Manchester now for 3 years and it spent it's first two years at Manchester Central. As well as moving to a different venue, it's also extended it's run time from 3 days to 4 days. I attended on both the Friday and Saturday, here's what I got up to...

Christmas and pink were big themes! The carpet of the venue was a bright pink, there was bunting hung all over the place and Christmas trees everywhere. It definitely felt fun and festive. Neff also had a stand featuring their well known 'hide and slide' ovens as featured on The Great British Bake Off. If you're interested in learning more about Neff ovens, you can visit the Neff shop at

One of the first things I noticed when I walked in was this giant chair photo opportunity, of course I got straight in there! Now where can I get one of these for my living room...?

Next I headed straight to The Great British Bake Off theatre where I spent a lot of my time at the show. Beside the theatre was a stand selling all the Bake Off merchandise. I've not used any of the merchandise myself, but the pretty pastel colours and retro feel makes it look very attractive.

Sugar & Crumbs make flavoured icing sugar which is seriously yummy. I couldn't believe how much the apple crumble flavour actually tasted like apple crumble! I don't know how they do it. They've also started selling piping nozzles that make some pretty impressive flowers with buttercream.

The Big Bakes Bakery had giant versions of popular bakes on sale such as cookies, gingerbread men and jammy dodgers. I shared a jammy dodger with my friend Sophie and she also purchased one of the giant gingerbread men. I love the idea of over sized bakes!

I didn't buy much at the show, but I had to grab this amazing bargain of 1 litre of Nielsen Massey Vanilla Extract for only £22! That was a show only deal, but you can still get it for £25 from the One Stop Cookery website.

The other thing I bought at the show was some delicious fudge from The Kilted Fudge Company. Their fudge is so flavoursome and creamy!

I watched Chetna Makan from series 5 make a Cardamom & Coffee Swiss Roll, which looked so pretty. She is well known for fusing indian flavours with traditional baking. She talked about how the bakers from her series like to get together every few months and each of them bring a dish along. Chetna has a YouTube channel now where she releases a new recipe every week. She is also bringing out a book in April next year called The Cardamom Trail, but she explains that not all the recipes feature cardamom!

John Whaitemade some Fig, Walnut & Gruyere Bagels which also had Marmite in the dough. He has such a fantastic stage presence and was chatting away to the crowd and making jokes the whole way through. John talked about how food is a projection of who you are, and so it can feel really personal when people don't like your food - which I really relate to! He has a cookery school called John Whaite's Kitchen and also a new book out soon called Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients.

Then it was time for this year's winner Nadiya to take the stage! She made her Peanut Salted Caramel Tart that earned her a Paul Hollywood handshake. Nadiya talked about her time on the Bake Off. She hated doing the technical challenges, her favourite creation was the chocolate peacock, and her final showstopper bake of a wedding cake was her hardest challenge. She is writing a weekly column for The Times at the moment, but would love to do a book.

One of my favourite bakers from this year's Bake Off, Tamal Ray, hit the stage to make his Apple, Pistachio & Rose Madeira Cake. Tamal revealed that he applied for the show in series 3, he got quite far but didn't make the final cut, and was encouraged to apply again. The final showstopper was Tamal's favourite bake during his time on The Great British Bake Off, and since being on the show Tamal has made two more wedding cakes. He also confirmed the answer to a questions he gets asked a lot - that he gets his syringes for injecting cakes off ebay and not from the hospital where he works!

Luis Troyano was up next and he made some absolutely delicious looking Spanish Empanadas filled with beef, chorizo and vegetables. He also added paprika to the dough and cooked them in the deep fryer. Luis has a book called Bake It Great which features recipes with a Spanish influence. He recommended shopping in Indian supermarkets for spices and exotic flavours as they are much more reasonably priced. He also said that he thinks if you can bake a great Bakewell Tart, you can bake anything, as the tart combines a great range of baking skills.

Sandy Docherty was so entertaining to watch, she is such a great character. She made Parmesan biscuits with a cream cheese filling. I couldn't believe that she was only in four episodes of The Great British Bake Off, it feels like she was in the show for longer! She did her creme brulee 'wobble' dance and also judged some bakes from a young boy in the audience who had brought in some profiteroles filled with creme patisserie - what a talent!

I was lucky enough to meet Mat Riley before he appeared on stage to make his refined sugar free carrot cake. He sweetened the cake with dates and a fruit syrup. I was surprised to hear that Mat only got into baking two years ago when he had some time off work and started going through his wife's recipe books and making things. He now has a YouTube channel where he makes something new every week, it's called Mat Riley Bakes.

There were some competition cakes on display for visitors to look at. My favourite was the Jungle Book cake above - such stunning detail!

There were also cakes made by professionals on display, which were jaw droppingly amazing. There is so much time and detail that goes into these beautiful cakes.

The Ideal Home Show was also on in the same venue and it had an amazing winter wonderlandarea full of Christmas trees. It made me feel so happy and festive!

I had such a great time at The Cake & Bake Show, and I got to meet Lisa Faulkner too! I was a bit disappointed that the show was smaller this year. As it had moved to a bigger venue and had two successful years in Manchester already, I was expecting a bigger show. I know that the show has been taken on by a new events company, so I hope that they give it more attention next year. The Great British Bake Off stage was certainly the highlight for me, and although there were some great exhibitors, I would've loved to see more. It was also great that you could access the Ideal Home Show for no extra charge.

You can watch my vlogs of the day below. And don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

NB. I received a press pass for the show, all opinions are my own.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Cupcake Food Art & Afternoon Tea

A while back (it's taken me ages to post this!) I was invited to help decorate some cupcakes and go for afternoon tea in Cheltenham with So I jumped on a train and headed down there with no real idea of what exactly the cupcake decorating portion of the day would involve. After getting off the train I took a taxi to a remote studio down a winding lane, and this is what I found...

Paul Hollywood's face being constructed out of cupcakes! I was so impressed at how the face had been put together and the level of detail that had been achieved by using cupcakes. The piece of food art was being created by Food is Art by Prudence. Prudence and her company make life size models of people out of chocolate and cheese, as well as various portraits like the above out of different food items like fruit, chocolate and cheese.

Prudence showed us how she wanted us to decorate the cupcakes with both buttercream and green coloured fondant.

Along with Sus from Rough Measures and Amy from, I got stuck into decorating the cupcakes with some chocolate buttercream. I've decorated a lot of cupcakes in my time, so this was fun and easy for me. I whizzed through it and decorated a whole bunch of them. Prudence said I was hired! (If only the commute wasn't 3 hours!!)

I then moved onto fondant, which I am much less confident with. I decided to do my name in fondant on top of the cupcakes and I was really pleased with how it turned out, now to get it into the portrait...

Woohoo my name made it into the portrait!

Watch the full video of the construction of the portrait, including the final result above. You can also see more photos over on AO's blog by clicking here.

We headed to the absolutely gorgeous Ellenborough Park afterwards for afternoon tea. We got so lucky as it was an absolutely beautiful day. It is such a stunning venue and I can imagine it being perfect for weddings, a romantic getaway or a girls weekend. They have hotel and spa facilities there too.

We got the champagne afternoon tea and it was so damn good! The champagne (I wish I knew the brand) was really delicious, and this is coming from someone who is not a huge fan of champagne/sparkling wine. I had the ham and mustard and salmon sandwiches as a couple of the girls were vegetarian so I took care of the meat ones.

There were then four different types of scones, all served warm with jam and clotted cream. I'm not sure which scones I had, but I thoroughly enjoyed them!

Finally we moved onto the cakes. There was a delightful carrot cake, a swiss roll with a very clever pattern on the outside, a mini chocolate tart that was very delicious, and a beautifully bright purple macaron. I was very full but very happy by the end!

I went home with a copy of Paul Hollywood's new book - Pies & Puds. I read it on the train home and I'm definitely going to give some of the recipes a go. It was such a fun day and I feel very lucky to have been a part of this unique project. Let me know what you think of the cupcake portrait in the comments!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Golden Oat Raisin & Almond Cookies

Healthy baking is all the rage right now, The Great British Bake Off even did a 'free from' themed episode this year which included dairy, gluten and refined sugar free challenges. We're all more aware of what we're eating and we're being told we need to cut down on certain foods. I've always maintained that moderation is important, so it nice to add a healthy element to baked goods where I can. These cookies are packed with wholegrain goodness plus oats, almonds and raisins. A tasty treat with hidden health benefits!

I was sent two bags of Marriage's The Master Millers Golden Wholegrain Flour to bake with and I decided to make these cookies with the plain flour. Using wholegrain flour in your baking is an easy way to get more fibre in your diet. Marriage's Golden Wholegrain Flour contains twice the amount of fibre than regular white flour. Current guidelines recommend that we should be eating 18g of fibre per day, and reserach has shown that only 5% of people in the UK manage to meet this target, so we need all the help we can get!

I toasted 100g almonds in the oven on a lined baking tray for 5 mins at 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

I chopped them up into pieces.

I creamed together 100g butter with 200g soft brown sugar. I then whisked in 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg and 1 tbsp golden syrup.

I mixed in 125g oats, 1 tsp baking powder and 125g Marriage's The Master Millers Golden Wholegrain Plain Flour.

Then I added the chopped almonds along with 100g raisins.

I used my hands to shape pieces of the mixture into balls which I then flattened down. I put them onto a lined baking tray leaving room for them to spread.

I baked the cookies on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes until they were lovely and golden.

I sent these with my boyfriend to take into work with him as I not only have my own colleagues requesting bakes, I also have his colleagues asking for them too! It's great to have a wide audience of willing volunteers to eat my bakes. The cookies went down really well and I grabbed one when they were still warm, which really is one of the best parts of baking. They were so yummy, I would call these a hearty and comforting bake that makes you feel very homely - if that makes sense!

I'm entering these cookies into this month's Alphabakes hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes..., the letter this month is 'M' for Marriage's flour in this recipe!