This weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited by the organisers of The BIG Cake Show to go along as a VIP blogger and sample the many cakey delights on offer.
For those of you who don’t know, The BIG Cake Show is a brand new event in Exeter organised by local friends, event organisers and baking enthusiasts Kim and Mel. It took place over three days, following a similar format to the Cake and Bake shows in Manchester and London, which I’m sure many of you will have been to.
There were baking demonstrations, from both celebrities and local chefs, classroom workshops, children’s activities, competitions and of course lots and lots of fabulous local and national producers and suppliers selling everything from cake decorating tools to chocolates, wine and of course cake.
Although on a smaller scale than the Cake and Bake shows, there was plenty going on to make it well worth the bargain £12 entry – I was kept entertained from 11 until 5, and I don’t exactly have the longest attention span…
The big draws in terms of celeb chefs were Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, but neither of them were there on the Saturday when I went. I really wasn’t too bothered though, as my two favourite GBBO contestants (and winners) were there – Edd Kimber and John Whaite.
John was up first, giving a demo which was half baking, half stand up comedy – he was brilliant! The butterscotch banana giant chelsea bun he made looked incredible too – I believe the recipe is in his new book which came out this week…
One of the benefits of my VIP ticket was priority seating for the demos. I was a little bit late arriving for John, so I just ran in and grabbed the first seat I saw, in the middle of the front row. It was only when John made a comment about the people sat next to me that I realised it was actually Edd Kimber and Jo Wheatley, off of actual Bake Off!
I took the opportunity to grab a quick photo with Edd – what a lovely man! His demo later in the afternoon was fab too – making a flour less chocolate and blackberry cake, he did a great job of answering all the audience’s questions and you could tell there was no blagging whatsoever, he really does know his stuff! Although I can’t help but be a little jealous of anyone who bakes for a living and classes Paul A Young as one of their best friends…
I also saw local chefs Rob Spencer and Darrin Hosegrove from Ashburton Cookery School demoing in the West Country Larder, ably (?!) assisted by local radio DJ David ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald. The cookery school has won loads of awards and should anyone really, REALLY love me, one of their patisserie courses would make an excellent gift… Just saying!
It was great to see local producers alongside the bigger baking companies, and I enjoyed both catching up with some I’ve met at previous events and meeting some lovely new people too.
For anyone who shares the same mild obsession with blueberries that I have, the Blueberry Brothers are just amazing – they make jam, truffles, brownies, tarts and muffins, as well as a blueberry beer called Blue Yonder which I’ve been on the lookout for since Christmas.
I should explain – pre-Christmas, I met Nick from the Blueberry Brothers at a farmers’ market in Plymouth. We got chatting, and he gave me a recipe for venison seared in blueberry jam then slow cooked in blueberry beer, which I wrote up and gave to my stepdad along with a bottle of beer and jar of jam. He like the recipe so much he wanted to do it again, but sadly Blue Yonder isn’t too readily available in Cornwall – so when I saw it on Saturday I was more than a bit happy!
Not a beer lover myself, I sampled one of their blueberry and apple muffins, fuel for the long drive home, and it was absolutely delicious. Next on my list to try is their blueberry marzipan – I have a feeling I could quickly become addicted.
One of my favourite new finds of the day was Frandie Macaron. Having previously spoken to them on Twitter, I made a beeline for their stand when I arrived, to check out all the beautiful brightly coloured macarons, hand made in Devon.
I’ve always been too scared to make macarons, so it was rather reassuring to see that even the professionals don’t always get it right – Frandie Macaron sell bags of ‘maca-wrongs’ – misshapen shells that taste just as good but are a little lacking in the looks department.
I tried one of their raspberry and limoncello macarons, which were created especially for the show through a fan competition. It was lush – I really do need to have a go at making my own though. Soon, maybe…
In the competition arena was a great selection of novelty cakes, all with a South West theme. The winning cake really was outstanding, they packed everything Westcountry that they could think of into a bit tower of cake, including Yeo Valley yoghurt, Clarks shoes, Paignton Zoo and Thatchers Cider – just look at the INSANE detail, I can only dream of being able to make a cake this good!
So, The BIG Cake Show was basically brilliant, and I am so happy that Mel and Kim have managed to create something for people in the South West – as much as I love cake, the 5 hour drive/7 hour coach to London is not the most fun, and I know a lot of people will agree that with so many amazing local bakers and producers, it’s only right that the South West should have its own show!
Thanks to Tracy and The BIG Cake Show team for my VIP pass, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.