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Blog > March 2013
Squire exhibiton of Sugar Craft and Cake Decorating

Today is the first of three days of Squire Kitchen's 27th Annual Cake Decorating, Sugar Craft and Chocolate Decorating Exhibition. 

It's held in Farnham Maltings, a short walk from Farnham station but shuttle buses also go from opposite Squire Kitchen's shop every 20 minutes. Before you enter the exhibition itself, I suggest you look at the map at the entrance, or else you'll be retracing your steps all day as you explore this warren of rooms on various levels.
Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating Exhibition
I'll confess up front that whilst I love to bake cakes, I don't do decoration. You might have guessed this by my dredge of icing sugar on the cake I took to Clandestine Cake Club, I would not have normally bothered even with that. The most I've ever stretched to before is chocolate ganache coating a chocolate cake filled with a berry buttercream. This was, absolutely delicious, and I'd do it again.  Generally, the reason I don't is partly down to a lack of patience, partly a lack of skill and predominately because I am not a huge fan of sugar and overly sweet things. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms given my obsession with cake and chocolate.  What I like is flavourful puddings, cakes, dessert and chocolate, sweetened by sugar, not the "flavour" of sugar alone. I haven't added added sugar to drinks or cereals or my savoury cooking since I was about 8. One of my favourite chocolate truffles is a marmite water ganache, I often eat 100% chocolate (no sugar or sugar substitutes) and my coffee of choice is espresso. You get the idea. As a child, however, I was a sugar fiend, I used to dribble food dye over sugar crystals and pretend they were sweets and I'd eat soft, dark brown sugar by the spoonful, with a squeeze of lemon juice soaked over it. I guess this is what happens when the nearest shop is a ten minute drive away and you can't break into the sweetie jar...
Flower cake
I digress.  What I now appreciate much better about cake decorating is that it is far more about art than food. Whilst everything I saw being made was actually edible, I'm not sure how "eatable" it was, but nor was it expected to be.  Sugar paste is just another medium like clay or charcoal, just a little less permanent.
Miniature flowers on a tiny wedding cake
Stunning minature flowers made from sugar. A teeny tiny wedding cake!
Rooms at the exhibition are divided into display rooms showing off incredible edible creations of cake and sugar craft; rooms of stalls selling all of the equipment and ingredients to produce it and the demonstration rooms where top professionals deliver hour long tutorials in their craft.
Packets of Icing for Cake Decorating
A variety of icings (and this isn't even all of them!)
The draw of this particular exhibition is that all of the stalls had very talented people demonstrating how to use their wares.  This is handy when the options for “icing” include more than ten different names, including Mexican paste, Petal Powder and Sugar Dough.  I stopped at a few of these mini-demonstrations and listened to their wisdom.  Now, whilst almost everything about cake decorating would be new insight to me, I took down a few notes from the things that drew the most astonishment and excitement from my fellow attendees.  So here you have our top Cake Decorating Tips via Squires Exhibition:
  1. If your pliable icing starts to go hard put it into the microwave for one second bursts at a time (this particular icing referred to was made with “Pastillage Powder”. I won’t pretend to understand.).
  2. Dry pliable icing on a dry sponge so the air can get underneath it too.  You will still need to turn it over during the drying period to ensure it dries evenly.
  3. Dry, dry and dry some more.  Overnight for each piece you are doing. Each piece must be dry before you try to stick it to another with edible glue, otherwise the weight of one will squish the non-dry piece.
  4. Only make up a small portion of icing at a time, just what you need.  Double wrap the remainder in cling film and then keep in airtight container room temperature.   
  5. Don’t ever put icing in the fridge.  Sugar is hydroscopic, meaning it absorbs water so in the fridge becomes a sticky paste.
  6. When working with sugar moulding cover your hands with vegetable fat (like Trex) before you start softening the icing in your hands.  You might want to use Trex on your cutters too, but shouldn’t need to put it into the moulds if you’ve been handling a ball of icing with fatty hands (tee hee!) as the icing should get a sufficient slick of grease on it just from your hands.
  7. Squeeze the edges of more intricate moulds towards the centre to push all the icing right in to pick up the detail (this was demonstrated on a rose mould, which depending on the size of the ball of icing you can get full size or teeny tiny roses!).
  8. Get icing out of moulds by tapping the underside of them.  Don’t try and “peel” them out, they will lose their shape.
  9. You must wait for icing to dry completely before using food dye to paint anything on it – otherwise the “ink” will drag.  It definitely seemed worth investing in some of the edible ink pens I saw at the show!
  10. Use BBQ skewers cut to size to pierce through the “body” of sugar dough models to help them stand up straight.  Like in this picture below of models made by Jan Clement-May.
Sugar Dough models by Jan Clement-May
Squires Kitchen Exhibition 2013 skillsSquires Kitchen Exhibition 2013Squires Kitchen Exhibiton Sugar CrafSquires Kitchen Moulding sugar roses
Now if I was teaching you what you already know, my apologies.  The people there knew their craft so if you are a keen cake decorator it’s highly worth going this weekend and getting some advice on how to make your buttercream flower petals better! (Or whatever other more sophisticated question you might have!)  It's also worth looking around the competition viewing rooms for inspiration and intimidation!  Some highlights below...
Some of the jewellery box themed cupcakes:
Jewellery Box Cupcakes
Some fairytale cakes:
Goldilocks CakeJack and the Giant Beanstalk CakeOld man in a shoe fairytale cake

Wedding cakes:
Wedding Cakes at Squires Exhibition 2013
If you have gorgeous cakes that you've decorated please feel free to share them on our Facebook page.  We like admiring them. :-)  Let us know if you have done or plan to by posting in the comments below!

Have a nice time at the show!

Posted: 15/03/2013 16:52:16

A 1st Birthday Party for a Clandestine Cake Club!

On what felt like the coldest night of the year, I wrapped up myself and my Orange & Almond Cake and ventured outside into bitter winds to find the clandestine location of Cake Club.
From the street outside I could see through the window what looked like a birthday party, napkins and paper plates and a table laden with cakes.  Appropriate for the theme: 1st birthday party, to celebrate a year of this particular club. 
I made my way inside, unpacked my cake and put it on what seemed like the last available space on the table.  I got some welcome “ooohs” for my cutout of the 1 that I’d dredged icing sugar over, which was kind given that there was a lot of very impressively decorated cakes on the table.
Orange & Almond Cake
My Orange & Almond Cake
Chocolate Hedgehog Cake!
A much more impressive, chocolate hedgehog cake!

Five more people arrived after me, three of them with cakes, which we managed to squeeze onto the table making 11 in total.  My greedy eyes were alight with delight!
Clandestine Cake Club
Cakes - ready for cutting!
Though relatively chocolate-heavy, this was a great mix of cakes:

Chocolate & Guinness
Chocolate & Salted Caramel
Double Chocolate Tower
Coffee & Walnut Cake
Lemon Layer Cake
Red & White Velvet Marble
Banoffee (Banana Cake with Toffee Buttercream)
Lavender Cake
Chocolate Hedgehog
Blue Peter Chocolate Clock Cake (made with mayonnaise)
Orange & Almond Cake
Just after 7.30pm, our lovely host Emma welcomed us all and suggested we introduce ourselves and our cake, if we brought one.  Whilst there were four men in the room, they were the only four “eaters” who didn’t bring a cake; they were there as the guest of someone who did.  Sigh.  And I thought more men were baking these days.  Perhaps it’s just men are not very likely to go to an event which describes its main purpose as talking over tea and cake.  I suppose it is all a bit W.I.-like.  Except I think have of this group were probably not yet 30.
Clandestin Cake Club Red Velvet marbled cake
Red Velvet Marble Cake - the bringer of this cake even made the horses herself!

Ashamedly, after our run of introductions around the table I could remember every single cake description but not a single person’s name.  I had to reintroduce myself to the people closest to me.  Then we got stuck into the cake.  Emma handed around some knives and some more napkins and I got cutting with the advice, “for new people”, to cut small pieces.  I eked out miniature slices of the lavender cake in front of me and passed the knife on to someone else and we got tasting! With so many cakes to try there really wasn’t any possibility of fitting in seconds during this sitting. The positive of this is it means each cake gets equally eaten so it doesn’t feel like a competition as it might if one cake was devoured completely and quickly.
Cutting into the Clandestine Cakes
Cutting into the cakes
After about an hour and a half of tasting and getting to know our neighbours we called it a night and the slicing of the cakes began, to allow people to take home some of what they didn’t come with.  This is where it is important to come properly prepared.  The experienced within the group pulled out plastic bags and foil, ready to go, to take cake into work for colleagues.
Remains of the Clandestine Cake Club
The remains of the cake feast
What a wonderful reason to test out new cake recipes, try a whole variety of cakes at once (this definitely appeals to the greedy side of me) and to meet new people in your area.   If you like cake at all (if you don't, I'm not sure why you're reading!) then get yourself to a Clandestine Cake Club.  Most of them accept guests to come without a cake on the first occasion, but they are very relaxed and there's certainly no pressure to be a master baker or decorator.  I’m already planning what I might bake for next month’s April Fool’s theme.  I'm sure I've got some popping candy in the kitchen somewhere...

Posted: 13/03/2013 10:02:06

Tonight I’m going to my first Clandestine Cake Club! For those of you who aren’t aware, the Clandestine Cake Club “movement” was set up by Lynn Hill, a retiree and lover of cakes.  From her Leeds home in 2009, Lynn set up a Secret Tea Room, much like the supper clubs popping up in people’s dining rooms across the country, but focused on cake and scones instead.  She enjoyed meeting people over cake and tea so much she decided to arrange an event where everyone brought their own cake.  This was, according to her, so “she didn’t have to do all the baking”.  The idea caught on and there are now well over 100 cake clubs in the UK and more in Canada, France, India, Australia…  It’s a revolution of cake.  A wonderful way to meet new people and enjoy home baked cake.
Typically, the only cost of entry is to bring a cake that serves 8-12 people.  It has to be a cake.  No cupcakes, cookies or muffins!  The clandestine part is only learning the actual venue a day or two before the meeting.
My first meeting is tonight, so yesterday I looked through the Great Cake Places London book to find a recipe to cook.  Quite a few of them I had to discount because they were not for full cakes (I don’t think the rules allow whoopee pies, either).  With a bag of oranges in the cupboard I decided to go for Claudia Roden’s Orange & Almond Cake, supplied by Rococo Chocolates who feature in the Chocolates and Sweets Chapter of the London book.  Cake Boy, Eric Lanlard, also supplied an Orange and Lavender Cake but I searched in my local Sainsbury’s but couldn’t get my hands on any.  If you’re fortunate enough to have some in your garden please do try the cake sometime and let me know!

Interestingly, this cake is both gluten and dairy free.  I'm not opposed to either so I don't often bake cakes without.  I'm looking forward to trying it!  The only ingredients for this cake are:

2 large oranges, washed (or 3 medium blood oranges)
250g caster sugar
6 eggs, separated
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
Here’s the link to the recipe and here’s the making of it in pictures:Boiled oranges

Boiled oranges
Blending all the ingredients
Blending all the ingredients in my Blendtec (I took the spoon out first!)

Folding into the egg whites
Folding the batter into the egg whites

Cake after baking
The finished Orange & Almond cake in the tin

The final decoration will have to wait until just before I leave.  Unfortunately I can’t yet tell you how it tastes either! I suspect that the club organisers expect you to bring the cake to the club whole, rather than with a tester slice removed… 

I have to say even though the CCC website says it’s all fun and no judgement, I am quite nervous.  Fortunately I know this recipe is well tested and I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe so closely in my life!  Fingers crossed it will all be fine!

Posted: 11/03/2013 10:30:28

Another cake show!  If you can’t get to Manchester for the Cake & Bake Show, or even if you can and you just can’t wait, then Squire’s Kitchen is hosting its 27th Annual Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft Show in Surrey from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th March.  That’s right, 27 years!  That’s some experience in cake decorating.  The focus of this show is far more on decorative creations of deliciousness, with demonstrations and workshops in chocolate, sugarcraft and general cake decoration, plus competitions, book launches, talks and a Wedding Cake Showroom.  This is definitely a show for people who are passionate about decorating their cakes, but it’s open to amateurs as well as professionals.
As well as This Morning’s Phil Vickery, you also might catch a glimpse of Paddi Clark, Rosalind Chan, Eddie Spence MBE, Jan Clement-May, Susanna Righetto, Miranda Gore Browne, Makiko Searle, Rosalind Chan, Mark Tilling, Alan Dunn, Ceri DD Griffiths, Carlos Lischetti or Susan Griffiths.  Wow!  That’s a lot of knowledge under one roof!
The event will take place at the Farnham Maltings on 15th, 16th and 17th March 2013 and a one-day ticket is only £10 until 31st January. To buy tickets and to find out more about what’s on, visit www.squires-exhibition.co.uk. According to Squire’s, tickets sold out last year so early booking is recommended.

Posted: 06/03/2013 17:35:52

Brighton Pier Great Cake Places Adventure
I’ve seen the sun this week!  (Please come back!) Perhaps this long, long Winter might actually end soon.  I decided this would be the perfect time, as thoughts of seaside visits start to creep into your thoughts, to tell you about our great cake quest to Brighton and Hove.
If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you’ll know that we’ve begun our cake adventure across Britain, scouring the country to find the best places to eat cake.  A few weeks ago I ventured South, on a thankfully mild Saturday, to visit Brighton and Hove.  It was a wonderful, gluttonous day as I raced around the city tasting as many cakes as I could, meeting wonderful bakers and chefs and café owners.
Apple &Hazelbut Tart at Sugardought Bakery in Hove
In the coming weeks we be plotting the best venues for cake on our online Great Cake Places map so you will be able to view all of these and more.  For now, in hopes of sunny weekends ahead requiring beachside daytrips, here are some recommendations for Great Cake Places in Brighton and Hove.  Please let us know in the comments below if you’ve been to any of these or would recommend others!
 Treacle & Co Victoria Sponge in Hove
Treacle & Co 
So many cakes!  More than twenty cakes at any one time, most of them made inhouse.  The mind boggles with choice here.  Everything from pistachio & rose to chocolate, cherry and lemon and a wonderful three-layer Victoria sponge with a twist: it includes lavender as well.
Masters of decoration! You’ll know Choccywoccydoodah from their UKTV Food show, series 4 starting soon!  Go and marvel at their incredible cake and chocolate creations.
Julien Plumart Patisserie Brighton macarons

Patisserie Julien Plumart and Cocoa Patisserie  
Surely the finest patisserie in Brighton.  Owner and Patisserie chef, Julien Plumart, creates stunning looking and divine tasting tarts, cakes and macarons.
 Brighton beach Great Cake Places Adventure

Marwood Café 
A very funky coffee shop with at least two monster-sized, “life changing” cakes on show.  Homemade and utilising unusual ingredients.  Mind the marvellous loos!
Blackbird Tea Rooms
A selection of homemade cakes that taste as delicious as they look, almost like they’ve walked out of a Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.
 Sticky Pecan Buns at Flourtown Bakery in Brighton

Flourtown Bakery
American baking has a strong influence here.  Try the Pecan Buns, oozing with sticky goodness; a tower of gorgeous layer cake; or Oatmeal & Maple scones, US style: that’s right, they’re iced.  Every single item is made from scratch in the kitchen behind the counter, including the croissants and the puff pastry!
Queues are out the door for bread and patisserie at this rustic bakery. Once it’s gone it’s gone, I watched owner and baker, Kane, have to disappoint several customers in the early afternoon.  It’s a shame for them they didn’t console themselves with a piece of his incredible flourless chocolate cake.
 Metro Deco Cakes Brighton

How could you not instantly fall in love with this steamy (literally, and figuratively) parlour of glamour?  A gorgeous vintage theme and a bar burgeoning with cakes that are homemade by a variety of local women.  They even offer tea-based cocktails in tea pots!
Grocer & Grain
Primarily a grocers, there is always a small selection of cakes that tend to be include some made from some kind of fruit or vegetables.  Co-owner Lizzie calls it “upcycling the vegetables”. Genius.
 Koba Cafe Mud Pie in Brighton

Koba Café
Their mud pie is more tart than cake – not that it ever tried to pretend to be anything else!  Regardless, I was glad I took the recommendation and bought a slice to take away.  It is surprisingly and addictively good.  The lemon drizzle cake that I rejected it for looked pretty special too.
 Cloud 9 Cakes in Brighton Great Cake Places Adventure

Cloud 9
All about cupcakes and ice cream, both made in-house.  Paul and Hannah will always with some other cake on offer as well.  The cupcakes are excellent, where the sponge is fresh and tasty and the frosting compliments it just right.  Check out their dessert club evenings for a real treat.
Angel Cupcakes
Judging just from the one carrot cupcake we tried, I’d say Angel fits the bill of cupcakes that are more than just sweetness and light.  They kindly opened the door after hours for me to try this one that was left.  I’d love to try more.
Are these the best cakes in Brighton? If there are any other cake shops you would recommend please click here to tell us your suggestions! 
Flourtown bakery banana cake BrightonBrighton Sunset

Posted: 06/03/2013 12:09:57

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Great Cake Places Blog

Jennifer Earle

Welcome to the Great Cake Places blog. I'm Jennifer Earle, the Content Director for Allegra Publications. I love cake. All kinds of cake. Lemon drizzle, coffee & walnut, chocolate, ginger, carrot… I love trying new cakes and baking them too. I’'m particularly obsessed with chocolate and quite partial to cheese scones, straight from the oven, spread with real butter. This job makes me a very happy girl. Please do register for access to discounts we’'ll be adding and say hi in the comments of the blog!

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Right now we'’re travelling the country researching our new book, Great Cake Places Britain.  We will be updating this blog every few weeks with new pictures, recipes, shop openings and general cake-related news.  If you would like to write a guest post, please get in touch.

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