Monday, 8 April 2013

The Cake and Bake Show - Manchester

This weekend it was food heaven in Manchester. It was the first Cake and Bake Show held at Manchester Central, (formerly G-Mex), in conjunction with It promised to be a cornucopia of all things baking and I bought our tickets weeks ago.

Salted Caramel Whoopie Pies

The recent resurgence in popularity of household crafts, particularly baking, saw the first ever Cake and Bake Show, held in London last year, sell out really quickly. It had over 21,000 visitors, so it was obvious that a regional venue would also be a popular choice. After all, baking is big business at the moment.

The website promised demonstrations, bake offs, a plethora of baking stars, book signings and tons of stands to peruse. There were to be areas dedicated to kids’ baking, cake decorating competitions and sugar craft.

We were genuinely excited as we entered the hall and immediately had mini pots of Bonne Maman jam and Green & Black's  white cooking chocolate thrust into our hands. That was a great start. We picked up our show programme and a bag that contained tubs of cake decorations. We went first to the Dr Oetker stand to browse their huge range of baking essentials and to pick up the first of many free bags, containing recipe cards, money off vouchers and cake decorations.

One of my favourite bakers, Stacie Stewart, The Beehive Baker was due to do a demonstration on Sainsbury's Competition Stage, so we made our way over and grabbed a seat. The area was tented and hung with bunting, giving the impression of being in The Great British Bake Off marquee. It was packed and once all the seats were taken people simply sat on the floor.

The Teen meets The Beehive Baker, Stacie Stewart

Wendi Peters, the former star of Coronation Street and Celebrity Masterchef contestant, bounced on to the stage and introduced Stacie. She appeared with her trademark beehive perfectly coiffured by her own fair hand and wearing a gorgeous pale blue 60‘s shift dress of her own design. As well as being a top notch baker, she is also a Northern Soul DJ and had been at an all-nighter until 5am that morning but she looked as fresh as a daisy. Stacie is a Mackem, a resident of Sunderland and is very proud of her North Eastern roots. So whilst she made a perfect Tarte Tatin, she kept us entertained with comic stories of her upbringing and her beloved Nanna, whom she attributes with having taught her to cook.

Me and fellow baking enthusiast Wendi Peters

At the end of her demo, Stacie made time to talk people, sign programmes and have her photo taken. The Teen and I were at the front of the queue and were not disappointed. She is a very normal, down-to-earth girl, who just happens to have found a career in television.

Wandering the stands we found tiny artisan bakers, local pie makers, baking supplies, cooking focused magazines and all manner of baking related products. I could have spent a fortune but knowing my fondness for shopping I had set myself a budget, which I managed to stick to…just.

There was a stand being manned by a team from The Bakewell Baking Festival. This vintage themed event is to be held in the home of the venerated Bakewell pudding. In their words it will be “the world’s first Baking Festival entirely devoted to all things Baking with a Vintage twist! Held on 8th-9th June 2013.” Being vintage fans and bakers the Teen and I hastily noted this in our diaries.

Then it was back to the Sainsbury’s tent to watch Brendan Lynch and Cathryn Dresser, former competitors in The Great British Bake Off, guide members of the audience in a bake off competition. They had to bake Chocolate Chip cookies and it was hilarious. Cathryn decided that the amount of flour they had been given was too much and used only half. Once the cookies were baking she realised her mistake and then had everyone in stitches with her funny, self-deprecating comments. Brendan’s precision approach to baking was obvious when his perfect cookies came out of the oven. A team of children were chosen from the audience to come and judge the bake off and children being children chose Cathryn’s less than perfect cookies. Declaring them to be, “soft and crunchy at the same time,” “chocolately,” and “squidgy.” What more could you want?

Me and the lovely Brendan Lynch

When the demo finished The Teen and I went over to talk to Brendan and Cathryn. They were both very warm and friendly and happy to chat. It’s always a relief to encounter people who have found ‘fame’ but haven’t let it go to their heads.

Frankie and the very sweet Cat Dresser

My only criticism of the show was the advertised Tea Room. The website stated, “Visitors at the show will be able to take a break and join us for tea in our Tea Room, where an array of delicious cakes, scones, and sandwiches will be available…” and was accompanied by photos of tablecloths, china tea cups and scones oozing jam and cream. This conjured up images of a quaint, cosy, vintage style tea room created especially for the show. In reality, it was the usual, uninviting, impersonal, roped off area supplied by Manchester Central. All aluminium garden chairs and tables, mass catering and tea in a paper cup. It didn’t particularly spoil our enjoyment but it was definitely mis-sold. Maybe next year will be nearer the mark.

Over the three days, lots of baking stars appeared at the show, including three that I admire greatly and would have dearly loved to meet. A mix of restaurateurs‘, TV presenters and writers: Simon RimmerAndrew Nutter and Paul Hollywood. Sadly, these guys had been at the show one or the other of the two previous days.

Next year we shall have to book for all three days and we shall definitely be back. If you have a love of baking I would recommend it as a bake-tastic day out.



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