Our gastronomic corespondent Tammy Facey was at the NEC last week.
Cake International arrived at the Birmingham NEC Arena on Friday, and having attended from early morning, until it closed, I have to say it was fantastic. The exhibition hall was a sea of stalls and people, excitedly pouring over the array of cooking tools, icing sugar demonstrations, and chatting animatedly with the stall holders.
Most of the show-goers were women, around 90% in fact. I don’t believe baking is a gendered pastime, but most of the fellow attendees were female although the men that I did see seemed to be enjoying themselves and looked rather taken by the sheer volume and scale of design in the cakes competition area.
The show wasn’t somewhere to go for cake samples. I was expecting to be heavily fed with cupcakes, tray bakes and cookies but it was in fact a show about design, and how to decorate the perfect cake. There were countless stalls dedicated to cake decorating, little or small. Picture-perfect icing seemed the thing everyone wanted to know – how to do the fancy icing, and how to make the cake you’ve taken out of the oven look pretty. Most of the decoration stalls stocked the professional stuff, which everyone seemed to want to get their hands on.
Speaking of what everyone wants, the lady of the moment, Mary Berry, was in attendance and I was lucky enough to be sitting in the VIP area, when she was perched on the settee to my left. Firstly she looks incredible. Her poise and demeanour do nothing to indicate her age, her skin glowed and she’s also so slim – I’d love to know her secret.
We watched Mary’s demonstration, and as she took to the stage (after a fantastic introduction by Paul Da Costa Greaves), there was a loud applause, and it was truly one of the best parts of the show. She was funny, had the audience in fits of giggles, and her talent is unparalleled. Mary whipped, rolled, and spread with such ease and finesse, that you really wonder why people think baking is difficult. She explained the why and how behind each step, but also punctuated her demonstration with funny anecdotes about her family, experience and, of course, The Great British Bake Off. No doubt she was one of the catalysts for what I consider the nation of bakers we have turned into.
In the tool and baking essentials section, was of course the queen of baking tools, Luisa Zissman with her new brand: Bakers Toolkit. You could see it a mile off because it had the largest stand, and looked surprisingly professional with bright colours and what some may call a ‘fun’ design.
I got to chat with Luisa, who is an absolute delight. She featured as a finalist on the Apprentice, and finished runner-up. You wouldn’t have thought she’d come second judging by the misplay. It was bright and professional; Bakers Toolkit is the only brand on the market, which sells deep cupcake boxes – deep enough to carry cupcakes with very high icing. I’ve never seen it before, so she’s really filled a niche.
Professional roll out icing in a rainbow of bright colours were also on sale along with decorative pearl sugar balls. The fun and yet simple design would appeals to a younger audience and attracts the amateur baker (like myself).
As we made our way throughout the show we spotted classes taking place from animal shape-making demonstrations to chocolate truffle making classes, led by the professionals, and all of which were free to ticket holders.
There were a few bargains to had, which is always a feature of shows like thi.s Cookie cutters in silver and brass adorned the front of one stand and were marked at £1.50, whilst another featured vintage and kitsch tea towels and cutlery starting from £1.00.
Find Cake International in London and Leeds next year in March and April.