The Cake and Bake Show – What I Really Thought

This past weekend finally saw the highly anticipated Cake and Bake Show come to London. The Cake and Bake Show was labeled as “the first live event dedicated to the world of cakes, breads and the art of baking.”

The show had a star studded line up of demonstrators and guest speakers set to appear including British baking royalty Marry Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mitch Turner, Eric Lanlard, Peggy Porschen and more.

I hadn’t actually planned on attending The Cake and Bake Show as I’d already attended two cake and sugarcraft shows (Squires & Cake International) earlier in the year, and acquired enough new equipment, lustre dusts and colourings to last me at least a year.  

The two day Cake and Bake Show had been sold out for weeks.  As I hadn’t intended on going I didn’t arrange for a press ticket, but then didn’t want to appear cheeky by requesting one at the last minute.  So when I got an email two weeks before the event stating that additional tickets for the Sunday show had been released, I bought one and decided that attending another cake show couldn’t hurt.  In addition to my entry ticket I also bought a “classroom” ticket to the Hand Painted Cakes session.  I’d missed out on some of the free classes at the Cake International show that allowed you to decorate cupcakes, and learn new cookie decorating techniques amongst others.  I thought that by booking a space in the classroom I would be guaranteed a seat and also be supplied with some materials to practice on during the class.  I was wrong, but I’ll come back to that part later.

First things first. I arrived at Earls Court around 10:30am, and was cheerfully ushered inside by a venue staff member.  I was really excited to see there weren’t any long lines to get in, and assumed I would be able to walk straight into the show.  Nope. Upon walking down a small flight of stairs and turning the corner my heart sank when I saw the excessively long line to enter the show.  In fact I couldn’t see then beginning of the line and I couldn’t see the end either.  I ended up waiting in line in the dimly lit basement corridors of Earls Court for nearly half an hour before I got into the show.

The crowd to see Marry Berry.  Don’t worry – you’re not the only one who can’t spot her!

When I did finally get in, I wasn’t prepared for just how busy the show would be.  It was packed.  Marry Berry was on stage doing a demonstration, but the crowds were so thick I couldn’t even see the stage.  I had no idea where to go or what to see, so I tried to find a printed map of the show I could take with me, only to discover that I would have to pay £3 for a show guide and map.  I didn’t buy it incase I needed the cash later in the day.   I walked past the stage to explore the  and ventured into the classroom area, which was quite bare and quiet compared to the main part of the show.   It was here that discovered the class I booked, wasn’t in fact an interactive class, but just a seat I’d secured in a demonstration area.  I was beyond disappointed, and genuinely felt that I’d been “had”.  Especially when I noticed non-paying onlookers watching the exact same demonstrations while standing just outside the classroom paid “VIP” area. 

To avoid paying £3 for a show guide I had to take a photo of the map on my phone. Notice the confusing floor layout

I made my way back to the main room to explore what was on show, but found the layout to be extremely confusing.  I ended up wasting a lot of time wandering around looking for specific booths, and even ended up needing directions via twitter on where the book store and signing area was.  In the end I ended up taking pictures of the classroom schedules and show layout on my iphone from one of the 3 large display boards that were scattered around the show so I’d have something to refer to because I didn’t fork over the £3 for the show guide.  

Marry Berry (a tad blurry) seconds before she was escorted away by security

Apologies for the horrific quality and lack of photos from the show, but it was so crowded I didn’t take many.

One of the “classroom” areas – £8 to sit down inside the “VIP” area, Free to stand and watch outside

I really can’t comment on the rest of the show because it was so ridiculously crowded and poorly laid out that I couldn’t muster up the energy to push my way through the crowds. In the end I spent the majority of my time waiting for and watching a couple of the smaller demonstrations, which also allowed me to sit down.  I did explore the retail stalls nearer to the end of the show once the crowds had thinned out.  The retails stalls were a lot of the same ones I’d seen at Cake International earlier in the year, but with a much smaller selection of products and mainly geared to cupcakes, and a bit of sugarcraft.  Aside from a few specialty flour sellers, I saw very little in the way of baking anything other than cupcakes.  I will say that I was very impressed with the colour range of the Squires Kitchen cupcake cases though.

I sat in on Peggy’s hand moulded rose demonstrations which was excellent

Peggy demonstrating how to make her signature “vintage bloom” sugar flowers

Negatives aside, I accomplished what I wanted to get out of the show.  I managed to purchase Edd Kimber’s new book, and have him sign it.  I even got to see Marry Berry up close before she was whisked away by her team of security (15 minutes prior to the scheduled end of her book signing I might add).  I got to sit in on two excellent flower demonstrations by Peggy Porschen and her team – both free, and in a more private setting with better lighting than the rest of the paid classrooms.  And I really did enjoy the hand painted cakes class instructed by Natasha Collins of Nevie-Pie Cakes.  I came away with a clear understanding of what materials and techniques are involved in order to create gorgeous hand painted cakes and cookies, but I only wish we would have had a chance to put some of those techniques to use on a fondant covered cookie.

Natasha’s hand painted cakes demo – she made it look sooo easy!

The Goods: 

– If you’re willing to brave the crowds, you had the chance to get up close and personal with your favourite celebrity bakers.
– There looked like there was a lot to keep kids occupied (cupcake decorating, demo watching, etc)
– If you were looking for funky cupcake cases there were TONS available
– There were some excellent free demonstrations, although seating was very limited
– The retail stalls allowed you to see and purchase physical products rather than ordering them online. 
– The Book People were selling a great range of recipe books at online prices – I was thrilled that I was able to purchase Edd’s book for £10 rather than the £19 cover price

The Bads:

– Tired venue and very confusing layout. It was also very poorly lit.
– Too much focus on cupcakes
– The lines for the bathrooms were crazy long.  I had my first drink of the day at 3pm in order to avoid having to go to the bathroom
– Ticketed demonstrations were easily watched by onlookers for free & we weren’t given the opportunity to practice what we learnt.
– The crowds.  I’d recommend the organisers look to extend future shows to 3 days
– There was a lack of actual cake & snacks that were available to purchase and eat on the spot.  The venue cafe actually ran out of sandwiches, so all the was available to eat were crisps and brownies that weren’t even supplied by any of the independent businesses involved with the show.  I ended up spending £4.10 on a small glass bottle of pepsi and a bag of crisps.

Top Tips:

– Bring cash – a lot of the independent stalls only accept cash
– If your making larger purchases, ask the stalls to keep them behind the counter for you (with your name firmly secured on them to ensure they’re not re-sold!) until you’re ready to leave
– Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing
– Bring your own water bottle, and a light snack in your handbag
– Arrive early (and I mean early!) to ensure you bag a good seat for any of the free demonstrations
– Go with a plan of what you want to see, and when & where they’ll be appearing in order to avoid wandering around aimlessly

I really hope the organisers of the Cake and Bake Show will take all of the reviews that are being discussed and blogged about at the moment into consideration in preparation of the next Cake and Bake Show this April Manchester.

So what about you guys?  Did you go to the Cake and Bake Show?  What did you think?

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