I’ve spent the last couple of days at the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show in Melbourne. So, judging by the crowds, has most of the rest of Melbourne, but just in case anyone missed it, I thought I’d write a bit about it.
I first heard about the show about a month ago, when my Entertainment subscription offered me two for one tickets. Of course, I took one look at the program and decided that what I really wanted was a three day ticket, but I also took the two for one deal so that I could invite a couple of friends along to hang out with me. The show promised to be a mixture of baking and decorating demonstrations, classes, and stalls, with a few competitions thrown in. Sort of like the Royal Melbourne Show, only all sugar, all the time.
I was a pretty easy sell, I have to say.
So on Friday, I headed over bright and early, arriving just after the doors opened at ten. I wanted to sign up for at least one of the decorating classes, and they had said you had to sign up on the day, first come, first served.
I was a little taken aback at the length of the queue to get in, but it moved fairly fast, and it wasn’t as busy inside as I’d feared. I signed up for the fondant modelling class, and also managed to sign up for one of Saturday’s classes, on cookie decorating. I’m not really much of a cake decorator when it comes to any of the traditional methods, so this seemed entirely worthwhile.
Then I began a methodical, booth-by-booth tour of the entire show, starting with the table displaying the winners of the cake decorating competition.
This had some pretty cool stuff.
It also had a huge number of people (I’m not actually misanthropic, though I realise it must sound that way. I just don’t like giant crowds), so I quickly moved on to where Savour was constructing a huge display of chocolate flowers in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record.
It was rather stunning.
I did ask one of the chocolatières at one point what they were going to do with it when it was done – it wouldn’t fit onto the big table at Savour – and she looked appalled at the very idea of having to transport it back anywhere. I would not be entirely surprised if people at the show late today were not able to buy pieces of it to take home…
Then I settled in for my tour of the various booths. This was fairly fun, though there was a fairly heavy skew towards booths selling fondant and things to do with fondant.
Still, several of my favourite patisseries were also represented – to my delight, À La Folie were there, and to my even greater delight, Mercede remembered me from my visit to the shop in South Yarra. I bought a box of her petits choux, which I adore, and Andrew was most amused, because when we got them out for dessert and I bit into the first one, I exclaimed “Oh my God, I’d forgotten how good the raspberry ones are…”, followed about five minutes later by “Oh my God, I’d forgotten how good the passionfruit ones are.”
I really do like those choux. You get no pictures because I had other priorities.
There was a shop selling vanilla and cinnamon and an amazing Rastafarian spice mix with cinnamon in it. I partook.
Cake Boss had a shop there, which had really interesting classes and cookware, but the queue was painfully long – I kept picking things up, joining the queue, and then deciding I couldn’t face the crowds, and putting things back again.
I spent fifteen minutes learning about different sorts of sugars from a CSR representative, which was fun, and tried a mango, popcorn and caramel éclair from the Cacao Lab, one of my favourite chocolatey shops in the CBD.
I found an amazing confectioner, called Sweetness, which sold the most incredible marshmallows – big and puffy and fruity and absolutely gorgeous.
There was a full-sized wedding chapel made entirely of cake and fondant, and I understand that a couple actually were married in it during the show. It even had a chaise long that appeared to be made of chocolate cake.
A friend of mine joined me for a bit with her baby, but couldn’t stay long, as said baby had not slept well and was not in a good mood – we looked at more stalls, and then I was seduced by the bookshop – which sold only dessert and baking cookbooks. This was a problem. A three-book problem, really. But I regret nothing – I’ve never seen a book on frozen yoghurts before, and I’ve never regretted buying a book by Belinda Jeffreys, either. As for the confectionery book – it had pomegranate and blood orange Turkish delight, and sherbet, and as if that was not enough, a recipe for making sugar crystal lollipops by forming crystals on the end of a sugar-coated stick dipped in syrup that reads more like a science experiment than a recipe. It’s a week-long process, and I am *strongly* tempted to set it up on my windowsill at work.
We did find a shop, Oz Tukka, that was selling really interesting gluten-free muffin mixes featuring Australian native ingredients – I bought the one with Davidson plum, and my friend chose the lemon myrtle.
I had rather wanted to see Adriano Zumbo on the stage, but it turned out that everyone else in Melbourne felt the same way, so I decided to do without, and instead take advantage of the fact that there was absolutely no crowd at Cake Boss to book in a class for the next day. Result!
My day ended with a class on making fondant decorations, and this was, quite frankly, extremely disappointing – the woman running the class knew about how to make decorations, and she also knew how to teach, but she did not have the faintest idea how to run a class – we spent the first few minutes being rushed through things (in ways that meant that my fondant really wasn’t very nice to work with), and then we slowed right down so that I spent quite a lot of the class doing nothing and waiting to be told what was next, and finally inventing my own decorations so that I’d have *something* to take home.
Altogether, it was a mildly disappointing first day. I might not have gone back on the Saturday had it not been for my tickets to classes, and my plans to meet another friend there.
Saturday started ominously – the queue this time was so long that after fifteen minutes of waiting, I realised that I was about to miss my first class. Fortunately, when I indicated this to a staff member, and showed her my receipt, she was able to ring around and find out what to do, and the result was that I was let out of the queue and allowed to go in. This was very kind, and a great relief.
And the first class – rose cupcakes with the Cake Boss people – was fantastic. This was a much smaller group – only eight people allowed per class – and we were shown how to pipe roses in buttercream, and how to decorate them with glitter (which covers a multitude of sins. And also anything you touch for days afterward.).
The class was well-thought-out – we only learned, really, the one technique, but it was tricky enough that it was good to have four cupcakes to practice on, and plenty of time in which to play around with it – there was no sense of rush, and a real sense of having learned something and practiced it at the end.
And we got a showbag, too, with piping tips and bags, a rolling pin for fondant, and cookie cutters. Altogether, a very good deal for $30, and I’m glad I was able to go to it.
I then went and met my friend, and we settled down at the KitchenAid stand to watch Tim Clark of Cacao Lab make cocoa pop eclairs. This was excellent fun. Also, I may have a bit of a crush on Tim Clark – he is very good looking, makes beautiful éclairs, and I was amused by the way he was so lovingly fondling his KitchenAid. This was also kind of hot. (Mind you, it’s also true that I totally want a KitchenAid, and would probably fondle mine, too, if I had one.)
We were told that there were éclairs to be had for those who asked questions. I had absolutely no trouble coming up with a question (about using non-dairy milks in éclairs – to which the answer was, no reason why that wouldn’t work), and then later another question (about how long you could keep the eclair pastry before baking it, if you made a huge batch but only had a home oven – the answer was that it would store nicely in the fridge, covered closely in cling-wrap, and overnight if need be) which I farmed out to my friend, because it seemed rude to get all the éclairs for myself.
So that was pretty awesome, and my friend has forgiven me for making her ask questions, which she really doesn’t like doing in public – possibly because she was told it was a really good question, and there were several follow-ups to it.
We then went for a bit of a wander, to pick up a vanilla showbag that my friend had her eye on, and also a lot of fondant, because we are shameless and we were going to a cookie decorating class later on. Adriano Zumbo was on again, so we decided that now was the time to go back to the Cake Boss stall for the things I now coveted after that class – and my friend talked me in to buying another, bigger showbag, because it had several of the things I was coveting, and would cost less than buying them separately.
So I now have all sorts of goodies, including an embossing rolling pin, and a flower power cake decorating set that was just sort of a bonus in the bag and instantly became my favourite thing in it.
And when I say it became my favourite thing… I’ve already used it, along with the embossed rolling pin, some of the fondant I bought, and the chocolate icing mix that CSR gave me, to decorate a cake to within an inch of its life this evening…
It was time for another break from crowds, so we went back to the KitchenAid stage (which really was a good place to spend the weekend – I should have done that on Friday) to watch Anna Polyviou from Shangri-La in Sydney demonstrate her Berry Me In Cheese Push Pops. This turned out to be unexpectedly hilarious. Anna Polyviou has a big mohawk and a bigger personality, and likes things to be fun and funky, so everyone had to get up and dance a lot, and then she decided that instead of doing a demo, it would be much more fun if everyone came up on stage and assembled their own goodies. The host was a bit concerned about the impending chaos of this, but it seemed to work. So we all danced up in groups, and assembled push pops, and also got to make fairy-floss around an Adriano Zumbo Redskin macaron on a stick.
(Again, no photos, I was too busy dancing, and then both my hands were full. But let me set it down on record that I need a fairy floss machine in my life. That was brilliant fun.)
We went for another wander, and spent a while admiring the wares at Lehane’s Fine Stationery, where they make the most beautiful and creative cupcake wrappers. I love the way they have beautiful, intricate hearts and butterflies and wedding-ish or baby shower-ish designs, but also dinosaurs and skulls and crossbones and cars and such. Sadly, some of her wares had been stolen overnight, so I was unable to buy the dinosaurs I had been coveting. I did buy some very beautiful music score cupcake wrappers, though.
We now had about half an hour before our next class, and so we decided to go and sit down in a corridor for a bit. This may sound strange, but the venue was so full and so noisy that it was actually a little painful to be inside. So we sat on the floor and kind of decompressed a bit before the cookie decorating class.
And this was a good class – we were given four cookies on sticks (to make a bouquet), and a box for them, and then all the materials we needed to make our cookies. We were shown how to roll out fondant, how to emboss it with embossing sheets or with pastry wheels, how to stick it to cookies, and how to press it into molds and use embossing cutters. The designs we were given were pretty cute, too. It was an absolute contrast to the first class – we had plenty of time to work (I got a bit ahead at one point, and a bit behind later, but I had time), and again, I felt like I’d learned to do some things, so that was fun.
My friend developed a little bit of a fixation on the holly cutter with the embossing section, and I admit, so did I (though my cookies did not achieve quite the same level of holly excess as hers). We have both decided that everyone is getting fondant-decorated cookies for Christmas…
And then – it was time to go home! Because staying even one moment longer would probably have led to bankruptcy on both our parts. We did buy some (savoury) pies on the way out, to take home for dinner and eat, in my case, with roast potatoes, roast asparagus, and broccoli ‘couscous’ – which was so wonderfully savoury after all that sugar that it tasted like ambrosia…
Day two of the show really was great fun, but nonetheless, I decided that two days were enough, and I did not use my three-day ticket to visit the show again today. Frankly, I don’t have enough self-control to go back there without buying more cake decorating goodies or confectionery. I’ve already identified in myself a need for a blowtorch and lollipop candy molds, and I don’t think that it is in my interests to go hunting for them when I know very well that I will also find other things that I also ‘require’.
Also, I couldn’t face the crowds again. I have to say, while it was a pretty good expo in terms of content, I do think perhaps it could have been better organised, especially in terms of managing queues, space, and people. There was a whole area that was left largely unused, while other areas were almost impassable – not the best use of space. And while the classes were perfect for a relative beginner like me, I’m not sure I’d have got so much of a kick out of the event if I had been an accomplished decorator.
But even with these minor issues, it was a good couple of days. I’ll probably go back next year – but I don’t think I’ll buy a three day ticket again, and I’ll definitely be leaving all my cards at home, or at least staying away from the dessert cookbook stall. It’s just too dangerous to my budget.