Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A whole new world - Brighton's Sugarcraft Exhibition

Last Saturday it just so happened that round the corner from our house, Brighton Racecourse was hosting a sugarcraft exhibition.  I had seen the event advertised in Peacehaven's lovely cake supplies shop Chatawak a couple of weeks ago and decided that it was an opportunity I shouldn't pass up. 
We had some friends coming round for lunch (Melissa reassured me that she wasn't missing out on coming along with me) so I made sure I was there when it opened up at 10am.  I had forgotten how unforgiving Brighton hills are on the walk up, and hoped that this was going to be worth the £5 ticket fee and my now perspiring brow.   Well if the queue at the gate was anything to go by then this was a bigger deal than I had originally thought:


I listened to other people in the queue lining up the demontrations they were going to - "Oh I've done Ruby Buffong's sweet peas before" was my favourite one - they were all so clued up on all the techniques and who the speakers were I felt like a real novice, and ever so slightly scared.  It was like I was about to enter the bizarre underground world of the cult of cake decoraters...

I'm not sure what I expected from the exhibition - maybe a few cakes on display, local shops and cake decorators with stalls showing their creations, maybe some samples to try, some things to buy.  Well cute little old ladies serving lemon drizzle with a cup of tea this was not.  There were industrial amounts of sugarpaste icing on for sale in flavours ranging from vanilla to marshmallow to chocolate and in every colour of the rainbow.  There were pots of coloured powders that stretched across tables several metres long and a metre deep in every kind of sparkle and lustre and hue that you could ever want or need.  There were cutters and tools, wires and flower stamens, icing pattenmakers, ribbons, cakeboards, decorating books, modelling designs - it was really overwhelming. 


And that's not even mentioning the displays.  Well I don't even think they were cakes, let alone was any of it designed to be eaten.  There were 20 or so displays measuring about 2 metres wide by 1 metre deep and 1 metre tall all with the theme of childrens books.  Here are a couple of them:



My favourite one was of two scenes from Brambley Hedge but unfortunately my photo of that one didn't come out.  I spoke to one of the ladies that made it - they made 120 mice figures of which they used 92 - a team of 22 had been working since January to make the display.  Madness.

Earlier this week I had felt pretty chuffed with myself for a wedding cake I had decorated that had some frangipani flowers that I had made from sugarpaste (photos to follow soon).  I felt like I may as well have made them out of playdough when I saw things like this:



I did pick up a couple of tips while I was there - using cocktail sticks and pipe cleaners to stabilise sugarpaste figures; how to shape a lily and colour it so that it looks natural using powder colours and a paintbrush; and realising that loads of people cheat and use moulds to create decorations for their cakes.  I might well invest in some - people will think my skills are so impressive :o) 

I'm really pleased I went, and maybe next time I will pay the extra to go to one of the demonstrations because sometimes it's not that easy trying to learn from a book.  I also picked up one of the powders which I will try for the first time this week to colour icing (I've only ever used coulouring pastes before), some pretty polkadot ribbon and a fine paintbrush which will be good for detailed work, plus I've got heaps of postcards with good websites to try for decorating supplies.

On my way back home I called Melissa to tell her how it went.  She asked if maybe I would like to enter the competition or have a stall when it comes back next time.  I had to laugh :o)


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