Sunday, 27 January 2013

Edinburgh Cake Ladies - East West Cake Event

In December I signed up for an Edinburgh Cake Ladies event, they are a group of bakers (not just ladies!) in the city that meet up throughout the year to share their creations each other and eat loads of tasty cake. They organise regular events with different themes and in January they held their biggest get together yet, East West Cake, where they were joined by a group of Glasgow bakers for a serious cake-off. I'd been reading about their cake exploits online for a while but this was the first time I had actually applied for a place and gone along.

Cake as far as the eye can see...
Despite it's popularity I'm not someone that does a lot of baking, though I'd like to do more. At Ballymaloe I learnt loads on the subject but back home it never seems right to bake for only one or two people. I don't have a huge family up here to feed all the cake to and I don't want to end up the size of a house eating it all! Being the office feeder has never appealed and it's also a bit science-y for me, with all the stretching proteins, bubbles of air and exact temperatures. I've always been a far more intuitive cook, before Ballymaloe I rarely measured anything and only started getting interested in the science of food once I realised it would make me a better one.

However baking is both scientific and creative and that creative side definitely appeals to me, I loved making cakes as a child and decorating them from recipes in a Jane Asher cook book. My mother still tells the story of us dancing along to the sound of the Kenwood Chef (dear lord...) and I have cooked loads of tasty cakes over the years, this time though, I was a bit out of practice.

Ahead of this cake extravaganza I planned on making an Italian cake 'Torta Mimosa' from Tessa Kiros' gorgeous book Limoncello & Linen Water. The theme was 'showstopper cakes', this one is decorated to resemble mimosa blossoms, bright yellow from lots of organic yolks, a bit like a sweet version of the Eggs Mimosa dish at Ballymaloe. I thought it fitted the bill, yes I would have time to rustle up some crystallized flowers for the top! Christmas came and went, then the flurry of Hogmanay, January was racing by and suddenly I had no time to practice a cake that required 10 eggs and a bottle of Limoncello. I consider a bottle of Limoncello a sound investment but I didn't want to risk taking something I'd never made before. What if it was a disaster, these ladies' cakes are really good...

My three layer coffee cake, with chocolate curls
Yes, I wussed out and instead made the delicious coffee cake we had at Ballymaloe. I'd made the chocolate cake that week but the differences are really only in the flavouring and icing, and I had most of the ingredients in. I baked a third layer to give it a bit more height, and added additional decoration to the top of dusted cocoa powder and homemade dark chocolate curls. The cake itself has a really intense coffee flavour, especially from the icing and cream, the sponge itself is a bit more delicate and balanced but still strong enough for a coffee fiend like me. There's no chopped or ground nuts in it, it's pure coffee, although I did add halved walnuts at the base and covered the top in cocoa and chocolate curls.

Once the cake was made (recipe in my next post), on its stand and safe in a cardboard box it was time to set off. Carrying it down from the second floor, across the icy pavements, into the car, and keeping it save driving across town was a challenge. "Not the cobbles!" I cried to my poor driver, protective of my precious cargo. Good job I wasn't going to Glasgow, my heart was in my mouth the whole time and we only drove two miles. I've since discovered the sensible thing to do for these things is buy a plastic cake carrier, then assemble it on the stand at the venue. Lakeland, here I come.

The event itself was great, the cake made it there in better shape than me after the journey and took its place with all the other fabulous cakes on display. There were all types, chocolate, chocolate and fruit, gingerbread and Guinness, Malteser, pavlova, carrot, tortes, cakes with macaroons, I could go on and on. I tried as much as possible, I managed about five or six slices, some smaller than others. After that there was no way I could eat anything sweet for the rest of the day! A sugar coma beckoned...but I still took back a huge box full of cake and we ate the rest over the week. It was nice to meet some new people in Edinburgh who were all super friendly and hugely creative with their skills and ideas. I'm definitely looking forward to the next one.

Here are some pictures of the fab cakes from the day:

This George Square cake was too good to eat!

Mine on the table


Nom nom

There's more...

...and more

The icing on this one was amazing!

Rosewater in this one was lovely

Yum!