We are currently clued to the screen every Tuesday evening loudly encouraging our favourite bakers on in their Great British Bake Off challenges. The painstaking level of detail and imagination deployed by the contestants under pressure and against the clock makes for riveting television. The high levels of skill in cake decoration and sugarcraft is particularly enjoyable to watch and contributes in large part to the appeal of the show.
Revival in Home Baking
There is no doubt that the GBBO has revived interest in home baking which has seen a resurgence in appeal in the last few years. In the last series on the BBC in 2016, nine of the top ten most-watched programmes of the year were episodes of the show, with an extraordinary 16.03 million viewers watching the finale. Figures for Channel 4 (now in the second year of airing the series) have dipped somewhat but still attract a more than respectable average of 9 million viewers per episode.
It is of course the season for baking as the autumnal chill sets in. The cake trade show season is in full swing in the UK with The Cake and Bake Show taking place in London’s Excel on October 5-7th and Cake International in the Birmingham NEC on November 2-4th.
At these shows the art (for it is an art) of sculpting, modelling, stencilling, shaping, garnishing and piping is imparted through demonstrations, workshops and knowledge sharing. Flowers, people, clothes, animals, seasonal decorations – literally anything that can be shaped and moulded is up for grabs. Such is the current interest in cake decorating, that enthuasiasts can now even subscribe to a dedicated channel Cake Decorating TV where experts deliver a series of online cake making tutorials, suitable for both beginner and professional cake decorators.
Sugarcraft in particular has an appeal that reaches hobbyist, home bakers, retailers, manufacturers and professionals alike. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive craft to learn. My own modest efforts (do cake pops count?) have provided a sense of satisfaction that is hard to equal!
And so to this wonderful Celtic Cakers book, which was compiled and launched earlier this year by Corinna Maguire, an award winning cake decorator. It is a beautifully photographed and illustrated photo tutorial book which features some of Ireland’s top cake decorators with their wealth of styles and techniques.
Not just for the more accomplished “caker”, the book is accessible to all skill levels with several beginners tutorials providing step by step, photographed instructions. The Seaside Wedding (above) is on the more challenging end of the scale with quite exquisite ropework. The Wooly Lamb (below, intermediate level) is simply adorable.
More than a guide, the book is also a showcase of Ireland’s considerable talent in cake decorating, taking us on a journey around Ireland, its fabulous landscapes and introducing the Celtic Cakers and their stories. Corinna hails from Alberta originally and credits an “Away with the Fairies” collaboration at the Dublin Sugarcraft Cake Competition in 2016 with her inspiration for this book.
Among the other bakers featured in this book are Caryna Camerino, co-incidentally also Canadian, who runs Camerino Bakery in Dublin’s Capel Street. Specialising in cookies, brownies and tray bakes, Camerino recently opened a second outlet on Merrion Square East in Dublin.
Also included is Dublin based Karen Geraghty, a self-taught cake maker and decorator, of Bake Cake Create and South African born Tanya Ross, who runs Novel-T School of Cake in Moate, Co Westmeath, making cakes to order and teaching sugarcraft.
The Celtic Cakers book is available in good book stores or on Amazon.