On Saturday evening I went to the first ever Cake & Bake Show at Earl’s Court. I had late entry tickets as I had been busy in the day and was looking forward to it all week. I took to the event’s website to try to come with a bit of a battle plan for when I arrived there so that I wouldn’t have to waster precious time deciding what to do when I got there.
The first thing that I will say, and I know that this is because I am events professional and just notice these things without even trying, but poor queue management, oh and poor signage. Unfortunately they didn’t seem to have taken into account that they had sold x number of late entry tickets and that people would have to collect their physical tickets and then walk about 5 yards to hand over said ticket in order to then be able to enter the venue. For a while I wasn’t even sure if I was in the correct queue, and I don’t think that anyone else was either but when I made it into the building after queuing for a bit, they then decided that if you had either a print out of your ticket order confirmation, or the email on your phone, then you didn’t need to queue to collect a physical ticket and could just go straight through. A little bit annoying if I’m honest.
The show was in part of the exhibition centre that I have never been to before. The entrance was round the back next to Earl’s Court 2 and opposite West Brompton, and then upstairs. Very narrow escalator. Immediately on entering the show you were faced with a large number of people, as is always the case with these sorts of things, crowded around the stalls nearest to the entrance. Instead of trying to look at these stalls I decided to head into the middle and come back to these other stalls on my way out.
There were some amazing cakes on display which had been entered into the cake decoration competition. The standard was incredible and the majority of the cakes had been entered by non-professionals. I wish that my sugarcraft was up to these standards but frankly my sugarcraft falls considerably short of the mark. All the cakes had a beach theme and one of my favourites was the helter skelter beach cake. I would have liked to have spent longer looking at them but there was a large number of people and it wasn’t really possible to get close to a lot of them. I should really have sharpened my elbows more in preparation but I decided that I just couldn’t be bothered to fight against everyone else who obviously felt that their need to look was greater than mine so I wandered off elsewhere.
Betty Crocker – what place does this have at a Cake & Bake Show where one presumes that everyone attending is pretty into their baking and wouldn’t consider using a packet mix, or perhaps I’m wrong. I obviously know why they had such a large area as they were clearly one of the major event sponsors and this was part of their brand activation strategy, but it did feel a bit wrong to me that they had such a large area.
There were lots of masterclasses going on around the show that were being filmed so that they could be watched on large screens if you weren’t at the front. Unfortunately I had decided not to spend £3 on a show programme which meant that I didn’t know what classes were taking place where or when. In the grand scheme of things, £3 is not a lot to spend on a programme and were I at the theatre I wouldn’t have hesitated to spend it, but given that I thought I would be spending a lot of money on other bits and pieces, I thought that I should not spend the additional money. As it was, I didn’t spend as much money as I thought I might do, largely due to there not being many of the items that I had I thought would be there not being available to buy.
I don’t know exactly what I had expected from the show but it’s fair to say that it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Overall I was disappointed. There was a lot of repetition on the different stalls and the majority of the equipment and items on sale were for hard core sugarcrafters which I am not. My sugarcraft repertoire consists of penguins, snowmen, people (at a push) and not much more; mostly because I don’t ice a huge number of proper cakes. I predominantly make cupcakes, biscuits or chocolate caramel shortbread, and of course I now make macaroons. I think my baking is better described as ‘everyday baking’, the sort that doesn’t require a million elaborate moulds for different types of leaves and flowers.
I did try a cake pop while I was at the show and I still can’t decide if I liked them. I definitely didn’t enjoy the initial taste of them but it did improve with chewing but then come the next mouthful if would be the same slightly unpleasant taste all over again. I think I would probably need to try another one in order to make up my mind but I can’t really see myself rushing out to buy some based on my experience.
There were some lovely dessert table displays for weddings or parties but these felt very disconnected from the rest of the show. I think it would have been nicer if things like this had been in the centre of the event with the stalls surrounding them; personally I would have put the wedding cake display, dessert tables and cake competition entries all in the heart of the show without them being shoved off in various corners. Then the masterclass areas in each corner of the show – I’m picturing a huge square really and lots of bunting, or anything really to make it feel less stale.
I think it just felt like the whole event needed a bit more love putting into it. The bookshop was a great example of this; it was just a couple of trestle tables with a few books stacked on them. It would have been much nicer to have made it a little bit of a library with some chairs for people to sit down in and browse the books properly. There was plenty of space to do this and it was probably due to budget but it did look very unloved. The book signing ‘area’, or rather table just next to the book stand needed a lot of work and a few announcements about what was starting in the different areas wouldn’t have gone a miss.
Obviously I haven’t put in all of the aisles that would be needed but I have done my own little proposal for the layout; I would also put further concessions around the edges.
I did buy some beautiful cupcake cases from Squires Kitchen and some lovely sprinkles but I had wanted a macaroon tray, a new multi-layered cooling rack, maybe a new tin or two, and some more cake/baked goods transportation systems. I did see a couple from an Italian company but they were either too big or too small for my purposes. I was looking for a standard macaroon size tray but it was only possible to buy a tiny petit-four sized tray or a very large macaroon tray. They also had cupcake travel cases but nothing for other baked items that I could see. The whole event was very cake focused as opposed to baked goods in general.
I had also thought that there might be a few more multi-buy deals available but these were only available it seemed if you were in the market to buy several hundred cupcake cases. It was also clear that a lot of the stall holders were losing the will to live, and I can’t say that I really blame them. I was really keen to see ‘new’ things in the world of baking, new ideas, and exciting innovative tools to help you achieve great results at home but sadly I didn’t really find this. Maybe next year’s event will be a bit more exciting.