Review: Cake International – Part #2


Welcome to the second part of my review of the 18th Cake International – The Sugarcraft, Cake Decorating & Baking Show – at EventCity in Manchester. If you haven’t read part #1, click here to read.

 Review Part #2
John Whaite

John Whaite


I headed back to Cake International on it’s third and final day in Manchester to see The Great British Bake Off’s winner John Whaite’s demonstration. John showed us how to make his Midnight Blues Tart from his new book, which is called “John Whaite Bakes: Recipes for Every Day & Every Mood”. He wrote the whole book himself and it is divided into chapters based on how you’re feeling and what you might want to make in that mood. Such as hungover, happy or sad. I thought this was a really unique idea and I’m looking forward to the book being released!


He made the tart using sable pastry, which is a very rich sweet shortcrust pastry. John is currently studying a patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu in London. He told us he was putting on weight from eating his work! He also said that he has moved to London for the course and people aren’t as happy there as they are in the North. He was glad to be back in Manchester! The recipe for the Midnight Blues Tart will be in John’s new book, but he said if you tweet him (@JohnWhaiteBakes) he will send you the recipe, which I thought was really nice of him!


I was interested to hear from John that you can infuse eggs with vanilla because the shells are porous. I looked into this further and you can infuse them with lots of flavours. He also told us how to make vanilla bean paste out of leftover vanilla pods. You can find out more here. John also had a tip to avoid the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’, he said you can brush chocolate over the pastry as a seal to stop the pastry going soggy. A great and delicious idea!


John’s mum was in the audience and he told us that he’d made her shortbread for Mother’s Day and taken her out for dinner, but still got asked where her present was! He also talked about Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. According to John, Paul is one of the nicest men you can know, and it’s a bonus that he can cook. And Mary Berry told him that if something falls on the floor, as long as nobody sees it happen, just pick it up and put it back in the pan – great advice if you ask me!


The filling for the Midnight Blues Tart was blueberries and Limoncello liquor. I love lemon and blueberry together – a great flavour combination. He finished the tart with blue glitter and edible gold stars. I really want to try this recipe out!


The audience got to ask some questions at the end. John said that Paul’s technical challenges were the worst as he left a lot of information out of the recipe. He never wants to see another fondant fancie ever again! John provided tips on making eclairs, piping and pastry. He recommended using vegetable shortening to practise your piping, advised us to chill our pastry before baking to avoid shrinkage and to fill up the tin with baking beans. There was also a really sweet 7 year old boy who asked John how old he was when he started baking – John was 4 years old – and told John how he’d helped make £200 for Comic Relief with his baking. So cute!



John’s book is out at the end of April and he will be doing a book signing on Saturday 27th April at 11am in Selfridges at the Trafford Centre, and at 3pm at Waterstones in Wigan.


There were several opportunities at Cake International to get involved and try out some baking and sugarpaste skills for yourself. The first I came across were The British Sugarcraft Guild’s ‘A Taste Of Sugar’ Mini Workshops. These workshops were specially designed for people new to sugarcraft to get a hands on experience and learn the techniques of crafting with sugarpaste.


The marzipan roses above are an example of what beginners can achieve with expert help!


Xanthe Milton aka ‘Cookie Girl’ was hosting live competitions where visitors had the chance to compete against each other with their piping skills to win prizes! Xanthe has gained a cult following from her YouTube channel and decorating classes in London.


She demonstrated both basic and advanced piping techniques to the crowd before six people could have a go themselves. There were four opportunities per day to take part and prizes offered included electric hand whisks.


Sean Bird is a chef, food writer and columnist who has worked in many top kitchens around the world. I saw him demonstrating one of his recipes at the Manchester Food Festival last year and have been a fan ever since. Sean was the expert leading the demonstrations in the Baker’s Dozen live theatre –  a new feature at the Cake International shows. 12 people could take part, each with their own cooking station, in making sponges, pastry or dessert.


The other great thing about these workshops, besides getting expert assistance and tips, is they are also free of charge! You just have to hurry in the morning and be the first to sign up.




Renowned chocolatier David Leslie was offering workshops every day at the show. With more than 20 years experience as a chocolatier, David Leslie is also a Le Cordon Bleu Patissier. He makes bespoke handmade truffles, couture chocolate wedding cakes and celebration cakes. There were free demonstrations happening at his stall and several youngsters were getting involved and making chocolate roses.


In the free workshops, you could also learn how to make heart shaped truffles and praline truffles.


For an extra price, you could spend two hours with David learning all the basics of chocolate and take home 20 truffles with four different fillings all made yourself. I would have loved to do this as I’d really like to learn more about working with chocolate and have some hands on experience with an expert guiding me.


How gorgeous are these Easter eggs?! I especially love the shimmering purple one!

I really enjoyed the time I spent at Cake International and I would recommend it to anyone interested in cakes and baking. The show does focus mainly on cake decoration, such as sugarpaste, and icing tricks and techniques, but that doesn’t mean hardcore bakers won’t enjoy themselves too! Even as someone who has only used sugarpaste a handful of times, I loved looking at all the gorgeous cakes. It’s essentially cake art, and just because I can’t make it, doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at it! So even if sugarpaste frightens you, don’t let it put you off visiting Cake International.


I really liked all the different elements of the show, depending on what you’re after or what mood you’re in, you can do a bit of browsing, watch a demonstration, or take part and make something with expert help. There’s plenty to keep you interested over the whole three days, and I’d say a three day ticket is essential. Please let me know if you attended Manchester Cake International in the comments section!

If you missed Cake International in Manchester you can catch it again at the ExCeL in London (April 2013), the SECC in Glasgow (October 2013) and the NEC, Birmingham (November 2013). Check out the website for more details and to buy tickets!

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Another great post Kat. I am so chuffed to learn that Mary Berry and I have the same thoughts along the lines of the ten second rule i.e. if no one saw it, serve it anyway!

  2. Wow. Reading this I feel like a) I really wish I'd been there, and b) I actually was! What a great review and John's book sounds like a revelation! What a great idea 🙂

Leave a Reply