So, last week I had the opportunity to take part in an amazing event in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Cake Fest was organised by food innovator Simon Preston and took place in the Botanic Gardens – luckily (and surprisingly!) the sun shone all day, which made everything even more perfect for the thousands of visitors.
I decided to make the Balmoral hotel, an iconic building situated at number one Princes Street – Katy, the lovely lady in PR, answered all my questions and let me in a couple of times to take pictures of the building (the view from the roof is incredible!) and I set about building a model to base the cake on.
623 windows later, my model was complete and it sat in my living room for several weeks before it was time to start on the cake (I may have been a little over excited!). Finally, the day came where I could start baking! 300 eggs, 17 kilos of butter and almost 40 kilos of sugar were purchased and weighed, ready to be whisked and baked into 48 chocolate mud cakes (and one vanilla cake for the clock tower).
Now, I love baking – a little more than is probably healthy – but I have to admit that 40 odd cakes into this project, I was wilting slightly! My shoulder hurt from all the whisking, I’d run out of clean tea towels and there was SO much washing up to do (I didn’t sign up for that!) – but a good night’s sleep and the anticipation of cake building gave me some much needed motivation!
Somewhere between baking the first and 49th cake, Kaye from the evening news called me and I did my first ever interview! That afternoon a photographer, Scott, came to my flat and spent a good hour taking pictures for the Evening News, which was so much fun. The next day I was in a big article on page three (a LOT of jokes were made), with a wee bit on the front page too – my fifteen minutes of fame!
You can read the article here: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/bakers-make-giant-edible-cake-map-of-edinburgh-1-3803234
The building began. A day later than planned, but it was finally starting to vaguely resemble a building – progress!
I sectioned the cake into four quadrants, with different fillings in each: butterscotch, vanilla butter cream and jam, white chocolate ganache, and dark chocolate ganache with salted caramel – yum!
Once filled and stacked, I covered the whole cake in a layer of chocolate ganache to make it nice and smooth and give the sugarpaste something to stick to. At this point, my parents arrived to stay for a few days, which was lovely for me, but probably less lovely for them as they were put straight to work helping me cover the sides of the building, making royal icing and doing a lot (read: all) of the washing up – sorry guys!
When the sides were on, all the windows were measured and cut out and let me tell you, 623 windows is a lot of windows! The model was pretty useful at this point, but still cutting out all those rectangles with a scalpel is not a quick job. Apparently some people can make custom cutters for this sort of thing; sadly, I am not one of these people.
Then all the fiddly (fun!) bits were stuck on; turrets, decorative stone work and window ledges were moulded from sugarpaste and ‘glued’ (stuck with water) to the side of the cake. It was starting to look slightly more like the Balmoral at this point, which cheered me up a bit! I then dusted the sides with an edible food dust to give it a more authentic colour and texture and filled in all the windows which were then painted to differentiate the panes of glass.
Finally, Princes Street. I covered the front of the cake board in grey sugar paste and stuck on poppy seeds for the road surface – the finishing touches; road markings, flower beds, the hotel name and logo, and the flags were added and I was finished!
I did have more elaborate plans for Princes Street, but by this point it was 6 am and I decided to get an hour of sleep before getting up for Cake Fest!
7 am arrived (very quickly) and I got up to put the ribbon on the board, shower and panic a lot before my friend’s Dad came with his van to deliver the cake. I roped in a couple of friends, a couple of aunties, my parents, and Callum from the cafe across the road to help get the cake out the door.
Oh my God was it stressful.
The strongest of the team lifted the cake on two planks of wood (table and all!) and on to a wheely device – it got out the flat door completely unscathed, but trouble started when we got to the main door. Steps. Two of them.
To cut a long story short, half an hour later (after trapping three residents in the hallway – sorry!) it was down the steps and in the van, phew! My Dad and I sat with it in the back of the van to stop it sliding around and we arrived at the Botanic Gardens with only two turrets to reattach – it was a miracle!
Although still quite protective of the cake, it was less stressed by this point, there were a lot of helpers to get the (roughly) 150kg cake from the van up to the map. So, it came out the van, on to a pallet on top of a trolley, then up onto a flat bed truck which I sat on with it all the way up the hill – it was like some sort of carnival parade – with everyone walking (jogging!) alongside to make sure it didn’t fall off.
At the top of the hill, the cake got lifted back onto the trolley then over to the map. I learned a lot of lessons during the making of the Balmoral, but one was to always have a strong enough cake board! The MDF board was too weak to support the cake, so it was lifted on a table (minus the legs) over to its place on the map – I glued the two turrets back on (thank God for royal icing!) and that was it; a week’s worth of work done!
The rest of the day was just perfect – lovely food stalls (you HAVE to try the banana caramel choccies from The Wee Chocolatier), great live music and a whole load of incredible cakes from all the Cake Fest Bakers to admire. I could do that every weekend!
At 4.30 pm the baker’s choice winners were announced – my friend Jen won second place with her amazing Farmers’ Market cake – and then the cakes were eaten.
It was truly lovely to be in the company of thousands of people who love cake as much as I do, but slicing up cake for that many people was slightly terrifying! It was like a swarm of chocolate loving bees, we couldn’t cut cake fast enough! I reckon there were over 700 portions of cake and it was demolished in about half an hour – I’m seriously impressed!
On a final note – I’m currently working on a time lapse of the building of the Balmoral, which I will share with you as soon as it’s finished!
I’ll leave you with some pictures of the finished cake and the map itself: