Ape-y Birthday

Gorilla

A non-stop week with one of the best baking challenges I’ve ever had.

It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for my weekly blog update. Life has been so much fun for me since Bake Off finished, but this week has taken the biscuit (pun intended!)

Les Mis cast

The week started with a great opportunity to catch up with my Bake Off buddies Martha and Iain. I’ve made friends with a few people through Twitter over the past few months including a great pair of guys: Bradley Jaden and Rob Houchen. Together they run a healthy eating blog called Activ-Eat and also both star in Les Miserables in the West End. A few months ago, the Les Mis cast did their own “Great British Barricake Off”, which Rob won.

On Monday this week, me, my wife Sarah, and Iain and Martha went to see them in Les Mis at the Queen’s Theatre. Before the show, Bradley introduced us to all the cast and we got to have a go on the revolving stage. I’d never seen Les Mis in the theatre before, only the film. This was the sixth time Sarah had seen the stage version though – she’s a big fan. The show was absolutely wonderful, particularly Rob’s rendition of ‘Empty Chairs At Empty Tables’.

Glenn Cosby

On Tuesday, I took my sister Joanne to go and see Glenn Cosby‘s ‘Bake It Big’ show, which was a right laugh. It’s been great to catch up with some of the contestants from previous series of Bake Off and find out what they’re all up to. Glenn’s show was so much fun and he was joined by Charlotte White, who makes really spectacular, beautiful cakes.

Zaire cake

The highlight of a very special week for me (in fact it was a life-highlight really) was on Thursday when I got to make a 40th birthday cake for Zaire, one of the gorillas at London Zoo. I spend a lot of time at London Zoo, particularly during my degree in Biodiversity & Conservation, as ZSL is at the forefront of conservation work in the UK. Before preparing Zaire’s cake I met with the Gorilla Keeper, Glynn Hennessey, to discuss Zaire’s dietary requirements. Gorillas are vegetarians and can’t eat eggs, flour, butter or sugar so it was a bit of a tough baking challenge. Glynn talked me through some of her favourite things to eat and told me that her favourite colour was pink. I made the cake out of grated carrot, grated parsnip, ground oats, beetroot, ground walnuts, coconut oil and a tiny bit of honey to bind it. I made the frosting from ground cashews, beetroot, coconut oil and a tiny bit more honey. The cake was topped with sugar-free, vegetarian jelly with strawberries and pomegranates set into it. Finally I decorated the cake with pecans, red peppers and mint leaves. I have never been so nervous about whether someone would eat what I’d made for them in my life but thankfully, Zaire loved it!

Doughnuts

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Care is encouraging people to hold Pink Fridays to raise money – through wearing pink or holding pink themed bake sales, for example. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime and in the UK, 350 men a year are also diagnosed. My own favourite ‘pink’ bake is my rhubarb and custard doughnuts so I’ve given the recipe to Breast Cancer Care so that other people can make them for their pink bake sales and raise money for Breast Cancer Care too.

James and Victoria

I got a lot of practice with my doughnut recipe this week as this Saturday was my brother-in-law’s engagement party so I made 120 doughnuts and 60 gingerbread biscuits for James and his fiancée Victoria. I’ll be making their wedding cake next year which will be fun!

Sun Part II
Saturday also saw the second set of my recipes in the Saturday Sun. These included my jam doughnuts, chilli con carne pasties and sundried tomato and parmesan scones. If you have Sun+ membership you can get my apple and salted caramel Chelsea bun recipe online too.
Finally, today was the Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show in Islington, which I went to with both of my sisters – Joanne and Katherine (mainly just to show off in front of them!) I got to briefly catch up with Martha, Chetna, Kate, Nancy and Luis, and Paul and Mary too. I was also really pleased to get to meet Frances Quinn and Joanne Wheatley at last. But as with the last time I went to one of these shows, most of the day was spent getting to know as many of the visitors to the show as I could possibly meet in the time available. One of the lovely things about having done Bake Off is that no one ever runs up to you and tells you that they hate you. In fact, the exact opposite happens, which is just lovely.
So a very busy week and I’m already behind on making my Christmas cake but me and the family are really looking forward to Halloween. See you this time next week…
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