What a week! I wasn’t particularly looking forward to turning 40 but if every week is like this one’s been, I reckon I could get used to it.
This time last year I was right in the middle of shooting my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself. The shoot took about a month and was shot at my house. I had the best team to work with, including Chris Terry, who took all the photos. I’m so proud of my book but I particularly love the photographs in it. Bake It Yourself really captures my style and I think it’s a nice change to see a baking book without any chintz. This week I got to work with Chris Terry again, as I’ve been developing recipes for AEG to test their new SteamBake ovens that they’re launching in a few weeks. On Wednesday we turned my house back into a studio, raided my garage for props and had a great day shooting together (see pic above). I’m looking forward to working with AEG on the launch now too.
It was my 40th birthday on Thursday this week. I celebrated with my extended family at The Magazine last weekend, as my sister Joanne was going off to Australia for two months on Tuesday, so it was our last chance to all be together for a while. But this week my wife Sarah created a whole week of surprises for me. The night before my birthday she stayed up until 2.30am making me a Death Star birthday cake. When you’re a baker you get used to hearing “I hope you’re not making your own cake!” at every birthday. This is by far the best birthday cake I’ve ever had!
On the blog this week, Sarah wanted to share a few non-baker things she learnt from making my cake:
- Buying ready-coloured fondant (see here) saves loads of time, plus Renshaw fondant tastes much nicer than supermarket fondant
- I don’t really use Richard’s stand mixer very often and found it much easier to make this cake using an electric hand whisk so don’t assume you need a stand mixer to bake at home
- If Richard had made a cake like this he’d have probably carved the sphere shape himself. Instead I bought a ball pan (see here), which did the work for me
- Round cakes take ages to cook as they’re so deep. This took 40 minutes at 180oC and another 20 minutes at 160oC
- I find piping writing in icing really tricky and never do it as neatly as Richard can, so I bought letter cutters (see here) instead
- Rolling fondant is much more difficult if you’re short as it’s hard to get the downward pressure on the worktop. Richard makes it look easy but I had to stand on a stool!
- Edible spray paint (see here) makes even the ropiest-looking cakes look better
- Don’t worry if the back of the cake looks a bit scruffy as no one sees the back
- I had to buy a fair bit of kit for this cake, but it was still cheaper than buying or ordering a bespoke cake
- If you’re transferring cakes onto a board, a cake lifter (see here) is really useful
On the evening of my actual birthday on Thursday, Sarah surprised me with a trip to Secret Cinema. If you’ve not heard of Secret Cinema before, it’s an incredible, interactive experience; like a cross between live theatre, a theme park and a movie night. When the concept first started, the films would be a mystery too. The first movie where they announced what the film would be was Back to the Future, which we went to in August 2014. For that one, we all had to be in 1950s costumes and they rebuilt a 1950s Hill Valley with shops, diners, a fairground and the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. You have a few hours to absorb all the fun and get stuck in before the film starts, and then there’s loads of live action taking place during the film. Last June, I went to the Empire Strikes Back Secret Cinema. It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had, as I said at the time. Thursday’s experience was a complete mystery. All we knew from our costumes was that it would be set in the 1960s in America and there would be a military theme. I was Airman Reynaldo Irwin and Sarah was Staff Sergeant Lorinda Jacobs (see picture above). If you’re planning to go in the next few weeks I’d recommend this spoiler-free article for tips. We had such a good time at it and I’ve still been thinking about the film all week.
This weekend, Sarah took me and the kids away for my final birthday surprises. Yesterday, we went to Stonehenge. We hadn’t been there for about 14 years and since then, they’ve really upgraded the visitor centre and the whole experience. It’s such an amazing place and the kids had a great time too.
We stayed at the 700 year old George Inn near Bath last night. It’s a bit trickier finding hotels suitable for a family of five these days but our room was pretty awesome and it made our girls feel like little princesses. Plus a Full English breakfast always starts a day on a high for me.
Today, we spent the whole day at Longleat Safari Park. I’ve always wanted to visit but had never had the opportunity before. I’ve taken the kids to London and Whipsnade Zoos quite a few times as I support ZSL whenever I can. I’ll be doing the London Zoo Stampede in a few weeks time too so I’d better start training! But the kids had never experienced a safari park and they (and we!) had so much fun squealing at the monkeys climbing all over the car and then driving so close to the lions. I thought the Bat Cave exhibit in the Park was fantastic too. It’s really been an incredible week and has made turning 40 far easier than I thought it was going to be!
Finally, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there. I love it when people send me their pictures of my recipes, like the one sent to me on Twitter by Vicki Smith above. I’m lucky enough to live opposite my Mum and so my kids get to see her and my Dad nearly every day, and she does so much to help look after us, the kids and especially my dog! Today was Sarah’s first Mother’s Day as a mum of three too, so to my Mum, Sarah, and all the other mums out there, I hope you’ve had a great day. See you next week, Happy Baking!