No blog from me last weekend as I was still partying at Jimmy’s Festival. We had a really fun few days in Suffolk before getting back to London for all things cake this weekend.
Jimmy’s Farm Festival was fantastic this year. It helped that instead of the storms of last year, it was one of the best weekends for weather we’ve had so far. I’m lucky enough to go to a lot of food festivals but the Beer & Sausage Festival is such a highlight (as is any occasion featuring beer and sausages, frankly). My wife Sarah and I camped with the kids for the whole weekend and the campsite itself is excellent – live music and a bar on the Friday night and a children’s entertainer on the Saturday and Sunday mornings before the festival opens. The best camping we’ve done with the kids to date – they absolutely loved it. If you get a chance to go next year, it’s brilliant!
I made the goat’s cheese and pear pinwheel from my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, for my demo. This is one I like to make live to show people how straightforward it can be to assemble – nowhere near as daunting as it looks. It’s a variation of the pesto pinwheel I made on the Great British Bake Off Bread Week (recipe here). The recipe in the book takes you through it in really simple, pictorial steps. I’ve been delighted to see more and more five-star reviews for my book online too. If you’ve enjoyed B.I.Y., please take the time to leave a review – it’s really helpful for honing my recipe writing.
The best thing about demoing on Saturday was that I then had the whole weekend left to enjoy myself with the family. Jimmy Doherty (pictured above with Marcus Bean and me) is a really generous host and the mix of food and music makes for a cracking weekend. I was particularly excited to see the return of London heroes Chas & Dave; they performed at Jimmy’s last year and brought the house down! My kids have been singing ‘Snooker Loopy‘ for months (mainly as a good reminder to learn the order of the snooker balls), so it was brilliant to see them singing along to one of mine and Sarah’s favourite songs! I also got to watch the excellent demos of my fellow chefs – Will Torrent, Jack Monroe and GBBO-er Kimberley Wilson (the Queen of Jam). The backstage team at Jimmy’s Farm were all fantastic – a really great bunch of people to work with – as is the Head Chef there, Jon Gay.
We spend quite a lot of time in Suffolk as my mother in law lives in Lavenham, which is only half an hour away from Jimmy’s Farm. Sarah got me a voucher for Lavenham Falconry for Christmas so this week we booked onto the Hawk Walk (with the lovely hawk Cybil above). My treat got hijacked a bit by my daughters, who discovered a real – and fearless – love of birds of prey! I couldn’t recommend the experience more – we had the best morning there thanks to Steve and the team. If you’re going, there’s also a restaurant, tea rooms and loads of shops so plenty to do.
Lavenham, as I’ve mentioned on the blog before, was one of the filming locations for Harry Potter – doubling up as Godric’s Hollow. It’s one of England’s finest medieval villages. Playing with the owls at Lavenham Falconry got us in the mood for more Harry Potter so my eldest daughter has now started on ‘The Order of the Phoenix’. My copy of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child‘ arrived this morning and I’m looking forward to ploughing through it later tonight. Sarah’s already finished reading it so I need to hurry up so she’s got someone to talk to about it!
If you’ve never been to Suffolk and want to plan a weekend away, then I’d recommend a stay at the Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa (pictured above); a day trip to Kentwell Hall on the Saturday (preferably when they’re doing one of their Tudor reenactments); a Sunday morning at Lavenham Falconry (you need to pre-book); and then Sunday lunch at the award-winning restaurant at Jimmy’s Farm (voted the best restaurant in Suffolk). Pretty perfect for kids and for grown-ups, and a beautiful part of the world.
I was judging some very impressive literary-themed bakes for Barnet Libraries this week too, as part of their activities for this summer’s Big Friendly Read. My elder daughters (pictured above) love coming to events like this with me as they get to help me sample and judge. There were so many entries in the Big Friendly Bake Off all made by kids aged between 4 and 11, and I’ve got pretty good these days at quizzing kids to find out how much their parents helped!
The winning cake was this Little Mermaid one (above), by a girl called Millie. It was a Lotus Biscoff flavoured sponge that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about – I need to try and replicate this myself soon! In second place was a Willy Wonka themed chocolate cake and in third place was a Lorax cake with pink candy floss trees. We finished off our Big Friendly afternoon with a trip to the cinema to see the new BFG Movie, which was magical.
An early night for me on the cards tonight though, as I was up until the early hours finishing my nephew’s 5th birthday cake: BB-8 from Star Wars pictured above. My nephew is the only boy out of my parents’ seven grandchildren so puts up with a lot of being dragged to see his sister and cousins in dance shows and being surrounded by glitter. We had a fantastic day in the park for his party today and he really loved the cake, which makes the late night totally worthwhile. BB-8 was a lemon sponge with lemon curd and lemon Italian meringue buttercream, under Renshaw fondant (this really is my favourite fondant to use and I’m not just saying that because they sent me loads!) The base cake was a chocolate sponge with a milk chocolate and caramel whipped ganache. To make BB-8, I used the round cake mould that my wife Sarah bought for my 40th Birthday Death Star, which took a three egg mix per half. I’ve decided that I really want to get a cake airbrush kit (recommendations welcome) now though, as I could have had a lot more fun decorating BB-8 if I had one.