I was lucky enough to go to the ChildLine 30th Anniversary Ball this week. It was a Bake Off themed event and best of all, all of this year’s Great British Bake Off stars were there too!
It was the annual Macmillan Cancer Support ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ this week, so I made the coffee and walnut cake above for my sister Jo to take to work. If you’re hosting a charity bake sale yourself, the recipe for this cake is here and in my experience it always goes down a treat. My sister is the Technical Director at Toni & Guy in Crouch End and the cake raised a fair bit of money, which I’m really pleased to hear. Thanks to all the customers there for showing their generosity for such a great cause.
It wasn’t the only coffee and walnut cake I made this week, as it’s my Dad’s absolute favourite, so was the only choice for his 70th Birthday. We had a lovely time with all the family celebrating on Tuesday and then on Thursday, Mum and Dad got to enjoy the present that my sisters and I had got him. Dads can be pretty difficult to buy for, but this year we spotted the perfect gift when we visited London Zoo a few months ago. We booked them an overnight stay in the Gir Lion Lodge at the zoo. These are fantastic little cabins right by the new lion habitat, where guests get to have a private night time tour of the zoo with dinner and then breakfast and a private tour in the morning too. Mum and Dad had a brilliant time and I’d really recommend it as a special birthday gift for the nature lover in your life.
The highlight of this week was on Thursday night, when my wife Sarah and I, and Martha and her boyfriend Michael (all pictured above), went along to the ChildLine Ball hosted by the NSPCC, celebrating 30 years since the launch of ChildLine. Any British person my age will remember Dame Esther Ranzen’s launch of ChildLine 30 years ago, with their adverts for the 0800 11 11 freephone helpline. We heard some incredibly moving testimonies about the role ChildLine has had (and continues to have) in protecting young people and the evening raised over £825k for the charity. Martha and I were one of the available lots in the charity auction, with guests able to bid for a private baking lesson with us. You can donate to ChildLine or the NSPCC here.
I hadn’t actually realised that the whole Ball was going to be Great British Bake Off themed. It was held at Old Billingsgate in London and in addition to Martha and me, Howard and Christine (pictured above) from Bake Off Series 4 were there too. It was lovely to meet them both and their other halves Peter and Rob. I’ll be seeing Christine again at the end of next month as she’s organising the Didcot Food Festival, where I’m demoing on the Friday. It was also great to meet the unbelievably talented Cherish Finden, judge on Bake Off Crème De La Crème, in person too.
The event was hosted by Omid Djalili (photobombing us above!) with an acoustic performance by Will Young later in the evening. As Martha and I were wandering around the drinks reception, we snuck a peak at the table plan and to our delight realised that the surprise guests of the night were all of this year’s Great British Bake Off bakers (except Louise who couldn’t make it)! Having already met Louise and Candice a few weeks ago, it was fantastic to meet all of the others too and we ended up having an awesome night together until they finally kicked us out at 1.30am! I’ll share some of the pictures from the night below…
I cannot begin to describe how nice this year’s bakers are. We all had such a great night together and the common Bake Off experience makes you feel like you’ve already known each other for yonks. I remember so clearly what it was like for us at this point two years ago. Around this time in our series, we went to Brighton to stay with Kate, and Kate and I were both a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who recognised us. This year’s bakers are all experiencing that now too. There are many more London-based bakers this year (Tom, Selasi, Benjamina, Rav, Jane, and Michael when he’s not at Uni) so they get to meet up and support each other pretty often. The Bake Off viewing parties at Selasi’s house sound like where you’d want to be a fly on the wall too!
I’ve seen so many contestants past and present recently that I’ve said I’m going to try and arrange an ‘all seasons’ get together next year. Need to get on the case with that!
Now a big question that I’m sure you want to ask is “what sort of pudding gets served at a Bake Off themed Ball?” I can tell you that the caterers Moving Venue really went to town. When the above arrived in the middle of all of our tables, we were all a bit confused, thinking we had to make our own desserts (we’d had a bit to drink by then!) But it was the most incredible, inventive pudding: the chopping board was chocolate cake covered in marzipan, the butter was ice cream covered in white chocolate, the piping bag had a passion fruit posset inside, the eggs were a mango and coconut mousse, the rolling pin was rocky road, the weights were fudge and the bag of flour was filled with popping candy. It was absolutely amazing and so much fun tucking in to it all together! I think there were about 60 tables at the event so to replicate something this impressive 60 times was such a feat.
Anyway, my wife Sarah is claiming I’ve never made her a birthday cake (I’m sure I must have at some point in 15 years?!) so back in the kitchen for me tonight to get baking. Sarah shares a birthday with Luis’s wife Louise and he’s already shown me up! But first, we’ve got roast beef, Yorkshire puds and all the trimmings to enjoy. Have a great week, Happy Baking!