Thursday, 29 March 2012

Then there was one.....

As I mentioned in my blog the other week, I made it to the final of Wallpaper Design of the Year, at the Ideal Home Show, and Monday was D-Day for finding out the winner.

The Ideal Home Show is a pretty spectacular exhibition, with 2 floors of DIY, home decorating, gardening, baking, restaurants - you name it, it was probably in Earls Court!

The ever flamboyant (and actually rather amusing) Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen was introducing the finalists and their work, and then naming the overall winner of the competition. Each of us taking it in turns to go up onto the stage and talk to him about the designs we'd created.

Jane, who is doing the same Surface Pattern Design E-course as me, was up first...

Jane's design was a beautiful array of colours - very much in the style of the fabrics she designs, which you can see on her website

Then it was my turn - never has my stomach somersaulted so much - I'm sure it could have been a contender for the 2012 olympic gymnastics!!!

The winner was finally named as Lollie Dunbar, with a design of rabbits and trees (which, unfortunately I didn't get a picture of, but it will be available on

All the finalists designs were equally fantastic - each design so completely different. Pictured below (rather blurred) are all the finalists - with the winner, Lollie, in the middle.

From left to right - Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen (as if you needed telling), Me, Jane, Lollie, Eve, Sally and Tom (from

It was a lovely atmosphere, and it was great to meet the other finalists, and hopefully a great start to a career in surface pattern design. But with the sun shining it was time to head off into the outdoors and pay a visit to The Hummingbird Bakery, but that's a whole new blog....

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Teacups and cakes

I couldn't have been happier when arranging a meeting the other day, and the lady I had to meet suggested a place in Manchester called Teacup and Cakes (on Thomas Street).

The fact that there were cakes mentioned in the name of the shop excited me already, but I hadn't seen anything yet!!!

Teacup and Cakes is in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, just around the corner from the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, down Thomas Street. From the outside it looks quite unassuming - red facias and a few metal chairs and tables, but when you get inside it opens up into an amazing, bohemian feeling tearoom.

Owned by the creators of 'Make us a brew', this tearoom is full of the 'Make us a brew' paraphernalia - which is a brand lovers dream!

It might sound a bit bonkers, but for a few moments, I felt like I was transported to a cafe in Little Italy, NYC. The buildings, the atmosphere, the fantastic cakes and I LOVE the fact that you can watch the masters at work - decorating all the amazing cakes.

And that's all before you get to the "tea experience". Never before have I been handed a timer, by which to time the brewing of the leaves, and then decant said brew into another pot, through a strainer. This is serious tea drinking!

There is an option of afternoon tea - but as our meeting was in the morning I didn't manage to get to try it. However, as it's never to early for cake, I opted for the victoria sponge cake. It was my own mini victoria sponge cake and I'm sure the cream in the middle was clotted cream - it certainly tasted that delicious!!

For all the loveliness of the cakes though, the fact that I missed out on an afternoon tea just gives me a great excuse to go back - not that I ever need an excuse for a spot of afternoon tea :)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Edible Walls...

I didn't realise how much I actually like cake, until last weekend, while out with the family for a birthday lunch, and we were talking about an impending holiday. The holiday includes a trip to Valletta in Malta, at which point I excitedly exclaimed I would be visiting the cake shop there! 

The cake shop that I mention, I last visited on a trip to Malta approximately 23 years ago (crikey that makes me feel old!) Yet the memory of said cake shop is as fresh in my mind today as it was back in 1989.

As I sat there in the restaurant, with the rest of the family, reminiscing about this cake shop - in the far left corner of the square courtyard in Valletta, with it's pink and white floor tiles and huge glass cases full cakes (I even remember being mildly disappointed that I'd gone with the vanilla slice rather than the victoria sponge), my brother pointed out that I clearly had a bit of an obsession with cakes! "I thought I liked cakes, but, seriously, I have no recollection of the cake shop - your obsessed" were his words.

Clearly I have cakes on the brain (and probably in my subconscious mind too). This cake obsession also reared its (not-so-ugly) head when designing some patterns for a Surface Pattern course I'm working on. Courtesy of and

I entered the competition for Ideal Home Show to design some wallpaper, and, amazingly, was shortlisted for the final 5!!! Guess what the pattern involved.......Cakes.....

Needless to say "chuffed" is an understatement. But, if it wasn't for Rachael & Beth I never would have become so involved in pattern design, and I most certainly wouldn't have entered the Ideal Home Show Wallpaper Design Competition. 

The winner for the competition of Wallpaper Designer 2012 is announced on 26th March. Whether I win or not, to be shortlisted is a fantastic achievement, so celebratory cake is definitely the order of the day! Now comes the hard part - victoria sponge or lemon drizzle?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Tea for Two...

As a totally self-proclaimed 'expert' on Afternoon Tea, I jumped at the chance to whizz down the M62; off at Junction 30 to the beautiful Oulton Hall. Only a stones throw from the motorway, but a world away from anywhere once we turned into the drive.

We were booked into The Drawing Room/Library for Afternoon Tea - which is just as grand and elaborate as it sounds. Previously a stately family home back in the 19/20th century, with high ceilings, beautiful cornices, fireplaces and stunning ironwork on the staircases. 

Decked out in my Sunday best, the only way I can describe my anticipation and excitement, was like that of an eight year old after too much fizzy pop! The grandeur and surroundings just added to the expectation of what the Afternoon Tea would be like. With an extensive choice of teas we were spoilt for choice, so we plumped for the Oulton Blend - a blend of leaves created especially for the hotel, by Taylors of Harrogate. Tea was served in silverware, and lovely heritage china tea cups and saucers...

The three tiered stand was as big as a small child, yet the cute delicate sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones were certainly not dwarfed by it! The selection of sandwiches consisted of salmon, cream cheese, ham and mustard and egg and spring onion mayonnaise – triangle AND finger sandwiches, this was afternoon tea heaven and I hadn't even got to the cakes.

The small but perfectly formed cakes were delicious. Fruit tart with a raspberry mousse, rockie road, chocolate cupcake - you name it, it was there! 

Fruit cake served with creamy chunks of Wensleydale, and what afternoon tea would be complete without scones… But being in the "rhubarb triangle" it was wholly appropriate that we should have Rhubarb and Cherry scones!

As if all of that wasn't enough the staff were attentive to every single person in that room - which is no mean feat when it was virtually full! Topping up tea pots, helping older visitors around the hotel, plus having a mind full of information and knowledge about the hotel and it's history.

Apparently, before Oulton Hall became a hotel it had been a field hospital during WWI and WWII, and then a mental institute! I'm told the cellar used to have padded cells, and there's chance of a few ghostly meetings down there!!! Most Haunted anyone?

With the option of champagne afternoon tea - in the champagne bar, leisure facilities and a spa, you could make a very special weekend of it at Oulton Hall - I'm hoping to go back in a few weeks for afternoon tea on the terrace - when the sun comes out!!

Hyacinth Bucket eat your heart out...

To book yourself a fantastic Afternoon Tea at Oulton Hall, just visit

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Let them eat cake...

To say that I liked cake, would probably be the understatement of the year! So it seemed quite fitting for me to join a cake club!

Last night was my first experience of The Clandestine Cake Club of Warrington! And what an experience it was - somewhere that it's not frowned upon to go a get 3 or 4 (ok, maybe 5 or 6) servings of cake - BRILLIANT! It was just like All You Can Eat Pizza Hut, but with cake!

The theme for the evening was "Doing the Continental" - cakes from all different places throughout the world. Mine was a Caribbean Coconut Cake, sitting here diligently waiting to be scoffed...

The choice of cakes was mind-bogglingly fantastic! Some made with semolina, some gluten free, there were chocolate ones, lemon ones, cream ones, raspberry ones, wine and almond ones! I know I said I liked cake, but I honestly didn't realise how much variety you could get between 21 women!

The ladies of the cake club could not be more friendlier, and I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend the evening, than with a bunch of like-minded cake loving ladies, talking cake, Mary Berry, more cake, twitter, and a bit more cake.

All washed down with plenty of tea - all thanks to Coffee au Clay in Stockton Heath, and by the end of the evening I can honestly say I had, undoubtedly, eaten too much cake - something I didn't actually think was possible! The cakes were devoured and what was left we all took home to try, not much was left behind...

The cake club meet up every couple of months, and I'm already looking forward to the next one!

If you would like to experience some of the yummy cakes that The Clandestine Cake Club ladies make, then get yourselves down to Grappenhall Cricket Club, Broad Lane on Saturday 24th March, between 2pm - 4pm, as they are raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. It's £5 per ticket (or pay on the door) and you get a cuppa and some delicious homemade cake! Not to mention the raffle, with some fantastic prizes (which also include some amazing cakes!)

For more information check out this link...