I have been teaching my afternoon tea baking lessons since the new year now, it's flown by and I have met some AMAZING students in each kitchen that I have visited, I am one very lucky lady! My test students started with me last year and I taught some amazing people then too, including a Japanese Pop Star called Mai Kuraki and the lovely Mark who wanted to bake his wife (my lovely friend, Debbie of Debbie Wallwork Photography) a birthday cake as a surprise and he has since been baking treats for his family and thinking about how to teach the boy scouts, of which he works with voluntarily, how to get baking! I can't tell you what a great feeling that is to know how much good my lesson may have done for my own community! Since my run of test students, I have been teaching individuals and couples, families and even groups how to bake my own recipes and treats all geared towards their very own afternoon tea table. With my lessons, I like to teach in people's own homes so that they can learn to be comfortable and confident in their own environment, ensuring that they know how to get the best out of their own ovens, baking equipment and even the temperature in their home. Yes, this can in fact affect a bake or two, so it's these reasons that make me passionate about showing my students in the comfort of their own gaff. I have learnt so many tips chatting to my students as we bake, combined with helping to judge at this years' Cambridge Bake Off and I have also enjoyed a little afternoon tea geekery with my students, teaching them my passions in afternoon tea etiquette so that they can dine "politely" when their friends and family join them to nibble on the treats we whip up afterwards! I've had a blast meeting all kinds of people and baking in some stunning kitchens and homes over the last few months and I want to showcase some of my most favourite lessons with you here to show you what I have been up to... Jane's Family Baking Afternoon Jane booked me for her auntie's 80th birthday celebrations and used it as an excuse to get her auntie, along with herself and 2 other family members to get together at a central home for them all in Histon, just outside of Cambridge. We baked for 4 hours (a half day workshop) and put together quite the afternoon tea feast. These lovely ladies learnt how to make my own version of a carrot layer cake, as well as the vanilla Crème patisserie tartlets with fresh fruit that always went down a storm at my afternoon tea events. We also made a chocolate & fruit tiffin and they all sat down to enjoy their treats with finger sandwiches and loose leaf tea with their men folk after I had left. It was a lovely session and for me it was great to see 3 generations of a family in the same room, all baking, gossiping, hugging and laughing together, it really was a pleasure to be a part of it and I came away feeling genuinely honored to be a part of their life for that time. In fact it reminded me of the closeness my own mum and aunties used to have growing up as a kid and the buzz in the kitchen with the chuckling and mickey taking was all part of the fun, it was a very successful baking lesson and one I'd love to be part of again in another family home. Sarah's Cambridge Bake Off Prize After the huge success of the first ever Cambridge Bake Off, I was very lucky to meet some amazing and very talented contestants throughout the process, one of which was Sarah Crosby. She was a finalist for this years' competition and as part of her prize for coming in close, she won a baking lesson in her home with yours truly. I hopped off to her home in St Neots one Friday morning in the sunshine and helped her to prepare some afternoon tea layer cakes for a friend of hers who was about to have a hen party in London that very weekend. Sarah had picked my Retro Sweetie Cake & my even more seductive Caramel Ritz Cake of which is host to a secret ingredient to keep diners guessing around the table. I had great fun catching up with Sarah away from the crowds of contestant and supporters that we had crowding round at each heat of the bake off and we put the world to rights with our baking talk, she was a perfect student and her cakes were turned out and decorated perfectly within the 2 hour window we had allowed. She had also won a tour of Barkers Bakery in Cottenham and had enjoyed a chat with the owners that morning too, so she was buzzing with all things baking by lunchtime. I will be helping to judge next years' Bake Off too and I cannot wait to meet even more and equally talented contestants! Daisy's 10th Birthday Baking Party I had been contacted by the mum of a local 10 year old girl who had decided she wanted a baking party for her upcoming birthday and I was the lady who could help them make it happen. We met for a cuppa in our local coffee shop and talked through her likes and dislikes and drew up a menu to suit her specific taste buds - the planning of this was almost as much fun as the execution! I joined Daisy and 7 of her friends at her gorgeous home in Papworth and we baked up her birthday cake (their own version of my retro sweetie cake) along with some carrot cake pops decorated with colourful confetti and my oreo truffles of which the ladies had a huge amount of fun taking it in turns to get messy and make - there was a lot of satisfying giggling and conversation around the kitchen. We put the ladies into two smaller teams, one controlled the baking and decorating of the cake initially and the second group controlling the baking and forming of the cake pops and truffles. They all dipped in and out of each recipe and got to have a part in everything that joined the table which was great to make happen, as it meant nobody was left out and they all got to swirl some buttercream piping onto the finished birthday cake. They were a pleasure to bake with and I certainly felt as though they enjoyed it as much as I did, hearing from Daisy's mum the next day saying that they were still buzzing and were all gossiping about it at school the next day, it makes me so chuffed to hear that sort of feedback - and how these ladies weren't buzzing after all the sugar around their stunning afternoon tea table, well I have no idea! Cara's Special Surprise Baking Lesson I knew Cara from my previous place of work and she had mentioned to me that she had a best friend joining her and her boyfriend in Ely for a couple of weeks during the summer and she would be traveling all the way from South Africa to see them. She had a whole 2 weeks of special plans for her and was going to show her more than a good time including a trip to Download Festival, Punting on the River Cam and an afternoon tea baking lesson with Miss Sue Flay. So I wheeled my suitcase of baking equipment up to their apartment overlooking Ely Cathedral and taught these ladies how to make not only my Oreo Cheesecake truffles, but also my Honeycomb & Caramel Layer Cake in readiness for a picnic they were planning later that day. I had a whale of a time teaching these two ladies how to bake and they educated me on South African recipes and food brands, which was fascinating for me as much as I had hoped my lesson would be for them. These ladies were nuts, not scared to make a mess and so much fun to work with, they listened to everything I said and weren't scared to get stuck in, make a mess and be creative. Even Cara's boyfriend dipped in from time to time, steeling himself away from his computer games whilst he let these two catch up and make a mess. He was a star, even helping me with the washing up throughout the session. This was one of my most fun lessons to date and will be sad to see Cara head back to South Africa this month, but so happy for her at the same time - Bon Voyage lovely lady and keep us updated on your baking exploits once you are home! To read about my afternoon tea baking lessons and book your own baking party or workshop, simply click here. And to have a read about my afternoon tea etiquette training and workshop offering, simply click here.