On Monday I went to a demonstration by Alan Dunn. Not a shouty demonstration with police kettling and placards reading "DOWN WITH CUPCAKES!", rather a sugarcraft demonstration in a church hall where the only kind of kettling involved cups of tea.
Alan Dunn is a celebrity in the sugarcraft world. He has written 15 books and travels the world - Brazil, Japan, South Africa, USA - giving classes and demonstrations. Amazingly for someone with so much experience he is young, born the same year as me so yes, YOUNG. Very young. He's managed to acquire over 20 years experience by starting when he was a teenager and gave his first dem aged just 17. He grew up in the north east a few miles from me. I often wish I'd discovered cake decorating much earlier in life, even though I'd have missed out on many happy hours in an office making chains out of paperclips or falling asleep at my desk.
Alan made a spray with a gardenia, an eyelash orchid and gumnuts ("because I like the funny name") while chatting with the two dozen ladies who watched goggle eyed as he effortlessly brought the flowers to life.
He interspersed his instructions on how to make the flowers with tales of his travels, from the Korean spaghetti with tiny octopuses on it to the koala droppings that smelled amazing (it's the wet eucalyptus). He also showed us a photo of a stunning cake he'd made last week for Bucks Fizz and admitted with admirable honesty that he's a big fan.
At the end of the dem our names were pulled out of a hat, as is the tradition, and I was the lucky winner of the flowers he'd just made. It made up for the disappointment of not winning £161 million on Euromillions last Tuesday even though it was my birthday. I guess not buying a ticket didn't help.
My recent birthday celebrations were a good excuse to break the embargo on buying more cake books and I tret mesel to Alan Dunn's new Tropical and Exotic Flowers for Cakes, a beautiful book available in shops this August. I was pleased to find frangipani explained, as an Australian friend had been asking how to make them for a beach wedding. I won't tell you what Alan says his friends in Australia call frangipanis*
*ok, it's scratchy fannies. Rude!