I went back to the Peaks - or just over the hill near Macclesfield - today for a lesson in cupcakery with Leah Stevenson. The making and eating of these little fellas is not the fashionable pursuit it once was, and not everyone can handle a gobful of buttercream. Nevertheless, the revival means that there's now lots of sparkly decorations even in Alty's shops, and I can't argue with that.
There are a few cupcake purveyors within range of Hale and Hearty, including Katja's Kupcakes at Alderley Edge (I hate the extra K, but she's whizzy with the buttercream, as seen here) and Chorlton's Sweet Tooth Cupcakery, which is up for an award at this year's Manchester Food and Drink Festival.
Leah does sell her cakes around and about, but for £45 you can go up to her beautifully-appointed kitchen near Rainow and learn how to make excellent cupcake bases (we did chocolate brownie, raspberry and white chocolate, blackberry and almond and lemon), decorate them and toddle off home with a smart box of different cakes with which to impress your nearest and dearest. Leah also has a very steady hand, and I found that if you ask her nicely she'll ice the name of your new blog onto a trio of cakes.
I'm a cack-handed but geekily keen sugarcrafter, and though I enjoyed the chance to hone skills like the making of sugar roses, for me the valuable part of the day was getting ideas for a forthcoming 'do' chez H'n'H. When you make cakes, you become part of all sorts of celebrations. A few years ago, I made a cake for my friend Liz's hen party. It was all sugarpaste L plates and cunningly crafted appendages, and though we were all too drunk to appreciate the soft, fudgy high-cocoa sponge, we found the fondant knobs quite amusing.
In a couple of weeks, Liz and the girls are coming for the weekend. Three of us, including Liz, are pregnant, and to celebrate I'll be making afternoon tea with a much purer theme. Apparently you can do quite a good baby's footprint using jelly beans and writing icing. I can't wait to give it a go. The only question is whether to buy blue or pink jelly beans; in this instance, I think yellow would be a cop-out.