They say you should never meet your idols, you will only be disappointed. So understandably, I was feeling apprehensive yet super excited about meeting my favourite French sugar god, Eric Lanlard. I have been swooning over his books for a few years and had visited his shamazing café, Cake Boy, in Battersea so when I had to choose what I wanted for my 25th (ok, ok, 30th) birthday present, there was no doubt in my mind what to ask for. A baking tutorial day at Cake Boy with Eric. A whole day with Eric! A whole day! Me! And Eric! ERIC! He does a variety of different baking days and I plumped for the French Baking day complete with breakfast patisseries, lunch with wine and you get to take home everything you bake. The cakes we were going to make were almond and lavender provencal cake (gluten free), a gateaux Breton (even I had to google that one, a buttery crumbly flakey gorgeousness apparently) and a pear and juniper tart tatin. Major yummo.
What would I say to him? What would I wear? Would I become his new BFF? So many questions! I was so excitable the night before I could hardly sleep, I was like a kid at Christmas. I was so nervous at being late I arrived 45 minutes early (Didn’t want to disappoint Eric by being late, wouldn’t be a good start to our new BFF relationship). As I shimmyed past the window of Cake Boy to make my entrance I could see Eric in the window, OMG. Casually strolled in. Eric was sat there. No big deal. Ordered a muffin (seriously, this muffin was life changing, oozing with homemade raspberry jam) and a double espresso (lack of sleep). Sat down. Tried to stop grinning like a dork and started chatting to some lovely ladies who were on the course with me. Ate muffin very daintily. Then King Eric stood up and gathered us all round and discussed what we would be doing for the day. The morning would be spent creating the cakes, we would be served lunch with wine (dangerous) and the final hours spent decorating.
We started with our gateaux Breton, Eric supervised as we worked our way through the recipe. It involved a 250g block of butter so you know its going to be good! We sliced some apples which were spread in the middle for a fruity filling and sandwiched them between the gateaux dough. It isn’t a cake, it isn’t a pastry, it isn’t a biscuit. It was like nothing I had baked before, the method involved meant mixing as if making pastry and being careful not to allow the heat from your hands to melt the butter. A base layer was patted down, layered with apples and a top layer of more dough and a final coating of egg yolk for a super shiny French finish. Off they were whisked to the oven. One question I had for Eric was enquiring if he licked the bowl when baking? Surely he would be rather hefty if he did? And he shocked me with his answer that he doesn’t really have a sweet tooth! He said when he was a child, he was taken to the patisserie but he fell in love with the artistry and creativity, he is not that bothered about eating his creations. Sadly, there was no bonding between us over a shared love of licking the leftover cake mix from the bowl. Damn.
The next cake we made was the almond and lavender cake which involved 8 eggs and a huuuuge amount of ground almonds, this was going to be totes French and very rich. This cake included dried lavender which was very subtle in the final cake plus a flavourful spiced cinnamon sugar syrup poured on top. Although Eric’s recipe included orange, I decided to omit this as I have never been keen on orange flavouring and replaced it with extra lemon. As we stirred and prepared, Eric walked around making sure we weren’t making any glaring mistakes and telling hilarious antidotes. One being that the doctor believed he was self harming due to the marks up his arms only for him to announce that they were actually burns from the oven due to all the baking!
Second cake down and the day was going super fast. There was lots of chatting and joking between us bakers, there were 8 in the group and everyone was friendly. Finally we started on the tart tatin, peeling 7 pears! I was used to seeing rather flat tart tatins with thin slices of fruit but this was the real deal with the pears simply sliced in half and cooked on the hob in a buttery caramel until softened then covered with pastry and into a hot oven. This part was great as we got to work one on one with Eric as he helped us put the fruit in the super hot bubbling caramel. Making caramel is a real test of patience, you aren’t allowed to stir it and you need to hold your nerve for the perfect level of golden brown, a second too far and its burnt.
You allow the fruit to cook on the hob until your pears are starting to brown and then you take it off the heat and allow it to cool before adding the pastry, tucking it tightly down the sides of the fruit so you create a lovely pastry crust that with be soaked with pear juices. Then it was lunch time and I ended up sitting next to Eric *Swoon*! They served red wine chicken casserole (in Le Creuset, obvs) with roasted vegetables. Dessert was one of Erics amazing creations, a chocolate mousse layered on top of crème brulee on top of a crunchy base of rice krispies and hazlenuts. Throughout, everyone chatted away about work and baking. It was quite surreal for me to be sat eating my lunch next to Eric! I did avoid the wine though as it makes me act like a over emotional crazy lady which I def wanted to avoid considering the company…
Our final minutes were spent decorating our beautiful cakes as we liked. The gateaux Breton looked glorious with its super shiny top, we were provided with mini apples (They looked like green cherries, just too cute!) and real gold leaf to make our creations look super chic. For the lavender cake we had caramelized orange slices which really bought the cake to life. The tart tatin spoke for itself and needed no garnish (except for a huge blob of clotted cream once home). Cakes were packaged into Cake Boy boxes, we were provided with copies of all the recipes and we got a special apron. And then that was it. Home time. Already? But me and Eric had only just started to get really get to know each other! As we said our goodbyes I handed out a Hollylovescake business card to everyone (always spreading the word!) including Eric (he might fancy reading a cake blog for inspiration y’know).
It was a great day and even though I am a rather keen baker, I learnt lots of handy hints and tips along the way plus I met some great people and Eric himself who was so personable and friendly. I will be revealing each recipe on here over the next couple of weeks so you can all try Eric’s fabulous recipes at home yourself! I would recommend a day at Cake Boy to any baker (although major disappointment at not quite becoming Eric’s new BFF… although he has my number so you never know…)