Bicester Village Goes Bridal {and crystallising flowers with Lily Vanilli}

facebook-profile-picture By Rebecca

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Last week I drove out to Bicester Village for a morning with Lily Vanilli cakes as part of Bicester’s wedding month. If you haven’t been to Bicester before then you’re seriously missing out!! It’s a designer outlet village in Oxfordshire with discounted brands. From Alexandra McQueen to Allsaints, Cath Kidston and Mulberry amongst others such as Dior and Jimmy Choo. It’s always great for a shopping trip to pick up some bargains {brands are up to 60% off} but for the next couple of weeks if you’re looking for anything bridal related there are extra special events and boutiques {Oscar De Le Renta, Amanda Wakeley and Temperley London} filled with bridal gowns until the 20th March.

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The village itself is a million times better than your usual indoor mall. The shops are all clad in New England style clapperboard, there are pretty gardens, plenty of free parking and some yummy restaurants to fuel up for a serious shopping mission. There’s also a train station on site so you can come direct from London or Oxford.

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Farmshop by Soho House is one of the newest additions. It’s open all day for relaxed food in serious Soho House Style. Phoebe and I both agreed we could move in! That floor, the wood, the food!! All of the workshops are based here and we started with brunch and then moved onto our session with Lily.

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I’d visited Lily’s bakery in Columbia Road before so knew we were going to be in for some serious pretty. Her cakes have a real focus on being naturally pretty which sets her apart from a lot of the other London cupcake bakeries. She uses fresh flowers in her baking a lot so the aim of our workshop was to learn how to crystallise flowers which could decorate a wedding cake and then last for up to a year. When using fresh flowers on a cake it’s always a risk as to how well they will last on the day, crystallising them means you don’t have to worry and they take on a different almost sparkly look.

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Lily had baked some cakes ready for us to decorate {they were insanely delicious} and had chosen a range of natural ingredients for us to use. We had dried rose petals, sprigs of rosemary, red currants, edible flowers, gold nibbed almonds and green tea flavoured meringues.

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Everything we used was edible and I was surprised at just how many flowers from the garden you can eat. The list is extensive and it’s almost shorter to list those that you shouldn’t eat! Although lily says even these in moderation won’t be harmful. Just steer clear of foxgloves! I think it’s so lovely to decorate cakes using flowers you’ve gathered or even grown yourself, especially for a wedding day.

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We used primroses to test out crystallisation and to do so you’ll need:

  • Edible flowers, preferably grown yourself so you know there’s no nasty pesticides on
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 drops of water to loosen the egg whites
  • Powdered Sugar to coat
  • And a soft small paintbrush

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The method is the same for all flowers, you simply dip your brush into the egg white mix and lightly coat the whole of the flower, making sure you cover the backs of the petals too. You need it all to be coated so it creates a seal to keep the moisture in and keep the air from decaying it. Be careful not to coat too thickly or it will be too soggy but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

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Once your flower is coated, sprinkle over the sugar to coat it and gently spin the flower in your fingers to make sure it’s evenly coated and then let the excess fall off. We had sheets of baking paper on the tables to soak up the mess!

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Then place your flowers on a piece of paper to completely set and dry out. You want to lay them in the position you want to decorate with as they’ll set hard. It will take a few hours for them to properly dry out and harden.

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We iced our cakes with a piping bag filled with cream cheese frosting and then set about prettying them up.

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It’s definitely inspired me to use more flowers on any cakes I bake this Spring/Summer.

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So many pretty variations and different types of flowers you could use.

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Sometimes just the plain and simple ones are the best though. These flowers were fresh as we didn’t have time to wait for the crystallised versions to finish drying in the class. But once they have set hard you can use them again and again.

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And so, so yummy!

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With the cakes safely boxed up for transporting home, we had lunch and then I had some time to look around the rest of the village. It’s safe to say that a couple of hours later I left with armfuls of bags… oops! If you attend a workshop as part of Bicester Bridal week you’ll receive a special VIP shopping card which allows you an extra 10% in most of the boutiques, which when prices are already significantly reduced makes for a nice bonus.

There are still a couple of weeks for you to visit while the Bridal Event is still ongoing, you can find out more here and book onto workshops here {if you’re quick there’s a Niki Tibbles Wild at Heart flower course this Thursday!!}. In addition, on Friday evenings from 5pm until 20th March boutiques will be hosting special events. If you visit Vivienne Westwood you’ll get served champagne as you browse a special collection of red carpet dresses, Jaeger will give you a beautiful candle if you spend £50 or more and Paul Smith will offer beers for guys trying on suits and offer an extra 20% off all suits!

Definitely worth a visit and what I especially love is how you can tick so much off of your list in one go. Bridal shoes {they have Rupert Sanderson and Jimmy Choo amongst a whole list of others}, Bridesmaid’s dresses, the Mother of The Bride outfit, the Groom’s suit, wedding jewellery {Hearts on Fire Diamonds, Pandora, Links and Annoushka}, honeymoon outfits , gifts {Kate Spade or The White Company?} and perhaps even your wedding dress. It’s all discounted designer brands but crucially it’s all unique and unlikely to be on the high street right now.

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Are you planning to visit? Bridal events are on until the 20th March but Bicester is fab year round.

You can find more info on the website here.

Happy shopping! {and baking!}

R <3 xx