There’s an art to making a sugar rose and my sausage fingers lack the delicate touch required to fashion scarlet-red icing into a pretty cluster of petals.
Fortunately, my teacher, Leah Stevenson, is the patient sort. Either that or she has seen worse efforts on her Cupcakes Galore course, the convivial one-day masterclass (including delicious homemade lunch) that she runs at Harrop Fold Farm, a B&B in the foothills of the Peak District.
We are hard at work in Leah’s Pantry, a kitchen specially built in one of the farm’s outbuildings with interior styling that reveals a penchant for Cath Kidston. Here, Leah offers tips on how to make the hottest cakes on the culinary scene and also hosts Cookery Demo and Dine events where you can pay to watch her make a gourmet lunch or dinner and then eat the results.
Leah trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London before returning home to Cheshire to add panache to her family’s B&B. It’s a good fit for the relaxing, luxurious lodgings that Leah’s mum, Sue, has created over the past six years at this smallholding: Sue’s sideboard is weighed down with gongs that she has won for her efforts, most recently B&B of the Year at the 2009 Visit Chester and Cheshire Tourism Awards.
Guests can choose from three en-suite bedrooms in an outbuilding and one wing of the 17th-century stone farmhouse. The rustic features of the buildings are complemented by smart yet homely decor, mixing antiques with superior modern furnishings. One of the rooms is on the small side for a double, a challenge Sue has met by filling it with a four-poster bed to create a cocoon. Extra space is afforded by a pleasant, airy communal lounge, off which two of the bedrooms lead. Self-catering parties of up to six can take over a converted barn – decorated in similar fashion and also with four-poster – which has a small outdoor terrace for taking in the spectacular views across the Cheshire plain to the Welsh mountains.
The food and drink
The food just keeps coming here. Sue welcomes guests with homemade cake and tea, and a plate of cupcakes in the guests’ lounge never empties. Generous breakfasts and dinners are served at a large oak table in the guests’ dining room. Home-grown, local and sustainable ingredients are prioritised by Sue and Leah, who can rustle up good honest fare with flair as well as five-course gourmet tasting menus.
There are Freeview TVs and DVD/CD players in the bedrooms, and Wi-Fi access in the residents’ lounge. But most guests will come here to disconnect from the digital world and stretch their legs – the Gritstone Trail passes close to the farm. The B&B also hosts art courses.
For more ideas about things to do in the area, go to visitcheshire.com.
The B&B rooms are on the ground floor, so accessible for people with limited mobility.
B&B in a double costs from £85 per night for two. The self-catering cottage, sleeping six, costs £275 for a weekend or short break or £350 for a seven-night stay. Cupcakes Galore and Cookery Demo & Dine cost £45 per person (leahspantry.co.uk).
Harrop Fold Farm, Macclesfield Road, Rainow, Macclesfield, Cheshire (01625 560085; harropfoldfarm.co.uk).