Soon, guests filed down to the 'circus big-top' in the ballroom to hear welcome speeches and start the fun.
The main evening got off to a snap and a bang with the Kluman & Balter cracker prize draw to win iPod nanos. Director Jamie Kluman drew the winning tickets from British Baker's 'ringmaster', executive director John Lewis, before welcoming winners up to the stage.
Next came the first of three separate circus acts from Cirque Bijou, sponsored by the National Association of Master Bakers: a high-wire act and, later, a hoop acrobat and hand acrobat.
But first, dinner began with Délifrance's bread rolls and moved on to tian of smoked trout and rack of lamb. This was followed by bread and butter pudding with ice cream and a Jim Beam Bourbon toffee sauce a dessert sponsored by culinary alcohol supplier Thomas Lowndes.
During the evening guests dug generously into their pockets for the Bakers' Benevolent Society with the chance to win a magnum of champagne on each table kindly sponsored by Bako. The Bako magnums raised well over £5,000 for the Society.
Esther Rantzen was a warm and popular host for the awards, as tension mounted for the finalists, all of whom were called to the stage with their category sponsor and presented with certificates. The overall winner received a trophy. For the complete list of finalists and winners, please see page 30. When it came to Baker of the Year, sponsored by Vandemoortele, Esther Rantzen also called winner Robin Jones' father, Alan, out of the audience to talk briefly about his son and the business. Then, the British Baker Special Award went to a very surprised John Renshaw.
Late evening entertainment
After the awards guests were able to stay in the ballroom big-top, decorated in large red and yellow ceiling drapes like a circus. But many headed straight for the Cereform casino, where winners played with funny money to win Cereform's top prize of a trip to Amsterdam to see Cirque du Soleil's Totem Show.
Those who wanted to dance or hear great music were treated to the Greatest Take That tribute band, who performed to loud acclaim in the Wellington Suite which enabled more tables to fit into the ballroom, resulting in the over-800 sell-out.
Carriages at 2am ended an evening that, thanks to award sponsors and finalists, showcased some of the finest talent in the baking industry.
l To see and order your photos from the night go to the website www.roblawson.com. Put in user name: bb (note lower case bb) and password: 2010. Press log-in. For queries telephone photographer Rob Lawson on 077721 646 833.