I’ve been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for a couple of years, but I’ve never been brave enough to go along to a meet. My image was of a group of super-talented bakers who would snort with laughter at my super-amateur attempt. But when I heard that Lauren – who I’d met at The High Tea Club – was running the Ely group, I decided to be brave. On Day 14 of #100DaysNoTV, I (nervously) took a cake that I had baked to share with others.
so, what is the clandestine cake club?
The brainchild of Lynn Hill, the Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) began in Leeds in December 2010 with its purpose to have a place for cake lovers to meet and chat over tea and cake. “Bake, Eat and Talk about Cake” is their mission statement. What’s not to like?
For every meet there is a theme and the location is kept secret until a couple of days before – hence the clandestine bit! In five years the CCC has become enormously popular and there are over 200 clubs worldwide. That’s a lot of cake!
Ely is pretty small, but it’s a sociable place. The Ely branch of the CCC has been going for nearly four years and has close to seventy members.
Our theme was European Christmas Market and the only rule was that your cake could be cut into – at least – eight pieces. I thought I should pull out the stops for this one, so I decided – heaven knows why – to make a Bundt cake, for the very first time.
I didn’t even have the right tin. Fortunately I found one with two days to go. Thank goodness I’d given myself time (most unlike me) for a practice run. My first attempt partially stuck to the tin (below – still tasted good 😉 ), but I nailed it the second time!
samovar tea house
Three days before the meet, we found out that we were going to the beautiful Samovar Tea House. Now, possibly I’m biased as the owner is a friend of mine, but if you visit you’ll know exactly why this is my favourite tea house in Ely.
As normal I was running late and was the last to arrive (tut) but I felt at ease pretty quickly, helped by blogger friend, Alice, and her hubby, Chris. I soon realised that the image I’d painted of CCC members was completely wrong. Their cakes were all amazing, but nobody chortled when I took mine out of its box. Result!
They are a friendly and chatty bunch, who didn’t just talk about cake. We talked about Star Wars, alcohol, haircuts, running clubs, the 80s and a whole lot more.
It was fascinating to see how everyone had interpreted the theme so differently, and the Bundt was a popular style. After a couple of hours, when everyone was quite literally full, we cut up what cake remained and each went home with a doggy bag with a slice of each. Rob and the boys were pleased.
I really enjoyed every part of this experience. I don’t often bake which is mainly down to time, plus the fact that Rob is a much better baker! I’m already looking forward to the next Ely Clandestine Cake Club meet. Wonder what the theme will be?
Ever the pessimist, I was completely blown away by the comments I got about my cake. We had some family staying that weekend, and my mum-in-law was so impressed she asked for the recipe. It’s going to be our alternative Christmas cake and I can’t wait to make it again!
If you’d like to give it a go, here’s how:
250g unsalted butter (room temperature)
400g light muscovado sugar
Zest of 1 orange
300g plain flour
4 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp baking powder
100g marzipan, cut into small cubes
Melted butter or cooking oil for greasing the tin
1. Preheat your oven to 150ºC (fan oven).
2. Grease your tin with melted butter or oil using a pastry brush, making sure that every crease is well covered.
Pour in much more butter or oil than you think you need, then drain it away.
3. Sift some plain flour over your greased tin. This will help the cake to come out completely without sticking. Tap out any excess.
4. Add the butter, sugar and orange zest to a bowl and cream together until you have a smooth, even mixture.
5. Pour the buttermilk and eggs onto the mixture and beat until fully mixed in.
6. Carefully fold in the flour, mixed spice and baking powder.
7. Add the marzipan and mincemeat and fold in gently.
8. Pour the mixture into the Bundt tin, making sure it’s smoothed and level on the top. Bake for around 90 minutes.
After 75 minutes you can check with a skewer: if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
9. Leave it for at least an hour to cool before turning it out on to a cooling rack.
This is not an exact science, but as Bundt tins are more heavy duty than other cake tins, they do take longer to cool down.
10. If you wish, you could decorate with a dusting of icing sugar, or perhaps drizzle with icing as I did.
11. Slice and enjoy! 🙂
I think the moral of this story is not to let nerves get in the way of trying something new that you believe you’ll enjoy. I had spent far too long worrying that I would feel uncomfortable at a CCC meet, but in the end it was so much better than I’d ever hoped it would be.
Do you like to bake? Are you a CCC member? Would love to hear from you.
Bye for now!