Since a child I’ve always been a member of a club; Brownies, Girl guides, drama club and even football club, but now a twenty-something Londoner, there’s no time or need for a club in my life. Until now that is. I first heard about Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) from my friend Ele who is a keen baker and cake decorator and a member of the Lincolnshire club. She’s shown me some pictures from their meet-ups, of glorious looking cakes and since then I’ve been intrigued to find out more. The trouble is, the first rule of cake club is that you must bring a cake, not great for a non-baker like me.
Last Monday after a cake-filled weekend I was kindly invited along to the Camden CCC meet-up which was being held at The Dry Goods Store in Maida Vale. Yasmin, the store owner found me on Twitter and kindly invited me along as her guest and that I could turn up without a cake. This was too good an opportunity to miss, even though I had planned a quiet ‘healthier’ evening than the ones I’d had the previous few weeks. The Dry Goods Store is one in a row of independent shops in a leafy neighbourhood street. It is a haven for cooks and foodies with an extensive range of ingredients where you can bring in your own jars to refill or use the bags provided, paying by weight. The store also offers coffee and cake, signature brownies and tables to sit and enjoy.
I was the first to arrive (no surprise there – there was cake on the agenda!) and was soon joined by eight bakers armed with cake and a couple of guests like me. Each month a theme is set with this month being ‘festive frolics‘. The cakes were laid out on the table and there was no time spared as we all dug in. First up was Hannah’s chequered cake which was similar to a birthday cake covered in royal icing but with an impressive chequered coloured sponge.
Next, I tried a piece of festive fruit cake baked by the organiser of Camden CCC, Debs, who used her grandad’s favourite recipe. It was full of fruit and currants which gave it a wonderful rich flavour. Fiona’s chocolate torte was ever-so-chocolatey and wouldn’t have looked out of place if served in a restaurant. The dusting of icing sugar not only added sweetness but a Christmassy feel. Lisa’s hazelnut and bailey’s meringue cake, enriched with light cream and raspberries, was a welcomed break from the more heavier cakes and tasted divine. Kristine’s brought a little sunshine to the table with her Carribean Christmas cake which contained caramelised pineapple and was neatly decorated with dried pineapple which she had cleverly created herself.
There was another fruit cake which contained a generous helping of booze, Christmas wouldn’t be without it after all! This again, was very flavoursome, perfectly baked and well presented with snowflakes made using royal icing. In true British Bake Off style, Amy wowed us with her chocolate log cabin, a real show stopper as Paul and Mary would say. Not only did the sponge taste perfectly moist (a rare find with chocolate sponge) the presentation was sublime. This was the cake which sent me over the edge as second helpings were impossible to resist. Although there’s a strict format to cake club (no brownies, tray bakes, pies or puds) and certainly no competition involved, I wouldn’t be a true blogger if I didn’t share with you my favourite bake of the evening.
Every cake had their own positives, with skill and patience being seen across the table, so my judgement lies in personal preference and surprisingly, this cake was the least sweet of them all. Claire’s Sri Lankan love cake arrived hot out the oven and when cut, the smell of warm dough made me fall in love. A spread of “proper” butter, Lurpack may I add, and unconventionally a slice of cheese – yes cheese on cake! – made this cake my favourite of the evening. Who would have thought cheese would go well with cake? Especially one so heavily loaded with sweet currants, but it certainly worked and is a recipe I’d like to try myself.
One thing I learnt from cake club is that dinner is not required that evening and by the time I had tried all eight cakes I was pretty full. It was time to depart cake club but not before I had a look around The Dry Goods Store, our venue for the evening. I’m envious of those who bake and would love to do it myself if I ever found the time and patience. The bakers I met at cake club inspired me to bake a cake when it’s my turn to provide the office with a “Friday treat” (we each take turns to bring in a treat, usually something sweet). Even when I have found the time to bake I never have ingredients in the house and am reluctant to buy a whole list of items, most of which I’m probably only going to use once. This is where The Dry Goods Store comes in handy as I was able to pick up some spices in the exact quantities required for my chosen bake, reducing both cost and waste.
I had a really great time at Camden CCC, meeting new people, chatting about cake and tasting some excellent bakes and there’s no denying I’ve been inspired. I’m hoping to join CCC and attend the next meet-up, this time with my very own bake. Finally a big thank you to Yasmin for inviting me along, Debs for being so welcoming and all the other ladies who let me try their glorious bakes. Above is a picture of my parsnip and maple cake in all its glory and if you’re wondering how it went you can hear about the many dramas of my first bake on my Twitter page. I’ll also be reviewing my own bake on the blog and sharing the recipe in the next couple of weeks so you can have a go yourself. Finally, I’d like to ask you if you have a favourite bake and why you enjoy making it so much?
Living life, loving cake,