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The secret lives of bakers

18 Sep

Can you keep a secret?

For the last year I’ve been running a secret group for bakers, a branch of the Clandestine Cake Club.

As you may already be aware, I’ve been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for a while and so I joined both the Newcastle branch and the Gosforth and Jesmond branch, my local group, as soon as I moved up to the toon.

Sadly the Gosforth and Jesmond leader had to step down before I could attend a meeting, with no-one stepping up to take it over. I had two choices: watch the group fold before I’d had chance to enjoy the cakes my neighbours had to offer or step up myself. It was a no brainer really!

That was April last year and we’ve been meeting pretty much every month since. In that time we’ve grown from a group of four or five into a core of around 10 and every one of my members is lovely!

Our last meeting was by far the best one yet, courtesy of a little cheeky email to Jesmond Dene House.

I never thought for one second they’d even reply when I fired off the email on a particularly brave night. So to say I was surprised when I not only received a response but that they’d be more than willing to host us would be a huge understatement!

They couldn’t have been kinder and we loved every minute of our two hours there.

Here are just some of the delicious cakes we enjoyed:

What made the March meeting even more exciting was the fact that I also got the chance to team up with Jesmond-based business Le Mini Macaron.

As a local business, who I knew made delicious macarons having tested them at both the Sunday Quayside market and a few local food fairs, I had initially approached them to see if they’d be interested in hosting a meeting.

They’d had to turn me down as they operate from home but were willing to help in another way, and agreed to make me some mini macarons for the top of my cake.

They were gorgeous!


Home is where the heart is

14 Apr

What do you think of when you think of home?

For me it’s easy. My nan’s apple pie with custard.

But how to convert pie into a cake? That was today’s challenge as I dipped my toes into Derby Clandestine Cake Club.

After googling apple pie cake I only came across American recipes I couldn’t figure out how to change so I decided on an apple cake.

My first recipe was a disaster – an undercooked oily disaster to be precise. But as date night meant I didn’t have time to bake another last night, I went back to a recipe I tried in November for toffee apple cake, found on
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before to be honest, as yet again it worked perfectly.

I made several attempts at custard icing and failed miserably. If any of you have a recipe or an idea I would happily accept it 🙂

In the end, with just half an hour to go until the club, I decided just to use ready made custard. Bit of a cop out I know but I had no other option.

As always my cake was by far the most rustic looking but it tasted nice.


In case you fancy having a go, here’s the recipe:

3 eggs
200g caster sugar
375g self raising flour
280g vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
500g apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease 25cm cake tin
2. Beat eggs until foamy then gradually add sugar
3. Combine flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda then add to egg mixture
4. Stir in apples and transfer to tin
5. Bake for 1hr 10min or until a skewer comes out clean (mine needed an extra 10mins). Leave in tin for 10 mins and transfer to cooling rack.

And there we have it. Easy as (apple) pie!

The venue was the Aga shop in Derby which, aside from being boiling due to the Aga being on, was a lovely venue.

Aga’s have always fascinated me and I never knew how much they cost. I know I’ll never be able to afford one bit it was great to look. They also sell giant teapots which were perfect for the occasion!

I had a great time and will definitely be going to the next Derby event.

I forgot to take a picture while I was there but this gives you an idea of the yummy cakes on offer.


The secret is out!

16 Feb
Lynn Hill's new book

Lynn Hill’s new book

SHE says she’s ‘just a lady from Leeds’ but, like it or not, Lynn Hill is truly a legend (not that she’ll thank me for saying it!).

After looking for something to do in her retirement, Lynn set up the Secret Tea Room at her home in Leeds and from that grew the Clandestine Cake Club in 2010.

Fast forward a few years and there are now around 160 groups throughout the UK and overseas, including Loughborough, where I have the pleasure of making my living.

In case you’ve been hiding under a dustbin for the last two and a bit years, the ethos behind Clandestine Cake Club is ‘bake, eat and talk about cake’, offering the opportunity for cake geeks like me to get together over their love of baking, without feeling judged.

Only cakes are allowed – no cupcakes or muffins here – and each event is kept secret until a few days before it is due to take place, with only the theme given as a clue.

Over the last year I’ve enjoyed taking part in the meetings, which included the NAAFI Cafe at Great Central Railway’s Quorn and Woodhouse station and Loughborough Town Hall’s gallery space.

And today I had the honour of joining both Lynn and Janet Currie, the Loughborough co-organiser, at the local launch of the brand new Clandestine Cake Club recipe book at Waterstones along with some of the other cake club members.

Featuring 120 recipes, many from Lynn herself and one by Janet, which I tasted today and confirm it’s gorgeous, the book is a definite must-buy and, despite only being released on February 14, has already proved so popular that it has had to be re-printed.

For the occasion I made an attempt at Gary Morton’s Rhubarb and Custard cake from p42 of the book, a slight gamble as it doesn’t actually have a photo of what it should look like.

After a semi-successful practice attempt last weekend, I learnt some valuable lessons and made some slight alterations, including doubling the amount of rhubarb and adding extra custard in the frosting. I don’t think it looks like quite as good as Gary intended but it did taste nice and that’s all that matters in my book 🙂

rhubard and custard cake

I’m not giving you the recipe though because you need to buy this book. Priced at £20, get on down to your local Waterstones (or visit the Book People website because apparently it’s on offer at £6.99!)

Here’s a little snap of some of the gorgeous cakes we sampled today, including Janet’s Choo Choo Chai cake and her sister (and co-organiser of Loughborough CCC) Anne’s delicious cherry and cardamom cake.

cake club

If you would like to become a CCC member, visit