What better way to indulge a sweet tooth than with…cake?! I was very excited to be added to the guest list recently for a meeting of my local Clandestine Cake Club, and even more excited to find that the location is kept under wraps until the last minute.
If you haven’t already seen the hype, the secretive cake appreciation society meets each month to share the highs and lows of baking and eating cakes. As with most clubs, to attend Clandestine Cake Club you must agree to abide by a few important rules.
Rule 1. Each cake must be large enough to slice into around 8 – 12 good slices.
Rule 2. No cupcakes, Muffins, Brownies, Cookies, Pies or Tarts.
Rule 3. Home-bakers and professional bakers can join in. It’s not a competition, no judging, just a lot of fun. Sounds simple enough right?
After signing up to become a member, I watched and waited as the guest list grew and more clues about the event were dished up online. Every cake club has a theme, and this time it was ‘Retox’. Boozy, creamy and very yummy cakes were the order of the day, and so I set about planning a melt in the mouth masterpiece! Three weeks ahead of the event, I baked a practice batch of my very own Brandy, Honey & Ginger concoction. Whilst it met the brief, it sadly didn’t taste as good as I hoped, but it was too late to back out now!
Two weeks and a few more attempts later and I had refined my recipe and felt that I was ready to plate up my cake alongside the best of them, or so I thought. Finally, the cake club’s location was unveiled as a five star hotel nearby. The unveiling of this luxury venue should have set alarm bells ringing as far as the standard of the event was concerned, but instead I remained quietly confident that a simple but tasty recipe would see me through.
On arrival at the event however I quickly realised my naivety. There were cakes of many colours, sizes, shapes and flavours, each one more delicious and dazzling than the next. And then there was my slab of undecorated, uninspiring and really rather understated cake. I was beginning to worry as I laid it on a cake stand amongst an array of sponges topped with white chocolate stars, edible glitter, fresh raspberries and cream swirls. The hotel’s talented kitchen team even got in on the act, tabling a centerpiece entitled ‘The Last Petit Four’. This silver wrapped and rather enormous petit four was filled with chocolate mousse and surrounded by lots of mini petit fours. Hec, there was even a plate of knitted cakes that despite being inedible still stood more impressively than my own. By now you may well understand my anxiety! Just as I was contemplating pushing my cake slab into my handbag and running for the door we were asked to gather round start tasting the bevvy of baked beauties.
So I swallowed my pride along with several slices of cake and joined the group of 26 bakers and cake enthusiasts tucking into Butterscotch Layer Cake, Guiness and Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Icing, and Flourless Chocolate and Lime Cake with Margarita Topping to name but a few. My personal favourite was a Gateau Mystère created by cake club member David McWilliam, a deliciously delicate sponge oozing with a white chocolate and amaretto filling.
Cake clubs are enjoying a boom thanks to a recent resurgence in TV bakery shows and vintage lifestyle trends. Irrespective of the trends, what I really enjoyed about Clandestine Cake Club (apart from all the cake eating!) was the combination of interesting people. Keen amateur bakers, experienced chefs, writers, artists, broadcasters, photographers, mothers and more came together to share ideas, anecdotes and enthusiasm for food, and who wouldn’t enjoy that?
If you are interested in giving it a go log on to http://www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk to find out if there is a club near you. To see more food photography by David Griffen go to http://davidgriffen.co.uk/cornwall-food-photographer.htm