When Yorkshirewoman Lynn Hill founded the first Clandestine Cake Club three years ago, few could have imagined it would turn into a national culinary phenomenon.
But within that time the idea of eating cake together with fellow foodies, while sharing recipes and tips as well as general chit-chat, caught on and the past-time spread like...a particularly runny icing.
Today there are 169 clubs which hold regular meetings across the country, including the Northampton & District group which was founded last year by Gillian Tarry of Higham Ferrers.
Lynn Hill has just published The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook and three of the Northampton group’s members, namely Gillian Tarry, Carmela Hayes, from Wootton and Vanessa Kimbell, from Pitsford, have had their recipes picked from a national selection for inclusion in the book.
Carmela said: “We meet once a month at a different ‘secret’ location that gets disclosed three days before the event. We are given a theme which could be vegetables, chocolate, fruit cake or something like that and we will take along a cake with that theme. We have tea and share cakes, we have given some to hospices before, if there is no fresh cream. We had one club at Cynthia Spencer Hospice which was really good.”
The local recipes in the new book include Carmela’s fresh cream and amaretto cake and another dark chocolate and amaretto cake and Vanessa’s cardamom, rose and rhubarb cake.
Gillian’s recipes include a lemon, parsnip and hazelnut cake and a sweet potato and pecan cake. But how did the idea of putting lemons and parsnips together come about?
She said: “I had to make it two or three times to get it right but everyone who has tried it seems to like it. I had a cake recipe which included beetroot and thought, if beetroot works then why not other vegetables? Parsnips are quite sweet so I had to think of something else to go with it. There is ginger in there for warmth and the lemon cuts through the sweetness.”
The Northampton and District club alone has more than 70 members, with most meetings attended by about 20.
Gillian said: “Home baking is absolutely huge. I don’t think anyone ever refuses a piece of cake. A lot of cakes we associate with good times such as birthdays, so baking is a special thing to do. I have always been a home cook and baked for my family. I would say one tip for other people would be not to be too frightened of baking, they should give themselves time and really enjoy it.”
Members of the club include those who simply bake for fun as well as food bloggers, cookery tutors and even professional cake bakers.
Best known for her cupcake company Angelina Cupcake, in Towcester, Julie Elliott is one of the members...even though the cakes made for the club are not allowed to be cupcakes.
Julie said: “I just have a passion for cake really and anything cake related.”
The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook is now available in bookshops, priced £20. To find out where the local meetings will next be held see clandestinecakeclub.co.uk or write to firstname.lastname@example.org