One in the oven…

It’s the evening before cake club and my cake for tomorrow is sitting in the oven, baking away. I love and hate this part in equal measure! I’ve followed my recipe, made a few little tweaks of my own, made a mix that looks good…

…and now it’s baking. This is the bit that’s out of my control. The oven temperature is right, so it’s down to the timing. This one is a slow baker and it’s agonising waiting for it to be done. The house is starting to smell fabulous, but the big question is will it look and, more importantly, taste good for my fellow Cake Clubbers tomorrow?

If you’d like to know more about Cake Club, visit the website www.clandestinecake.co.uk – register, find a local group and simply go along. It’s so friendly and lovely, a real feel-good thing to be part of!

Waiting, waiting, waiting!

All Hail the Jumper Dress!

I love Autumn. Well, I love most things about autumn. If I’m totally honest I’m not so keen on the dark mornings, but pretty much everything else I love: the colours of the trees, the beautiful tone of the sunlight, the smell of woodsmoke, the crisp, bright days, foggy days, the fruit and vegetable harvest, wrapping up warm…

…and jumper dresses!

Ah, the jumper dress. Cosy, smart or casual, wear with boots or heels, accessorise with a cheeky little scarf, chuck it on when you’re not sure what else to wear…brilliant. I don’t know what I’d do without my jumper dresses. I’m not sure how many I’ve got, but it’s quite a few. I’ve got cheap and cheerful ones from Matalan and Primark, mid range from M&S and Oasis, posh ones from Jigsaw and Paul Smith; they are my failsafe wardrobe item and the only time I attempt ‘fashion’ (at which I am rubbish, more often that not).

ImageSpotty Jumper Dress by Paul Smith

Having said how marvellous they are, I do have to say woollen dresses don’t mix that well with a small child. Snot, dribbles of milk, sticky fingers…all not that great on a delicate dress that needs handwashing or, if you’re brave, the wool cycle on your washing machine. I’m scared of putting wool in the washing machine. Every time I do it, I shrink stuff, even on what I think is the right setting. But anyway!

If you haven’t got one, I urge you to give a jumper dress a go. There are lots of different styles and they’re so versatile and perfect for this season.

Here endeth the bit about clothes. Don’t worry, there probably won’t be another clothes blog for ages. Phew.

Why?

Why?

It’s seemingly the question that most parents dread, but because Small Person is less than two I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d respond to it. However, she is a very chatty little thing and we have quite good conversations about this and that. Yesterday at the dinner table when we were discussing the general properties of gnocchi, out it popped.

“Why?”

Cue stunned silence followed by a bit of a giggle (me), “Pardon?”

“Why?”

I hadn’t seen it coming. I don’t know why, because she has an extensive range of questions she likes to fire at me during the day, including: “what are you doing mummy?”, “where’s Penny/Isobel/Erin?”, “how are you getting on mummy?” and my favourite, “what would you like to do today mummy, play in the garden?”. I just wasn’t prepared for the ‘why’ question. I don’t know what age children typically start to enquire about things with a genuine desire to learn, and I’m not sure if her question was actually aimed at knowing more about gnocchi. If it was then my answer, “erm…because the potato makes it more floaty,” was not really very educational.

There haven’t been any more ‘whys’ today, so I’ve not been put on the spot again, but I think I’d better get rehearsing my answers, or perfecting my delivery of “because it just does!

National Bundt Day UK

I’ve always been fascinated but a little bit scared of Bundt baking. Odd shaped tins, American recipes (we all know how tricky those can be to convert…talk about hit and miss!) and the fear of doing something spectacularly wrong.

Well, consider me cured! Through the Clandestine Cake Club, I’ve made friends with the lovely Rachel – baker, foodie, blogger and Bundt obsessive. I’d read her posts with interest (and fear) and gone as far as buying myself a basic shaped tin from a supermarket, but it wasn’t until she gave us a talk about her love affair with Bundts at the CCC Annual Organisers Gathering at the end of last month that I worked up the courage to take the bundt plunge good and proper.

You can read Rachel’s blog here: DollyBakes
Please do!

My first Bundt effort was a recipe from her site – strawberry Bundt cake, made with yoghurt, using my (what I now consider to be inferior) supermarket tin. It was ok. I blame my techniques and not the recipe. Also, it was something different and although I am happy to experiment, I’m always a bit unsure of myself!

My second attempt, however, quite the different experience!

Firstly, I was using an amazing new Nordic Ware bundt tin (pan, tin, pan, whatever), which I’d treated myself to after a busy month of band gigs. Let me tell you, this tin is a thing of beauty in itself, never mind what you put in it and get out of it! I’d ordered two of them – the Heritage and the Star. As the Heritage was out of stock, the Star had been sent on alone and was, by default, the tin to be used to test out my cake for our next Manchester North CCC gathering (An Autumn Feast on 27th October).

My recipe was a spicy pumpkin cake, found on an American foodie blogger’s site. American! Cups! How did I cope? I winged it. I measured with my Tala cooks measure and used Queen Delia’s guidance on American conversions. Making the batter went well. Even when I added the sloppy pumpkin puree I was happy with how the mix went. It was very fluffy though, and with oodles of volume I had enough mix for two mini tins as well (plus ample bowl-licking).

I over-filled my tin. Despite knowing Bundt-Queen Rachel’s advice, I still put too much in. I knew it was going to be a big riser but I still kept adding that batter. Once in the oven, it overflowed! Not masses, but definitely burst out of the tin. Lesson learnt. Cooked for 55 minutes, which was, according to the recipe, enough time. I thought I could have kept it in longer but it was cooked and I like to stick to the recipe first of all then make my tweaks after I know how the recipe works.

The house was filled with the glorious scent of baking cake, mixed with the delicious seasonal spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. When the cake came out of the oven I was chuffed to bits. Good colour, sinked nicely back into the tin and had all the promise of turning out beautifully. Left it to cool for about an hour before braving tin removal.

Success! Kept the shape beautifully and looked amazing. I’d actually followed guidance this time and properly prepared my tin and spooned the batter in slowly with wiggling and it worked. A few small holey bubbles but generally excellent. Husband, Small Person and I ate the two mini-bundts after our dinner (for testing purposes only, you understand) and took the finished cake to my parents’ for post Sunday lunch sampling. It went down well with everyone!

Tweaks for cake club? Yes a few. It could take a bit more spice – flavours were lovely but I like strong flavours and these were a bit delicate. It could totally take some nuts – hazelnut or pecan probably. I may cook it longer at a lower temperature to see if I can develop a bit more of that signature Bundt ‘crunch’. You’ll notice I’ve made little mention of the pumpkin, which was supposed to be a feature of the cake. I couldn’t taste it. I’d roasted, peeled and mashed the blighter but it didn’t give much flavour to the cake. However, it did provide lots of lovely moisture that really helped with the structure of the cake and when I bake it again for cake club, will probably help keep it moist with longer cooking.

So here it is, my entry for National Bundt Day UK: Spicy Pumpkin Bundt

My entry for National Bundt Day 2012

Let’s talk about cake

Cake. Bloody marvellous invention. If you’re going to be a regular reader of my blog (and I hope you are) you’ll be reading a lot about cakes. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head. Hang on, isn’t that coconuts?

It’s only fitting that one of my first blog posts be about cake, and more specifically, cake club. Clandestine Cake Club. You may have heard of us  – we’ve been on the telly (The One Show, more than once), the radio (local and national – even made it to Woman’s Hour!) and newspapers (those paper things that some people still read). As a group, the Clandestine Cake Club is only two years old but has seen a huge following develop in that time, which goes to show just how much people adore baking and are taking the simple pleasures to heart.

It only took one meeting to get me hooked and I’m now an organiser for the Manchester North group. We hold gatherings approximately every six weeks at a range of locations throughout North Manchester. We ask people to bake a cake on a theme, bring it to the venue (which is only revealed just before the meeting…that’s the clandestine bit) and then we eat and talk about cake. You don’t need to be an expert baker, just enthusiastic and hungry!
I’ve made some great new friends through it, and would love to share the simple pleasures with more and more people around Manchester (and beyond, obviously!). Please have a look at the site, register as a member and join a local group or two to find out more about it.

Here are the links for more information:

Clandestine Cake Club

Manchester North Group page

Our next events are on 27th October (An Autumn Feast) and 26th November (Cocktails and Mocktails)

 

My first blog post

Hello and welcome to my new blog.

It’s taken me a long time to get here. I’ve had attempts at blogging before, but much like my teenage diary efforts, my initial enthusiasm soon faded out leaving a few waffles on a never-read page. However, this time I feel like I’ve actually got something to say, somewhere to say it and (I hope) people that might want to read it.

So what will it be about?

  1. Food: I love food. I love the satisfaction of cooking something delicious and dishing it up to the people I care about. It’s the most satisfying thing.
  2. Eating: I love eating food. Not just what I’ve cooked, but  also (even more so) what other people have cooked – from slap up meals to greasy fry-ups.
  3. Cake: Could come under the ‘food’ topic but it’s such a passion it deserves a mention of its own. I bake. A lot. I am an organiser for the Clandestine Cake Club (Manchester North) and avid consumer too.
  4. Wine: My family business and something I hope to get involve in one day. Not strictly limited to wine though, there will most likely be copious amounts of gin.
  5. Music: I play the saxophone. I also try to sing, but don’t often share that with the public unless begged or plied with stuff mentioned in item 4. Performing and entertaining is almost as satisfying as cooking for people.
  6. Parenting: I’ve been practicing on Small Person number 1 for almost two years. Lots to learn. She’s turning out ok so far though. More luck than anything I think.

Why now? Because I want to have a record of thoughts, share information (mostly about cake) with friends and the world, and maybe it’ll be something the kid will want to read when she’s older. Not in her teens though…that will be way too cringeworthy for everyone involved.

So there we go. I hope you enjoy. Please do comment and stuff, bearing in mind that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I’m kidding*

Thanks for reading.

*I’m not.Image