Chocolate and Cherry Cake

Sometimes simplicity is best. There’s a temptation to create cakes with loads of layers, lots of flavours and toppings galore, and there’s no doubt that experimenting with baking like that can be exciting and challenging, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics, classic flavours and just make a great, plain cake.

imageI decided to do just that with this chocolate and cherry cake. I had been sent some samples to review from the lovely people at Sugar and Crumbs. I’ve used their products before, having found out about them at the Cake and Bake show in Manchester last year. I was on the Clandestine Cake Club stand, and Sugar and Crumbs were just opposite us – I ended up buying loads of packets of their flavoured icing sugars. They suggested something chocolatey for Mothering Sunday, and with my mum coming over to visit, I saw a perfect opportunity to come up with a decadent chocolate cake for her to enjoy.

So, this cake uses their cherry-flavoured cocoa powder and I wanted to keep it simple to really test out the flavour of the cocoa powder. The cake itself is an indulgent and moist sponge filled with a cherry conserve. It’s a great base mixture that you can flavour as you wish. It’s also really easy and takes no time to mix together!

Ingredients

  • 225 g self raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (cherry flavour)
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • Cherry jam or conserve (I used Frank Cooper’s Red Cherry Oxford Conserve)
    For the icing (optional)
  • 100g soft butter
  • 200g icing sugar (I used sugar and crumbs Black Forest flavour icing sugar)
  • Splash of milk
  • Fresh cherries to decorate

Method

  • Preheat oven to 150 (140 fan oven) and prepare two 8 or 9″ sandwich tins with paper and sides greased
  • Weigh out the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together
  • Using a mixer, whisk the eggs until they’re pale. Add the buttermilk, syrup and oil and give a quick whizz
  • Divide the mixture between the two tins and pop in the centre of the preheated oven.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and the sponge springs back to the touch.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn the cakes out onto a rack to cool.
  • Slather one of the sponges with cherry jam – I used about half a jar. Top with the other sponge
  • For the buttercream, beat the butter until it starts to soften then add the icing sugar gradually, with a splash of milk. Keep beating until it’s light and fluffy.
    Make sure you taste it lots along the way to make sure it’s the right amount of sweet!
  • On top of the cold cake, whack the buttercream in whatever style you choose. I went for a bit of piping, just for a laugh (my piping is abysmal!) but swirled on with a palette knife looks just as good. Then top with some fresh cherries if you like. Take the stones out or leave them in…just warn people if you’re not pitting them. Ouch!image

And that, my lovely people, is it!

imageSo what’s the verdict. Well, the whole cake disappeared in one day, so that tells you something. The opinion of my tasters (mother, sister, four children, friends) was that the cherry flavouring in the sponge was subtle but definitely there. Sugar and Crumbs pride themselves on their flavours being natural, and we all agreed that the cherry flavour wasn’t synthetic tasting at all, and not too strong. It definitely added to the cake and we all liked it. Thumbs up. The black forest icing sugar in the buttercream was also really, really good! I used it with half normal icing sugar so the flavour wouldn’t be as intense, and that balanced nicely.

I’ve used several of the Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar flavours, and also the orange cocoa powder before (all bought by moi) and enjoyed the results of all of them, so I’d definitely suggest giving them a go. There are lots of flavours to choose from and they are a good way of adding an extra layer of flavour into your baking. I have a friend who made some lovely meringues (you can read her blog about them here) using raspberry ripple flavour icing sugar.

Disclaimer: I was sent these products to review by Sugar and Crumbs, but I have not been paid to write about them. All opinions are my own (and that of my cake testers!)image

Satsuma and Pomegranate Bundt

Why is it so hard to think of something different? It’s nigh on impossible to be original when it comes to baking, I find. Almost everything I can think of has been done before. Other people have experimented and discovered flavours that work together, textures that are right for certain tins and bakes, what happens when you add a bit of this or swap a bit of that…and if something hasn’t been done before, it could well be for a good reason.

That’s what happened when I started researching this cake. After being given some bargain pomegranates (after my friend Emma had an incident in the Morrisons reduced veg section, not dissimilar to my ginger incident) I wanted to bake a cake that had pomegranate seeds in it. The thing is, there aren’t many cakes on the internet that have the seeds actually baked in the cake. They’re usually used as a garnish or made into a syrup and drizzled over the top.

I wanted little speckles of bright red in the cake itself. Little bursts of pomegranetty excitement. But, I did think that baking them could make the seeds disappear and just be small dots of disappoinment instead. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided that nothing was to be gained by being cautious and I was going to chuck them in anyway. I also wanted a citrus flavour with it…keeping it seasonal I decided to go with satsuma, for something a bit different to the usual orange.

satsuma2This recipe is for a 10-12 cup bundt tin. I used the NordicWare star tin, which is one of my favourites, but this should work well with most shapes except really intricate ones. For a 6-cup bundt tin simply halve the quantities!

Use the brightest, pinkest pomegranate you can find. They can be a bit of a bugger to get the seeds out and it can take ages. I don’t find the cheffy tip of bashing works, I just quarter it and gently peel off the thin, papery skins and pop seeds out. If you want to cheat and buy the pre-packed seeds because you can’t be bothered faffing with de-seeding your own, I won’t tell anyone.

Thanks as ever to Dollybakes for her basic bundt recipe, which can be found on her smashing blog. If you’re new to bundt baking, I strongly suggest you read her starter tips and get stuck in. Everyone I know who’s caught the bundt bug follows her recipes with success.

Ingredients

  • 225g butter or margarine (I used Stork)
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 250ml full fat greek yoghurt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon satsuma juice
  • zest of 4 satsumas (use more or less depending on your preference, but I like strong flavours)
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds (about half a fruit)
    For the icing
  • 100g Icing sugar
  • Satsuma juice
  • Pomegranate seeds and satsuma zest (to decorate – optional)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160°C(fan) (320°F) and prepare your chosen tin by greasing or using cake release spray.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until it’s pale and fluffy. In a mixer, with a hand mixer, or with a spoon if you’re bonkers. This will take a good few minutes – if you’re not sure it’s ready, beat a bit longer.
  • Gradually add the eggs, whilst mixing slowly. SLOWLY. If the mixture is starting to curdle a bit, add a sprinkle of the flour.
  • Mix together the flour, bicarb and salt, and add half to the mixture. Keep it slow.
  • Mix together yoghurt, zest, satsuma juice and orange extract. Add this to the mixture. Keep mixing slowly.
  • Now add the rest of the flour. Sloooowly mix until it’s all incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure it’s all mixed in. You should now have an orangey, voluminous bowl of luscious cake mixture. Be patient, you can lick the bowl in a minute.
  • By hand, fold in the pomegranate seeds.

    Fold in the seeds gently.

    Fold in the seeds gently.

  • Now dollop the mixture into your prepared tin. Make sure you’ve got it into all the crooks and nannies…give a little wiggle if necessary. Fill the tin about 3/4 full, not all the way to the top.
  • Pop into the oven (middle shelf) and bake for around an hour and 15 minutes, might be a bit less or a bit longer depending on your oven. Check after an hour, but don’t open the door before then .
  • Now you may lick the bowl. And the beaters/spoons.
  • When done (no mix on a skewer, and the cake should be coming away from the sides of the tin), take out the cake and leave it in the tin to cool for as long as your patience will let you – at least 20 minutes though. If you turn it out too soon you’ll risk a tin-sticking incident.
  • Once the cake is cold you can decorate it as you choose. Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar for the most simple effect. I chose to make a satsuma icing, by mixing juice into the icing sugar until it’s thick and drizzling over the top. Garnish with seeds and zest.

satsuma3How was it? Well, my pomegranate wasn’t as pink as I’d have liked, but there were definitely little jewels of colour in the cake, which was what I was after. Did it taste very pomegranattey? No. Satsumay? Yes! Yummy? Definitely. Would I bake it again? Oooh yes. And I’ve come to realise that it’s ok not to be totally original. It isn’t the be all and end all. But just because something hasn’t been done by lots of people, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, and giving things a whirl can pay off. Be brave…with cake anyway.

This cake was created for the Manchester North Clandestine Cake Club event – Telly Addicts. You can read all about our event on the Clandestine Cake Club website. I organise the Manchester North group and if you’d like to find out more and join us, please get in touch. It’s a fabulous way to share cake, meet people and experiment with your baking. And it’s free!

Christmas in November – Amaretto and Dark Chocolate Bundt

Christmas festivities should not start until December. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I have always disliked how it seems to be creeping earlier and earlier into the year, especially in the shops. The pressure to buy and consume is huge, even more so now with the sudden UK explosion of Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. Retailers offer discounts on loads of items, causing mass hysteria, riots and even injuries. It’s mental! Whilst I’m all for a decent discount I hate the mob mentality Black Friday fosters and I disagree with it wholeheartedly. But I digress. Back to Christmas!

I have actually been feeling festive a little sooner this year. Maybe it’s because of having two children who are now old enough to understand it, even if they don’t grasp the more subtle messages of Christmas! I can’t really throw myself into it until the eldest’s birthday has been done, which it has now, so I officially give myself permission to start Christmas this weekend. I’ve bought a festive jumper, done some Christmas shopping and I’ve even started listening to the Michael Bublé christmas album (much to Mr H’s disgust). There may also be some wine-mulling going on this weekend. Oh yes!

Adding to the Christmas spirit was last night’s Clandestine Cake Club gathering. A joint event between all three Manchester clubs, we met at the lovely Proper Tea, near the Cathedral. I will add a link to the official write up of the event when it’s been done, but for now I’d like to share with you the cake I made for it. The theme was European Cakes – a nod to the Great British Bake Off European week, which we’d particularly enjoyed, a chance to challenge ourselves with something a bit different, and because the Manchester European Christmas markets are in full swing. I’d set my heart on baking something Italian, possibly even Sicilian, but Sicilian ‘cake’ recipes aren’t that abundant on t’interweb. What did take my fancy was something called Buccellato. It’s a ring-shaped pastry affair, stuffed with figs and other dried fruits, almonds, citrus and nuts, and oodles of festive spices. Brilliant. It also is pastry, which is something I still need to conquer, so it was going to be a good challenge. Having bought all the ingredients, I looked at the recipe in more detail…which is what I should have done beforehand, because the thing requires several stages of chilling: you need to chill the pastry, the filling, the assembled thing before cooking…given that I was starting this at 8pm on the night before cake club, I got a serious case of can’tbearseditis. So I quickly rustled up a Plan B. And not too shabby a plan B! I love Amaretto, and I love dark chocolate, and the two go together so well. So, a bundt it was!

It’ll be no surprise to you that I based it on the Build-a-Bundt formula from Bolton CCC’s Dollybakes, which is my most trusted bundt recipe. And I just made my own tweaks for the flavours. Here goes…

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Butter or marge – 225g
  • Caster sugar – 375g
  • Light soft brown sugar – 75g
  • 4 free range eggs
  • Plain flour – 350g (plus a bit extra)
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Bicarbonate of Soda – ½ teaspoon
  • Greek yoghurt – 250ml
  • Almond essence – 1 teaspoon
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • Amaretto Disaronno – I used 100mls

For the topping

  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 100mls double cream
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto disaronno
  • Amaretti biscuits (hard) or flaked almonds

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160 oC
  • Start by creaming together the butter and sugars, either in a mixer (hello trusty Kitchen Aid) or with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy. This should take a few minutes at high speed.
  • Turn your mixer down low. Beat the eggs together in a bowl and add very gradually, making sure each addition is fully mixed in before adding more. Go steady here.
  • Next, add the flour, bicarb and salt together, alternating with some of the yoghurt and almond essence. Do this gradually. Some people prefer to do it by hand but I find the mixer on slowest speed is fine…just make sure you don’t over-mix it. Be stingy with the mixing!
  • Finally bung in the amaretto and give it a quick whizz. At this stage, because you’re adding more liquid than usual, you might need to add a little bit more flour (hence the extra in the ingredients). If you feel the batter is looking a bit too slack, add a table spoon of flour and fold it in by hand. Sorry for being vague here but it all depends on a few factors…the consistency of the yoghurt being a big one, which is why I prefer Greek style for this recipe as it’s thicker. Basically just use your eye and experience and judge when you think it’s right!
  • Split the batter by popping half of it into another bowl.
  • Melt the dark chocolate by heating it slowly in a bowl, sitting over a pan of simmering water. This shouldn’t take long. Fold the chocolate into into one of the bowls of batter.
  • Prepare you tin of choice (I used my trusty star shaped Bundt but this should work with most shapes). Cake release spray and a coating of flour.
  • IMG_7036You can now marble the batters together however you choose. I did one layer of plain, one of chocolate, then another plain, chocolate and finished with more plain, then swirled them slightly using a skewer…but the choice is yours! You could do zebra layers, which looks ace, dollops around the tin…lots of options. Don’t fill more than ¾ full.
  • Pop in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for an hour and 15 minutes thereabouts – I checked mine after an hour, turned it and gave it a bit longer…an hour and 20 in total.
  • Let it cool in the tin for 15 mins then turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

IMG_7038

  • When the cake’s cold, make the chocolate ganache. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pan of water.
  • Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream, stirring constantly. Then add the amaretto and keep stirring. You can add more cream and amaretto if you like, but not too much. I was sort of guessing at this bit!
  • Drizzle this over the top of your cake in a stylish manner!
  • Scatter the top with crushed amaretti biscuits or toasted almond flakes…or both if you like.

Amaretto and dark chocolate bundt

And there it is! Amaretto and Dark Chocolate bundt. We had a fantastic cake club christmas do, with some brilliant bakes. If you fancy coming along, we’d love to see you. Follow @MancNorthCCC on Twitter and join us on the Clandestine Cake Club website.

Pink Grapefruit ‘Spare’ Cake

I love grapefruit. Especially pink grapefruit. No added sugar, freshly peeled, first thing in the morning or as a pick-me-up afternoon snack. I love the tangy sharpness with a hint of sweetness and they smell divine.

I’ve wanted to bake a grapefruit cake for ages, but kept forgetting that I wanted to. This may or may not have had something to do with my caramel obsession, bundt obsession, passion fruit obsession and blood orange obsession. Then, when Beca baked her grapefruit sponge on the Great British Bake off it reminded me how much I wanted to use grapefruit in a cake.

This week, we had an unusual cake club event – I won 50kg of ready-to-roll icing from Renshaw in a competition on the Clandestine Cake Club website. As the kind-hearted group organiser I am, I wanted to share this with everyone in the club, so I organised an event for everyone to get together and play with the icing. Themed ‘Naked Cakes’, 15 bakers got together with their plain sponges and Renshaw professional cake decorators came along to show us some sugar craft techniques.

So, here’s a confession *whispers* I don’t really like icing. It’s too sweet, I don’t like the smooth but gummy texture and the way it disguises the lovely cake underneath it. Yes it makes cakes look pretty but it doesn’t add anything to the flavour. It’s so disappointing to cut into a beautifully iced cake to find a plain sponge without any interesting flavour. It’s the reason I didn’t even really like cake until I discovered there was more to cake than victoria sponge! For me, the joy of cake is in the flavours. Anyway, getting back to the cake….

I thought I should bake a sponge for the decorating event that had a punchy flavour, which would hopefully balance out the sweetness of the icing. Not orange again (bit of an orange overdose lately) or lemon (done lemon loads). Grapefruit was the answer. Off I toddled to Pinterest for some inspiration.

There were a few different recipes but I needed to work with what I had, and something that would stand up to the weight of the icing. Also I’d planned to bake a spare cake for the event, so that people could take their decorated sponges home but still have cake to eat on the night! So this is what I did.

I based my sponge on this recipe from Suzonne Stirling’s Urban Comfort blog, which was a lovely big but sturdy cake mix (5 eggs!) and used it for my 6″ decorating cake and the spare cake.

This is the 6″ cake baked for decorating.

Here’s the recipe. Please note this made TWO cakes – one very deep 6″ sandwich cake and one 8″ normal-size sandwich cake. You can use whatever tins you prefer – make two cakes, or one big one. Either adjust the recipe quantities or the baking time.

Ingredients

  • 400g plain flour
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 540g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 300mls whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs (I used large)
  • zest of 1 ½ pink grapefruits (finely grated)

For the filling

  • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 200g icing sugar
  • pink grapefruit juice and zest

For the topping

  • icing sugar
  • pink grapefruit juice
  • zest strips to decorate

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare your chosen tin.
  • cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  • in a separate bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  • add the eggs to the butter and sugar mix one at a time, slowly, making sure they’re fully incorporated.
  • add the vanilla
  • mix in the flour, alternating with the milk and mixing slowly.
  • add the zest and mix on a low speed until the batter is smooth, thick and fluffy. If it looks a bit curdled keep mixing for another minute or so until it comes together.
  • pop equal amounts of batter into your chosen, prepared tins. Cooking time will vary depending on what size you’ve chosen. My 8″ sandwich tins took approximately 25 minutes but keep an eye on them and take them out when browned all over, and when the sponge springs back when touched, or a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  • For the buttercream, reduce the juice of one grapefruit in a saucepan until it’s thick and syrupy (no sugar needed) and allow to cool. Beat together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, adding the thick juice and a sprinkling of finely grated zest. If you wish to make more, to fill and top your cake(s) with buttercream adjust the quantities as required simply keeping the ratio 2:1 icing sugar:butter.
  • Once cooled, fill your sponges, spreading your buttercream with a pallet knife. I don’t like too much filling – about 1cm thickness does the trick for me.
  • To top with glacé icing, simply add small amounts of pink grapefruit juice to icing sugar and stir until it makes a very thick paste. I found it turned a really pretty pale pink colour. Spread this over the top of your cake, using a few small strips of zest to decorate. Don’t worry if you make it a bit too runny and it drips over the sides – it looks pretty!

And TA-DA! Your pink grapefruit spare cake is done.

Pink Grapefruit Spare Cake

For anyone interested in how the cake decorating turned out, I was pretty pleased with my efforts and definitely learned a lot about the basics of cake covering. Also, I like doing icing roses!

Blood Orange Bundt

I like this time of year. I realise I’m probably in the minority, but I really do like it. Frosty days, the days getting gradually longer, and blood oranges are in season. Maybe it’s the Sicilian in me (it is) but these little globes of blush-orange deliciousness are just magical. You peel one and you never quite know what you’re going to get. Some are all orange on the outside and crimson inside, some are speckled with red all through, some are blood-red at one end and orange at the other…but all are beautiful. And tasty. So tasty. Orangey with a tang, but with a sweetness that sets them apart from other oranges. The season is so short that when they come onto the scene you’ve just got to grab your opportunity and use them as much as you can. Eat them, make them into a salad (with fennel), juice them, marmalade them…and bake with them.

Blood oranges and lemons from Sicily

I got a delivery of Sicilian lemons and blood oranges from my Dad, just a few, and I was chuffed. Little did I know that a week later he would bring me a whole crate of the little round jewels!

I had a cake club coming up and was desperate to incorporate the oranges into my bake, even if the link was somewhat tenuous. After a trial blood-orange drizzle loaf cake that turned out okay, but nowhere near orangey enough, I plunged head first into making my blood orange bundt cake using the pretty NordicWare fir tree tin. It gave me the ‘trees and mountains’ link to the Winter Olympics that I needed for Cake Club theme.

ImageThis tin first came on my radar when I saw Nigella use it for her Spruced Up Vanilla Cake. Actually I think that might be the first time that Bundts came onto my radar at all. I just thought they were pretty shaped tins (which they are) but little did I know the world of Bundt that would open up to me in the future!
I borrowed this particular tin from my good friend Sarah, who is almost as Bundt crazy as me. Between us we have a range of lovely NordicWare tins that we swap and share. They’re quite pricey, as bakeware goes, but the heavy-duty quality of them makes it totally worth it. If you can find a friend with a passion and willing to share, I recommend it.

Next mission, the recipe. Lessons learnt from the trial cake, I set to creating. Here’s the recipe:

Cake

  • 350g self raising flour
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 225g unsalted butter (or Stork)
  • 225ml milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 blood oranges (zest of 3 and juice of 2)

Glaze and caramelised oranges

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 blood orange, thinly sliced
  • 250ml water

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160degrees  and prepare the tin with cake release spray and a dusting of flour.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, either with a stand mixer or a hand whisk.
  • Add one egg at a time and mix slowly, until fully incorporated.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add this to the mixture, folding in slowly by hand and alternating with adding the milk.
  • Add the finely grated zest of 3 oranges (I like my cake to pack a punch of flavour. None of this delicate malarkey!) and keep folding. Don’t over mix or your cake will get dense when it cooks. Don’t worry if it is a little bit lumpy.
  • Add the juice of 2 oranges. When you add the juice, the mix will look a bit odd, but go with it and keep mixing gently.
  • Spoon the mix into your prepared tin, making sure it gets into the pattern thoroughly. Do not fill more than ¾ full.
  • Place in the centre of the oven and cook for about an hour – test it, turn it and give it another 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t worry about over-baking; Bundts are hard to burn and if you leave it an extra 5 or 10 minutes you’ll just get a thicker ‘crust’ rather than burn the cake.
  • Whilst it’s cooking, make your glaze and caramelised oranges. In a non-stick frying pan, heat the sugar and water slowly until the sugar is dissolved and it’s on a slow boil. Add the slices of orange (I used the zested spare orange from the cake mix) so they are in a single layer. With the heat low, cook until the sugar syrup is lovely and thick and the oranges are soft. Mine took about 20 minutes. It should have infused with the juice from the oranges and be a pretty pale pink colour. Take the slices out and cool on a wire rack. Use the syrup to glaze, but you’ll need to do it whilst it’s still hot.
    Oranges in the pan
  • When the cake is out, let it cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. Your cake should turn out of the tin smoothly, but don’t panic if it doesn’t, just turn it upside-down and let gravity do the work. If anything gets stuck on the tin, don’t worry, most things can be covered or repaired!
  • Whilst it’s still warm, drizzle the sugar syrup glaze over the cake.
    Cake
  • Once everything has cooled, sprinkle the cake generously with icing sugar, pop onto a cake stand or plate and decorate with the orange slices around the base.

The result should be lovely, moist and full of orangey zing. If you make it, tell me how you get on.

Blood Orange Bundt

I’d love to know what you’re doing with blood oranges. Let me know!

The Cake and Bake Show Manchester – 2013

img_cake_bake_2013_logoI was excited about this show coming to Manchester months and months ago. I’d heard such good things about it from last year in London that I was determined to visit and enjoy all the delights on offer. I bought my tickets (half price! There were loads of different deals on the internet on the run up to the event) and arranged childcare so I could really take in the full baking experience.

As it happened, the Clandestine Cake Club were having a stand at the show and as the event was on our doorstep, when Lynn Hill asked for some help at the stand, I jumped at the opportunity to spread the love for CCC.

My day started pretty early, helping set things up and having a bit of a scout around the other stands. I won’t deny that I was slightly on the hunt for Paul Hollywood, just to say I’d seen him! Whilst waiting for the doors to open and the huge queue of people pour in, I was chuffed to meet Eric Lanlard, who sauntered over to say hello. Lynn knows him from various baking fun stuff but this was my first meeting and he was lovely. Very chatty and full of praise for our little cake club! Next to say hello was Dan Lepard, whose recipes I absolutely adore. He was really interested in CCC and loved the idea behind it. He’s judging the Australian version of The Great British Bake Off, which I hope comes to UK telly as I’d love to see it.

As soon as the doors opened, we were mad busy chatting to people about the idea behind the Clandestine Cake Club and how it all worked. There were a range of cakes created by our members for a special competition to be judged by Peter Sidwell. They all looked spectacular and drew people to our table.

After a few hours, I managed to sneak away for a walk round the show and a sit down for some sandwiches! The show was rammed with people, loads of seating for the displays and demonstrations and many brilliant stalls. The Manchester Central location was perfect and it didn’t feel too big – there was so much to see but plenty to keep you entertained all day.

My personal highlights (to name but a few) included the marshmallows from The Marshmallowists, which were incredibly light and delicious, gorgeous homewares and stuff from Baker and Maker and stunning breads from Manchester’s own Martins Bakery.

Managed to resist spending too much, just getting some bread-making bits from Doves Farm (including some lovely spelt flour, which I hope to use this weekend!) and a tin sign for my new kitchen, as and when we finally get planning permission and start to build!

It was also very lovely to see some of my CCC colleagues, including Rachel (@Dollybakes) from Bolton CCC, Rachel (@comedinewitrach), Alex from Wigan, Lynne from Lancaster and Helen from Warrington.

If you get chance to go this weekend (or another year!) I totally recommend it. There’s so much to see and do, lots of well known bakers doing signings and demonstrations, and a kids theatre too.

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!