A Weekend of Baking Brilliantness (Cake and Bake Show 2014)

I’ve got a cake hangover. It’s been a very fun weekend at the Cake and Bake Show in Manchester.

Things started on Friday – Emma (Manchester City Centre CCC Organiser) and I were helping out on the Clandestine Cake Club stand, along with Lynn (CCC Founder) and her daughter Joanne. It’s fair to say Em and I were a little bit excited. We’re talking ‘taking photos of ourselves with excited faces whilst walking to the show’ type excited. We’d had such a fab time last year that we were expecting great things of the show this year, and we weren’t disappointed.

excited face

Excited face!

After making our way to our stand, setting out the cakes that CCC members had baked for the ‘Taste on the Table’ competition and sending a few excited tweets, we had a little wander round the show before the doors opened to the public. We also met up with fellow CCC organiser and Bundt baker extraordinaire Rachel (aka Dollybakes) who was just as excited as me!


Me, Em and Rachel – Organiser girlies.

I was delighted to be asked to judge cakes with Peter Sidwell on Friday, for our Taste on the Table competition. I say asked…Emma couldn’t taste the bacon cake, being a veggie, and Lynn didn’t want to trough through 30 cakes by tasting them all each day, so I was the last resort really!

All the cakes were of very high quality and I honestly liked them all…but the winner (thankfully Peter agreed with me and I didn’t have to argue my case) was a pistachio, lime and basil cake that was beautifully flavoured and well balanced, as well as being unusual.

On Sunday, which we’d named “Sunday is Bundt Day”, our competition prize was kindly donated by NordicWare. Not one to pass up the opportunity of winning a huge pile of goodies, I entered a bundt of my very own. I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous about baking a cake as I was about this one. I made the Chocolate and Salted Caramel Bundt that I did for cake club a few months ago, but with a few tweaks. I marbled the dark chocolate and caramel sponge, and made the caramel sauce differently, and quite a bit more salty!



Lynn cutting into the competition cakes

I didn’t win, but was very happy to take part in the competition and get some good feedback from Rachel (most importantly) Peter (what does he know?!), my fellow cake clubbers (who tucked in to it at the end of the show), Marcus from NordicWare and my band mates at rehearsal later that evening. A Bundt goes a long way!

There were some absolutely amazing cakes on display. I’m not really one for sugar craft – my cakes are more about taste than decoration, mainly because I’m not great at it! However, I am certainly in awe of those who have the skill. It’s fantastic. The jungle theme threw up some stunningly decorated cakes, including a mahoosive gorilla, a snake, spiders and an elephant that was, quite possibly the size of an actual baby elephant!

As for the stalls…cor. The CCC stand was opposite a company selling very nice brownies and cupcakes.


There were cakes, meringues, marshmallows, sausage rolls and pork pies, breads, wines, pinnies, gifts…so much to see and buy. I think the show organisers struck a really good balance this year. Last year I found it a bit sugarcraft-heavy but this year it seemed much more suited to a wider range of bakers. It was also very, very difficult not to spend every penny in my purse!

The demos and classes were excellent – as well as Peter Sidwell and his co-host Mich Turner, we saw Simon Rimmer, Eric Lanlard and Rosemary Shrager. Great British Bake Off contestants and winners were in abundance. I met Kimberley (very chatty, loves a good wedge of cake and full of knowledge. Meeting her made Em’s day!), chatted to Glenn (very tall and friendly) and said hello to Christine. Saw John Whaite and Cat, but missed Frances!

Great to finally meet Marcus from Nordic Ware, whose tales of celeb bakers and bunts were very entertaining. Not to mention producing the best photo of the show…


Just feel that bundt!

Other show highlights include Salcombe Dairy ice cream – I mentioned their tweet and got a free 3-scoop waffle cone of deliciousness, Neilsenn-Massey cocktails – orange blossom cosmo was amazing and was responsible for my flushed cheeks on Sunday afternoon, Olivia and Sam proving that baking and glamour do indeed go hand in hand, Joe & Seph’s popcorn for flavours that shouldn’t work with popcorn but do and the end of show reductions that have resulted in obscene amounts of pork/pastry products in my fridge.

Thanks to Lynn for coordinating the show and inviting me along to help. Thrilled to be part of it and share the cakey love.


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!

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)