What better way to shake off the excesses of Christmas and New Year than with… well, a bit more excess?! I was very excited this month to be added to the guest list for the January meeting of Cornwall’s Clandestine Cake Club, and even more excited to find out that it was being hosted at an initially undisclosed location on The Roseland. 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 The Quarterdeck Restaurant at The Nare Hotel. 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 talented team at The Quarterdeck Restaurant 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. And where better to enjoy such a pleasing pastime as in Cornwall, where fresh, good quality, local ingredients are readily available? 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, Clandestine Cake Club Cornwall will be hosting its next event in St Ives on 27th February 2012 and the theme is ‘A Work of Art’. For details and to register log on to www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk and click on ‘Events’. If you’d like to bake your own great tasting but plain looking Brandy, Honey and Ginger cake, you can find my very own recipe in our Recipe Pages.