Saturday, 27 October 2012

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 20th October 2012

Last Saturday, the 20th of October, the fourth meeting of the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club took place in our usual haunt. The meeting took place at the cafe/bar of the apex in the centre of town and this proved to be a great venue as always.

I'm always impressed by the wonderful cakes members bring along to our events but this time we were treated to some truly delicious offerings. Not surprisingly our spread generated a few comments from other customers passing by!

This time we were also joined by a reporter (who didn't want any cake - I know!) from the local paper, the Bury Free Press and you can find his write up in last Friday's paper or on the website here.

So, on to the most important part - the cakes! This month's theme was Autumn Bakes and as you can see we were really spoilt for choice....

Here's a closer look at each cake...

Shauna's Caramel Apple Cake - I loved the sticky, gooey caramel sauce on the top of this one!

Jane's Chocolate Pumpkin Cake - when Jane told me what cake she would be bringing it never occurred to me that it would be an actual pumpkin! Fantastic on the outside, delicious on the inside.

Sonia's Summer Berry Upside Down Cake - I loved how fruity and light this one was.

Helen's Luscious Lemon Cake - this was so delicious with bags of lemony flavour.

Ruth's Ginger and Lemon Cake - I just loved the combination of ginger and lemon curd in this one.

Rene's Swedish Apple Cake - a lovely cake, really sticky and moist.

Claire's Chocolate Guinness Cake - this was a really dark, dense and delicious cake with a lovely flavour thanks to the guinness.

And finally, my Parkin - a great alternative to gingerbread. You can find the recipe here.

The next Bury St Edmunds meet is scheduled for Sunday 9th December. You can find the details, together with details of all the other upcoming events here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Nigella comes to Ely - 23rd October 2012

I'm sure it's no secret that I'm a fan of Nigella. The multiple posts about her recipes on this blog give that away, as does the fact that I have every one of her books and, unlike some people, love her television programs too.

So imagine my excitement when I discovered that she was going to be visiting a town near me for a talk and book signing event following the release of her new book Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration. Let's just say I didn't wait long to book my place.

On the evening of October 23rd I and a large number of like-minded fans gathered in the glorious surroundings of Ely Cathedral to worship at the altar of Ms Lawson. We were greeted at the door with a very civilised glass of wine or elderflower fizz and I also had the good fortune to sneak a seat in the front row!

And I'm not being flippant when I say worship. Food is my religion. Something that brings so much joy (both from the creating and the eating), that brings people together to share something wonderful, deserves celebration and, yes, worship if you like. Nigella is one the few food writers, if not the only one, that really encapsulates so many of the things I love about cooking. She is not a chef. She doesn't spend hours in the kitchen making something look good in fact quite the reverse in many ways. I really associate with her desire to create something wonderful and yet at the same time simple and as unfussy as possible. 

Anyway, that's enough of that.

Nigella gave a very entertaining talk and answered lots of questions, sharing plenty of tips along the way. I loved how enthusiastic she was about Italy and italian food and I can't wait to try out some of the recipes in her book. A couple of comments that stuck in my head....

Aswell as being recipe books her books are..."...meant to be read and convey her thoughts about life..."

Talking about aspiring food writers..." need to have your own voice..."

"...if you needed to be an expert before entering the kitchen then humans would have died out long ago..."

(apologies for the poor photos, it never occurred to me to take my proper camera with me)

As I mentioned about there was an opportunity at the end to have your book signed by Nigella however as I already have her signature in another of her books I decided not to join the hordes in the lengthy queue!

I did manage a sneaky extra picture before I left though...

Thanks to Topping & Company Booksellers in Ely for putting on this event.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Clandestine Cake Club - Cambridge - 16th October 2012

Last night almost 30 bakers brought an impressive 22 cakes to a secret venue in the centre of Cambridge for what I think must have been the biggest Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club meet so far. The evening had been organised by Miss Sue Flay of Secluded Tea Party fame and she brought us all together at the First and Last pub.  Last night was also, of course, the night of the final episode of The Great British Bake Off and that was theme of the evening for our bakes. As you can see from the pictures below we had a fabulous array of treats to choose from. When there's so much temptation in one room it's hard to know where to start!

We were soon tucking in though until 8 o'clock when we all sat down to watch The Great British Bake Final, anxious to discover who would be crowned the winner.

It was so much fun watching it with a large crowd of like-minded fans! Every slip up was greeted with squeals and gasps and every comedy moment with giggles and snorts. We all had our favourite (I was rooting for James) but nobody seemed too disappointed when John's name was called out.

All-in-all it was a great evening and, as with all Clandestine Cake Club meets, we all came away with boxes and tins of goodies for us to share and enjoy the next day. We were also joined at the start by a reporter from the Cambridge Evening News so locals should keep an eye for our appearance over the next few days!

Here are some more pictures of just a selection of the amazing cakes on offer. Apologies for not taking note of who baked which one - it was a case of too many cakes, too little time!

As you can see, Sue didn't really care who won ; )

If you'd like to find out more about the Clandestine Cake Club then take a look at the website. There are plenty of events being held all over the country including Bury St Edmunds (the group I run) and Ely, both of which are taking place this Saturday, the 20th of October. I'd definitely recommend giving it a try - it really is a great way to practice your baking skills and meet other like-minded bakers.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Nanaimo Bars for the Beaters Hut Bakers Club

A couple of weeks ago I took part in the third meeting of the Beaters Hut Bakers Club, a local baking group where members bring food to share based on a theme but, unlike the Clandestine Cake Club, there are no restrictions on the type of food you can bring.

This month the theme was International which turned out to be quite tricky - it's possible to have too much choice sometimes! After a lot of mind-changing I eventually settled on a recipe from one of my favourite places, British Columbia in Canada. Nanaimo Bars are thought to have originated in the 1950s when the recipe was submitted to a local Women's Institute Cookbook and have grown in popularity ever since.

Although I have been to British Columbia I have never actually tried a Nanaimo Bar, although I've heard lots of favourable reports from people who have. These have now earnt a permanent place in my repertoire though as they are delicious. They are very sweet (the white centre is basically just a buttercream) but the base of biscuit, chocolate, nuts and coconut adds bags of flavour and texture.

If you search the internet there are many different recipes to choose from but in the end I settled on this one. The top layer of chocolate isn't as thick as it seems to be in some of the pictures I came across but I think the amounts were about right.

Here are some of the other fantastic International dishes we had to choose from...

Janet's Italian Plum Torte
Poppy's French Lemon Macarons
Shauna's Indian Curry and Puri Breads
Jean's Honey Cake
Lucy's Mexican Empinadas, Mexican Dips and Tortillas
Rob's New Zealand Afghan Biscuits
Roger's Italian Focaccia
Shane's Portugese Custard Tarts
Vicky's German Battenburg
Bridget's Italian Panettone
Vicky's Turkish Baklava
Eleanor's French Profiteroles
For some reason I forgot to take a picture of Jessica's delicious Australian Lamingtons.

It was a great evening plus we had the added benefit of taking home the leftovers to enjoy the next day. Thanks to Shauna for bringing us all together. The next Beaters Hut Bakers Club is being held on Thursday 25th October and the theme is Halloween!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 8th September 2012

Since my post a few days ago where I was thinking about Autumn and beyond I've had to eat my words as the latest Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club meet was held during one of the warmest and sunniest weeks of the whole summer!

The morning of the 8th of September saw myself and eleven other cake enthusiasts meet at the ever-welcoming apex in the centre of Bury St Edmunds. I've probably said it before but the apex is a fantastic venue - bright, airy and spacious with lovely helpful staff. The upstairs cafe/bar area is a lovely place to visit for a sit down and a coffee if you're out and about in Bury.

As the summer holidays are over now the theme for this month was "B is for Back to School" and everyone was invited to bring a cake beginning with the letter B. As always we were treated to a wonderful selection of cakes...

First we have Shauna's Hummingbird Banana Cake. Aswell as banana one of the ingredients in this cake is pineapple which no doubt helped to make it so moist and light.

Helen brought this lovely looking and lovely tasting Banoffee Cake which had a swirl of caramel running through it.

Lynda brought Bara Brith which was delicious spread with a generous amount of butter!

This cake is Rene's Butterscotch cake. I loved the flavour of this one.

Lisa brought not one, but two cakes. One banana, one chocolate and banana, both delicious!

Philippa brought a Battenburg Cake. For some reason I never thought of making a Battenburg, even though it's one of the most well known cakes beginning with B! I loved how sweet and sticky this was.

This one is a Beetroot and Chocolate cake covered in cream cheese icing brought by Ann and her daughter. This cake had a wonderful chocolatey flavour with a hint of the beetroot in the background and the icing provided a lovely contrast to the rich cake.

This is Nathalie's Banana Walnut cake with Vanilla icing. I loved the nutty flavour of this one and the extra sweetness from the icing.

Finally, my contribution was a Boston Cream Pie. This recipe comes from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess book and is a simple, but effective, combination of vanilla sponge, creme patissiere and chocolate ganache. As you might be able to tell from the picture the creme patissiere wasn't as firm as it should have been and a lot of it oozed out of the sides of the cake. I guess I'll need to cook it for longer next time. I was still fairly happy with how this turned out though as it did taste pretty good.

A big thanks to everyone who came and shared their wonderful cakes and to the apex for letting us use some of their space.

If you are interested in finding a Cake Club local to you then have a look at the Clandestine Cake Club website here. There are now more that 100 clubs around the country and even overseas so there's a good chance you'll find one close by.