The rise (and rise) of home baking has a lot to answer for. Talk of such is everywhere. Across telly, in all kind of magazines, whole social groups brought together over cake recipes and sharing tips. In the chill of hard times ahead and the gloom of a deepening recession the waft of vanilla essence seeps into our daily life. Butter cream, chocolate, jam or cream cheese fillings wrap friendly arms of reassurance turning morning coffee time, plain cake and afternoon tea into comforting occasions. Brash muffins and cheeky cupcakes move over, the noble Victoria sponge has regained her top spot on the cake stand, graced on every side by numberless cakes of every invention.
My kitchen cupboard spills forth an assortment of baking tins and mixing bowls; a licked spoon, a scraped bowl and a spatula lie discarded in the sink; the work surface has been liberally messed by flour and sugar and smudges of buttery cake mixture have appeared on my kids’ faces. One tweet, a cyber whisper and the rumour’s out there: the first Clandestine Cake Club in Cornwall is about to happen but nobody knows where.
I’m curious. What is a cake club? Who goes, and why the big secret? Lynn Hill started the first Clandestine Cake Club, however her whereabouts in Britain, or who she is, remains unknown. The premise of a cake club, Lynn’s website reveals, is create opportunities for social interaction with cake loving strangers to bake, bring, eat, share and take slices of each other’s cakes home. Continue reading →
My son had this idea for his 10th birthday, yesterday. He was very clear about it. He wanted a coiled snake and suggested this could be achieved by baking cakes in different sized tins. The smaller cake could sit on the larger one, and a smaller one again on that, except that I pointed out I was limited to two sizes of cake tins only in my cupboard.
He’s a creative thinker, a lover of reptiles and amphibians and very encouraging and complimentary of my efforts which helps a lot as I was nervous of making a complete hash of it.
The cake was a simple recipe. I weighed 4 eggs in their shells first and then used weighed out butter, sugar and flour to the same weight as the eggs. Continue reading →
Wendy Mitchell’s cup cakes are munificent and tantalising at the same time. You can’t help smiling at her big, bold and bright buns for possessing childlike purity and adult naughtiness in equal measure. These are ‘Carry-on’ fancies, resplendent with British eccentricity, stuffed full of butter and humour where wholesome ingredients go hand-in-hand with double-whipped entendres. Some have nipple-resembling fat berries enticingly perched on butter-cream peaks; some support sugar sparkles and jelly beans; others have white-iced messages piped on chocolate tops: “Eat me”, “Hold me” or “I’m yours”.
Summed up by her own words her cakes are like, “When Enid Blyton meets the Beano.” A cross between ‘The Famous Five’ rushing home to find a lovely big chocolate cake on the kitchen table to be eagerly consumed with ‘lashings’ of old-fashioned relish and the Beano’s ‘Three Bears’ weekly pictured stealing grub from Hank’s store. “My cakes resemble those massive comic creations in full flight: thick layers and fat strawberries, dripping icing blobs and oozing cream.”
“It’s that fun that I associate with baking,” she says, “and that lovely, irresistible smell from the oven; cooking eggs beaten with sugar and the scent of vanilla.” There’s certainly something incredibly homely in the sweet aroma of baking. Wendy’s children return from school “with their little noses twitching and take the scent trail straight to the kitchen so I always splodge a bit of what I’m baking into bun wrappers for them to taste.”