Friday, 31 May 2013

A talk about CCC at the WI

I was recently invited to give a short talk at the local Women's Institute about the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club. Last night, I stood up in front of 43 members of the Deeping St James WI and shared with them the joys of our cake club.

I gave a little history about the CCC – how Lynn Hill founded the group and how it has now grown exponentially due to her hard work, with nearly 200 clubs across the UK and internationally.

I amused the WI members with tales of teapot cakes, cakes eaten by the dog, and how we share our love of baking once a month in our underground society.

The ladies were fascinated to hear why we love the group so much – the sense of community that sharing a large cakes brings, as opposed to cupcakes or muffins.

I bust a lot of preconceptions about the CCC during my talk. Many women spoke to me afterwards and said they'd heard of the club, but were scared that it was competitive and that their humble cakes wouldn't meet our exacting standards. But I quickly banished their fears and explained that we're all just home bakers ourselves, with no element of judging or competition at all – just a mutual love of cake.

Several ladies flicked through the pages of the CCC book and hopefully I've got a few new members lined up.

I was incredibly nervous about the talk. Even though it was only to last 10 minutes, I had my bottle of Rescue Remedy close to hand... Standing right next to the boiling radiator in the hall (yes, even though it's the end of May, we still needed the heating on) wasn't the best idea – about two minutes in to the talk I had to jump across the hall with a red face as I was burning up! I was already blushing through nerves so I think I went an attractive shade of Red Velvet Cake!

The group were so welcoming and friendly, I am now inspired to join the WI, which I've been considering for a while anyway.

For more information about Clandestine Cake Clubs click here.
For more information about the Women's Institute click here.  

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pinwheel cookie fail

Steve and his brother went away mountain biking for the weekend. I thought it would be a nice idea to make them some cookies to take with them, and thought Mary Berry's pinwheel cookies would be fun to do. They were in the Children's section of her 'Baking Bible' cookery book so I thought I couldn't lose. A chocolate dough, rolled with a vanilla dough - easy stuff.

Mary Berry's easy creations

GOOD LORD these were dreadful!

I'm not going to repeat the recipe, as I wouldn't want to inflict them upon you all. It seemed quite basic and straightforward, so off I set. However, I soon realised that the 'dough' that needed rolling out in fact resembled 'batter' and in no world would ever be rolled anywhere. Even after chilling for 15 minutes the texture was far too loose. No rolling here.

Instead, I dolloped the mixture on to the baking tray, making an attempt to mix the two together in a bit of a swirly fashion. They did not look good.

Once cooked, they tasted disgusting.

It's not often Steve won't eat something. That means they're really bad.

They went in the bin.

Mary Berry, you have failed me!

A definite candidate for CraftFail.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cappuccino cake

For cake club this month, my boyfriend Steve made Mary Berry's cappuccino cake, from her 'Baking Bible'. However, her directions are to bung all the ingredients in the bowl together and mix, and I hate that method I'm afraid. I've done this cake before using her method and I found there were lumps of chocolate and it wasn't nice and smooth. So we altered it a bit.

50g cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
3 eggs
50ml milk
175g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g margarine
275g caster sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180C (160C fan) and prepare two 20cm cake tins.
Mix the cocoa powder with the hot water until it makes a smooth paste.
Cream the marg and sugar until fluffy.
Add the beaten eggs and milk, and a little flour if it starts to separate.
Mix in the cocoa paste.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix but don't overdo it.
Pour into the two baking tins and bake for 25-30 minutes.

To finish, whip 300ml double cream. Stir in one teaspoon of instant coffee that you've dissolved in two teaspoons of hot water.
Sandwich the layers with half the coffee cream, then spread the other half on the top. Dust with a little cocoa powder before serving.

I loved this cake. I was actually my favourite at cake club this month. It was light and fluffy, with the bitter coffee cream really setting off the sweetness of the chocolate sponge.

To find out more about Clandestine Cake Clubs, click here.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Mini muffin man

I bought a fabulous new Wilton mini muffin tin with some leftover Christmas vouchers, so this weekend I christened it by making some mini chocolate muffins. It would have been rude not to really.

I used a very simple batter:
4oz butter
4oz caster sugar
3oz self-raising sugar
1oz cocoa powder
2 eggs
A little milk

Cream together the butter and sugar until really fluffy.
Add the beaten eggs.
Mix in the sifted flour and cocoa.
Bake at 180C (160C fan) for about 12-14 minutes (keep an eye on them as they're so small).

To make the buttercream, mix 80g butter and 250g icing sugar with a little milk, for at least 5 minutes in a mixer.
Once really light and fluffy, mix in one tablespoon of Nutella by hand.

Amazing. But a warning - they're so small and moreish, you keep having more!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Raspberry, blueberry, and lime cake

For May's gathering of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club, the theme was 'Treat yourself tea party'. Part of me just wanted to make a nice Victoria Sponge, but I made one for cake club in January, and I try not to make the same recipe twice. I thought, treat myself....I love raspberries and blueberries, so settled on a raspberry and blueberry cake with lime drizzle.

225g margarine 
225g golden caster sugar
4 eggs 
2 limes, grated zest and juice
250g self-raising flour, sifted with a pinch of salt
25g ground almonds
100g blueberries 
100g raspberries

For the syrup
6 tbsp lime juice
1 lime, grated zest
100g golden caster sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180C (160C fan).
Prepare two 20cm circular cake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar until really fluffy. 
Beat the eggs, and add to the mixture, adding a pinch of flour if it starts to separate.
Sift in the flour and salt.
Add a tablespoon of lime juice at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
Spoon into the two cake tins and level.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and a skewer poked in comes out clean.
While the cakes are baking, make the syrup - put the ingredients in a pan over a low heat until warm and the sugar has dissolved a bit.
Pour the warm syrup over the cakes (still in the tins) as soon as they come out of the oven. 
Allow the cakes to cool in the tin before removing.

Once cool, make lime buttercream:
40g butter
125g icing sugar
About 3-4 tablespoons of lime juice

Beat the butter, then sift in the icing sugar and mix. Gradually add the lime juice. Beat in the mixer for at least 5 minutes to make the buttercream really soft and fluffy.
Spread the buttercream over one layer of the cake, then sandwich the other layer on top.
To finish, dust icing sugar over the top.

This cake was lovely - light and fluffy, moist, and moreish. I was worried there would be too much going on, too many flavours, but they all went well together. It was well received at cake club - when everyone was filling their cake troughs before going home, I turned round and saw just one slice left - I had to barge in and grab it before it was all gone!

For more info about Clandestine Cake Clubs, click here.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A couple of quilts

Here are a couple of my latest quilts. One is for beautiful Elizabeth, sister to my godson George; the blue one is for our friend Simon's new nephew, Ollie.

Elizabeth's quilt was from a book called 'Quick and easy quilts'. I think they wrote that title ironically, as it wasn't quick! It was painstaking due to the number of one inch squares that I had to bondaweb iron on to the quilt top, and sew around each one - it was very fiddly. But it looked lovely. It was the first time I quilted with a zigzag line, and it really brought out the squares. The design was fairly simple but looked really special.

I used a similar nine-patch design for Ollie's quilt, all in shades of blue. Personally, I don't like the colour blue much, so this isn't one of my favourites - but Ollie loves it apparently. So that's what matters.

With these two quilts I also enjoyed making more of the backing design, with a strip of stripes from the front.

I have another quilt on the go, a purple one for a friend's baby due in July, which I've done in another new design, a bargello squares design. The colours flow through the quilt - it's lovely. It will have a Hungry Caterpillar back to it (possibly a reversible quilt).

Monday, 13 May 2013

Stamford Clandestine Cake Club - Treat yourself tea party

Following a balmy Bank Holiday Monday, the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club met on Tuesday, May 7th, at the Garden House Hotel in Stamford for a delectable tea party. The hotel is one of the best-kept secrets in the Georgian town of Stamford, and dates back in part to the 17th century. We met in a charming room with a beautiful mural on the wall. The hotel has a beautiful hidden walled garden (which would make an excellent meeting place for a summer CCC get together!). I’m already planning to go back for dinner in the restaurant soon – the conservatory room looked really romantic. For more about the hotel click here.

15 bakers with 3 added guests met with cakes baked to the theme of ‘Treat yourself tea party’. Surprisingly we had no Victoria Sponges and no Battenburgs – but never mind, as those 15 cakes were all absolutely delicious.

The list comprised:
Raspberry and blueberry lime drizzle
Cappuccino cake
Raspberry and lemon sponge
Chocolate Crunchie cake
Sultana cake
Carrot cake
Raspberry and lemon polenta cake
Cream tea cake
Chocolate fudge cake
Deliah’s dark Jamaican gingerbread cake
Ginger and lemon curd cake
Pineapple and sultana cake
Rhubarb and custard cake
Chocolate and coffee meringue cake
Lemon drizzle

A couple of members were worried about certain disaster – Vic’s Cream Tea Cake was her third attempt that day, but was divine, with macerated strawberries and clotted cream. Kelly was panicked her sultana cake, baked a few days prior due to a weekend working in Keswick, was lovely. And Vicky’s chocolate fudge cake was yummy, even though it didn’t rise much.

It was great to see a couple of new members who seemed to enjoy our chatter and banter about all things cake.All the bakers put so much effort into their cakes yet again, thank you all for your hard work – everyone enjoyed them so much that there wasn’t much left to take home in our cake troughs this time. I turned my back for a moment, and when I returned to the table there was only one lonely slice of my cake left – I quickly grabbed it!

Thanks to the venue for entertaining us for the evening and kindly allowing us to play host. The evening was also a Blue Cross tea party and we raised some much-needed funds for this worthy animal charity – thanks to all the members for their kind voluntary donations. The next event is on June 2nd, with the theme 'Perfect for a picnic'. For more info about Clandestine Cake Clubs, click here.