The Clandestine Cake Club Adventure

March was a fantastic baking month with my first ever trip to a Clandestine Cake Club and meeting Mary Berry (will tell you more about this asap). It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Meeting Mary Berry!!!! (The full story will follow asap)

I’ve been trying to get a spot at the Clandestine Cake Club (or CCC) for the last couple of months. I secured my place at the secret club and the theme was cakes with beverages. The idea of CCC is that bakers bake a cake around a theme and bring said cake along with a cake eating friend to the secret venue. Then much cake (as many wonderful slices as you can humanly consume) along with copious amounts of tea are devoured and fabulous cakey bakey people meet and discuss cake!

I loved this night. I sampled some AmAzing cakes and met some wonderful people, some of whom I’ve been chatting to on Twitter for a while so it was wonderful to meet in real life!

Clandestine Cake Clubbers in action

There may be a Clandestine Cake Club near you, it’s now an international phenomena with clubs in Australia too. Or you could even start your own club. There’s more information on their website….

For my beverage orientated cake I took along my Jamaican Black cake with it’s 2 bottles of rum and a bottle of brandy oozing from it. I was a little nervous as I knew there was going to be some wonderous cakes and people there. And I wasn’t wrong.

My First ever Clandestine Cake Club Offering - Jamaican Black Cake with tonnes of rum

I sampled a mouth watering 6 layer limencello and orange cake, a pink lemonade cake, a coconut milk cake, a cherry disarano on the rocks cake, a gin and tonic cake! A Shirley Temple cake, an Earl Grey cake and I’m sure I tried a couple more but my memory is fading into a drunken cake haze… We even got to take home pieces of our favourite cakes for later. (So pleased I had brought extra tupperware!)

I was thrilled that my entire Jamaican Black cake got eaten up!! I was worried that it would not be very popular. (As much as I love rum and fruit I’m well aware it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) But phew! It seems that it was enjoyed by my fellow CCC ers.

Unfortunately I failed in my over eagerness to get ANY real photos of the splendiferous cake creations that adorned the table. I remembered at the end to take one of the spectacular banqueting hall at Blackfriars restaurant with it’s stag antler chandeliers and oak dining tables.

The beautiful Blackfriars Restaurant our Clandestine Cake Club Venue for the evening

However my lovely CCC friends and fellow bloggers took some wonderful photos which they’ve put up on their blogs if you fancy a look. I really recommend having a look at these ladies baking blogs too and just in case you’re on twitter you can follow them too… check out

And also while I’m mentioning some of my favourite blogs, I was very lucky and honoured to be nominated for a Liebster Blog Award (see here for a little more information on the Liebster Blog Awards) from 2 fabulous baking bloggers!! These ladies are brilliant bloggers, very skilled and I always look forward to their next posts popping up in my inbox 🙂 IF you’re loking for baking inspiration don’t hesititate to have a read of these blogs…

Lil Ms Squirrels 366 Day Recipe Challenge (@lilmssquirrel)

Laura Loves Cake (@lauralovesbakes)

Thanks so much for reading!!!

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From Herman with Love – Herman the German Friendship Cake

From Herman with Love

After many days of feeding and stirring good old Herman II it was time to mix him up into a sourdough frenzy. After halving the original starter and sharing the other half I was at the correct level of Herman to pretend that I had been given a starter by a friend and follow the instructions to create the cake…

Bubbling along nicely

Place Herman in a big bowl, leave him somewhere warm wearing a tea towel (check)
Day 1 – Stir Herman (I used a wooden spoon as I’m sure I read that its bad to mix sourdough with metal but I may have dreamt this.)
Day 2 – Stir Herman
Day 3 – Stir Herman
Day 4 – Feed Herman (I found I had to use a hand whisk to mix in 1 cup of warm milk, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and stir well)
Day 5 – Stir Herman (you get the picture…)
Day 6 – Stir Herman
Day 7 – Feed Herman (same as before)
Day 8 – Stir Herman
Day 9 – Stir Herman

Russian Doll measuring cups

Day 10 – Divide Herman into quarters (about 1 cup per quarter) keep one for yourself. Share the other 3 with your friends . (You probably want to give them the instructions too otherwise they might think you don’t like them very much, giving them the gift of smelly fermenting goop)

Recycling every pot in the house

Now I can’t lie and pretend that I followed these instructions exactly as I forgot to stir him somedays, which I don’t think he was very happy about, as he became a bit solid and lumpy, in a sourdough huff I reckon. Nevertheless I don’t think it did him any real harm.

I did keep him near the radiator which perfumed the kitchen with a hint of brewery. (Lovely if you like beer?) I’m sure this will be the next big thing in parfum from Paris.

Pre stirring - this is what Herman looked like bubbles that rise to the surface and pop (if the surface is flat and still I'm afraid Herman has passed away)

I did worry that I killed him (again) as he looked a little flat and bubbless one day. I thought perhaps sugar would help? (It always helps me when I’m feeling a bit flat) I think it did the trick to revive him somewhat. Then following his first feed he perked up no end! All froth and bubbles. Apparently yeast needs flour to eat so it saved HermanII from a sink funeral.

All of the ingredients!

Then for the cake building! This seemed pretty straight forward. The recipe simply lists the ingredients and says mix it altogether. In reality this produces a tough scrambled egg bowl of sourdough cement.

Worringly solid

Worringly solid (Herman + flour + sugar)

Scrambled Herman - after adding the oil

I had thought “Ooh wonderful I’m going to be all traditional and use a Amish recipe and no electrical gadgets. Just me my bowl and a wooden spoon.” Wrong. I had to resort to the electric whisk to beat the lumps out of the mix. I probably shouldn’t have dumped all the flour in at once!

There's no shame in bringing out the whisk

This is the most scientific yet vague recipe I’ve tried to follow. I do enjoy using my Russian doll measuring cups wherever possible but can’t help but feel that its not very precise. How much is 2/3 of a cup of melted butter? Do you measure it out solid or melted? Am I supposed to squash a solid pat of butter into the cup to measure it out? I’m confused, therefore I guess.

Butter?

Once I worked out the lumps of flour and managed to combine the oil, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and baking powder into my cup of Herman starter I could chop up the 2 apples into bits (definitely the technical term) and stir it in along with a cup of sultanas.

Generous helping of cinnamon

Chunks of apple and raisins

Combining everything together (no whisk required)

Again the recipe was beautifully non specific. “Pour the mixture into a LARGE greased and lined tin” What shape? I hear you cry? (someone already stumbled across my blog having looked unsuccessfully, I’m sure cos I don’t have the answer, for ‘how big a tin do I need to bake Herman cake?’) I selected my second from biggest round tin merely because I’ve used the biggest one before and it doesn’t fit inside my cake box. See that planning ahead? Excellent logic. It maybe about 20cms in diameter. (But then again I am guessing.)

Now I’ve never poured 2 thirds of a cup of melted butter on top of a raw cake before. It felt a bit wrong. But hey that could be because I guessed how much butter to melt, I just chopped a chunk off and melted it in the microwave. Then sprinkled on some golden caster sugar.

Buttery top

Then for the baking. The recipe says 45mins at 180 degrees C. I reckon this varies quite a bit on what size tin you use as mine took at least 30 mins more until the skewers came out clean and made the kitchen smell all lovely and cinnamony. Very Christmassy just in time for the February snow.

Mini Hermans - ready for adopting

It seems like Herman has been a long time in the making and has taken on a personality of his own. After potting up the mini Hermans and they sat looking at me in a row I started to feel like I was in The Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour feeding Audrey II only to discover at the end he’s multiplied and lurking in the garden, waiting for the next unsuspecting human to feed him…

I don’t want to burden my lovely friends with a Herman. He’s no Audrey II that’s for sure, just a harmless sourdough! I do have 3 Hermans looking for a good home but I’m also quite tempted to keep one to experiment with, perhaps a chocolate chip Herman or Herman sourdough bread?

Crumbly and moist

What’s not to love about a cake called Herman? A cake with a story! A cake with a real history! A cake with heart and steeped in tradition. Sure it might seem a bit weird taking that first bite of Herman. But he actually tastes really good! There’s a slightly sour initial taste, which makes sense and then a lovely apple and cinnamon sponge. It’s really moist yet crumbly on the top. I will never doubt pouring butter on the top of a cake again! Very good served with ice cream or just with a cup of tea! If someone loves you enough to offer you a share of their Herman take it with both hands and pass it on to generations to come!

Crackled effect

It has been a bit of a commitment tending to a cake over the past 20 days (counting the creation of the starter, killing it and starting again). But what a life! Devoting himself to pleasing others. That’s my kind of cake. It feels like I’ve been writing The Herman Diaries and soon there will be a film with Johnny Deep as Herman… yet I digress once more. If you’re given the chance of a Herman give it a go! What have you got to lose?! Embrace the Herman. You know you want to.

image

A slice of Herman

Things that I used…

1 cup (quarter) of the original Herman Starter

2 cups plain flour

2/3 cup of vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 apples

1 cup raisins

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

50g butter (melted)

a generous sprinkling of golden caster sugar for the top

1 “Large” round cake tin (9 inch)

1 hour 15 baking time at 180 degrees C

The Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection Continued…

Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection

This post has been a long time in the making. About a month ago I began the Caribbean Christmas Cakes after an extreme test of my patience in greasing and lining 14 assorted mini cake tins and baking the little blighters for a couple of hours. I don’t mind this of course as I know the fruits of my labours are worth the effort and the wonderous rum, raisin, cinnamon and coconut smell that permeated the entire house let me know just how wonderful it will be.

The baked cakes

I’ve tended to my little cakes every week, topping them up with a bit more rum, until they could take no more. They still required a little house of marzipan and another week to dry out all in their specially purchased enormous Tupperware box.

Roll out a lot of marzipan... this has got to fit round 14 cakes

I decided one Saturday night, before heading out for a party to attempt to coat them all in a quick blanket of marzipan. I managed to finish 9 of them before I decided enough was enough and I would very much like to go to have a dance instead.

Firstly they needed to be glazed with apricot jam to make the marzipan stick…

Warming Apricot Jam

Then as all the cakes are very different shapes and sizes, they each needed to be fitted individually for their marzipan house. In an attempt to minimise rolling out marzipan, as it is frankly infuriating with its tendency to stick to the work surface just as you get it to the right thickness and it’s perfectly smooth so you have to start again, I squeezed as many on to one sheet as possible and trimmed it so there was very little excess to remove on the cake itself.

cutting each cake its own marzipan house

Once it was face down on the marzipan I had to simply lift the marzipan up and force it to stick to the sides of the cake, achieving a (relatively) smooth finish. I’m not too bothered about getting it perfect at this stage as the fondant should cover any major flaws…

Off with its head! (far too wonky)

Occasionally I got too frustrated with the cake being all oddly shaped and cut a lump off it. This didn’t really help matters as the cake was no straighter after being hacked into. I just made a big mess and dropped cake everywhere… but it did mean that I had a midnight snack when I got back in later on. 🙂

Then for the fondant

After a week the marzipan was settled enough to add the final icing layer. I was greeted by a fantastic whiff of almond and rum when I came back to the little cakes. The white fondant icing needed to be kneaded until it was pliable and then rolled out in the same way as the marzipan, however a bit more carefully and precisely (if I can ever be precise?!) as this is the layer that everyone sees. Cue more irritated rolling pin action.

I didn’t have any vodka to brush onto the marzipan so I used the rum in the cupboard. I’m sure that will do the same job and perhaps enhance the rumness of the cake while it’s at it?

Trim its skirt

The cakes needed a little trim to tidy the edges and I ended up rolling the cakes themselves around like a rolling pin (as they’re so small) on the worksurface to smooth them out and flatten the icing down. It’s impossible, even with my childrens sized rolling pin to roll the icing smooth on the cakes. Then they needed a quick polish with the palm of my hand to bring the icing to life.

I love the film Elf. It always makes me think of candy canes so as an homage to Elf I wanted to make Candy stripe cakes. I was very kindly donated a block of red fondant which is amazing!! (Thanks Lucy!) I rolled it out and using many handy palette knife/ruler cut strips of red icing.

Lines and lines and lines and lines

Then I glued them on to the cakes using a dab of water.

Chunky Candy Stripes

Not bad for my first attempt even if I do say so myself (and as I was completely making it up as I went along). Not content with just one design, I had ordered some daisy flower cutters from Ebay and thought I could perhaps christen them and pass them off as Poinsettia?

The daisy/poinsettia flower cutters

Poinsettia Flowers

I added some silver edible ball things (can’t remember their real name) by mixing a tiny bit of icing sugar with water to make a paste then squishing them into the cakes. There’s still 5 more cakes that require some attention and I have some holly leaf cutters and green food colouring to play with 🙂

All shapes and sizes welcome in this collection of cakes

4 hours of icing later... 9 down, 5 more to go.

I’m also entering this in Vanessa Kimbells’ fantastic Let’s Make Christmas Competition as I will be packing up these mini cakes in cellophane with lashings of ribbon and giving them to my friends and family very soon! Have a look at her blog and competition below…