Saturday 25 February 2012

The first ever Bolton Clandestine Cake Club

What an amazing afternoon! I’m utterly exhausted, and coming down off a bit of a cake induced sugar high. 
Today was the first meeting of the Bolton Clandestine Cake Club. I held it at one of my favourite spots, Thyme Deli in the centre of Horwich. I was really keen to hold it there, and thought I might have to bribe the owner Amanda into letting me take over half her venue. But, alas she was more than accommodating of a group of cake fanatics who like nothing more than a brew, a slice (or ten) of cake and a natter. It was perfect. 
There had been quite a bit of interest in the club after the Bolton News and BBC Radio Manchester did pieces on the upcoming event. Bakers saw and heard. They came in droves. At one point I feared it would be standing room only! I don’t think we could have fit one more person in, but it didn’t matter. It was just lovely that so many people wanted to come. Including guests, we had about 30 people in total.
A few facts about the first event:
  • There were 22 massive cakes
  • There was a big tub of home-made lemon curd
  • We had two pregnant ladies - one due next week!
  • We had one gluten free cake
  • A monkey apron was purchased
  • Lots of Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock was consumed
  • We had a visit from the WI
  • One cake was from a total baking novice
  • One cake had a picture of gangsters on it
  • Twitter friends met in person for the first time
  • We had almost every flavour of cake; lemon, chocolate, carrot, banana, vanilla, spiced, coffee, coconut, red velvet, orange, ginger, fruit and guinness.
  • Cake-ache set in at about 4:45pm
  • We all took lots home with us…
I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who attended. I’ve already had lots of emails asking when the next one is and what the theme will be, so I had better get my thinking cap on! In the mean time, here are some pics from the day…
Photo - Amanda Biggs
Photo - Amanda Biggs

Photo - Corinne Nurtney

Take-away... (Photo - Corinne Nurtney)
For more information on the Clandestine Cake Club, or to watch out for future events, click here.
Thanks everyone!

Friday 24 February 2012

A day at the BBC...

BBC Radio Manchester
Everyone’s talking about cake.
Yesterday I was invited to the BBC Radio Manchester studios at Media City, Salford to do just that. They had seen the article in Tuesday’s Bolton News, and wanted to learn more about my love of baking, and the Clandestine Cake Club.
When I arrived at the studios, I was told that I’d be interviewed by Heather Stott live on air. Eeek. I sat in their impressive waiting area where I could hear Heather telling her listeners that she would be talking to me later that morning. Fear belly-ache. I was utterly convinced that I would get a bout of uncontrollable hiccoughs, or worse… develop impromptu Tourettes! It’s possible…
BBC Radio Manchester
When I was invited into the studio, Heather informed me that she is also a baker, so was keen to sample the Matilda cake that I’d brought with me. Double-eeek! She’s a baker! Luckily she loved the cake, lifting the weight of the world off my shoulders in one bite.
We chatted about how I started baking, my obsession with bundt cakes, and how people can join the Bolton division of the Clandestine Cake Club. I had a fabulous time! No need for the fear after all. 
Thank you to Heather, Helen, Corinne (who made me a lovely brew…) for making me feel so welcome and for promoting the first Bolton Clandestine Cake Club. Remember, we are meeting on 25th February at 3.30pm. You can sign up here: Bolton Clandestine Cake Club.
If you want to listen to the show, (muffles own ears with pillows…) it’s available on iPlayer for the next six days here: Heather Stott Show 17.2.12

Lemon & Thyme Bundt Cake

This was very much an experimental bundt. It may sound a little crackers, but hear me out. Even nature puts lemon and thyme together! Why not have it in a cake? This cake is soft and beautifully moist, mainly because I used yoghurt instead of milk. 
This recipe fits into a standard 10 inch bundt tin. If you have a ring or savarin pan, don’t panic. Just fill the tin about three quarters full and watch for the cake getting a golden top when baked. A skewer test will let you know if it’s done.
Lemon & Thyme Bundt Cake
  • 420g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (I used a growing plant as the leaves were softer than the type that comes in a bag)
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 270g low fat plain yogurt 
  • Juice and zest of two large lemons
  • Cream the butter and sugar
  • Beat in the eggs one by one 
  • Add all the dry ingredients to a separate bowl
  • Add the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme to another bowl
  • Alternate the yogurt and flour mixes into to the main mix 
  • Don’t overmix, otherwise this will be a few shades away from being a tyre!
  • Pour into a prepared bundt tin (usual routine… greased and floured) and bake on gas 3/170c for around 1 hour. Check the cake is done by inserting a skewer - it should come out with no wet mix attached. 
I dusted my bundt cake with icing sugar, but this recipe will also lend itself well to a little lemon drizzle! (see previous recipe)

BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

In other news...

Bolton Clandestine Cake Club
It pains me a little to post this, as those of you who know me will understand. I don’t like having my picture taken. Mainly because I usually manage to pull some ridiculous face. However, today I am going to be brave.
Last week, a lovely lady called Kat from the Bolton News contacted me after seeing the Aussie Crunch Revival on Twitter. She wanted to do an article on the Bolton Clandestine Cake Club! Huge excitement! 
She did this wonderful article in the Bolton News today, and I’ve already had people emailing me to ask about joining the group and with general words of encouragement. Thanks Kat!

My Achy Cakey Heart...

It’s Valentine’s Day! 
Achy Cakey Heart
I need very little excuse to bake a whopping cake, but today’s effort had to be pink, sparkly and have a whiff of romance…
Although my husband protests that Valentine’s Day is (and I quote) ‘shit’… he bought me this beautiful heart-shaped bundt tin for the occasion! Now then. Such a magnificent tin deserves an equally magnificent cake. There will be no plain sponges here chick-a-dees.
I opted for a Nigella recipe in the end, but added a little pink colour paste and what can only be described as a shedload of iridescent glitter. I increased the amount of vanilla extract and drizzled the top with runny pink strawberry icing. I then topped it off with the edible glitter to create a glistening glaze. The colour pastes have a vibrancy that you just don’t get from the bottled type, and believe me a little goes a long way (remember, you can always add more, you cannot take away!). I left mine to look a bit swirly, so it made a nice pattern when the cake was cut. 
My team of fearless taste-testers (colleagues) demolished the cake pretty sharpish, so I’m fairly confident I can call this one a success!

Aussie Crunch Revival

A couple of weeks ago, I started my blog with one of my favourite bakes; Aussie Crunch. It’s pure nostalgia. Every bite takes me back to lacing up my roller skates, coming out of Horwich Leisure Centre with a wet pony tail after swimming lessons and leaning on a wall in the freezing cold in the school playground. I can remember the music I listened to, the clothes I wore and the friends I hung around with. It always came in a paper bag with a cellophane panel. The bag was always saturated with grease. It was there throughout my school days, but disappeared the minute I left.
Since then, I’ve tried ‘Aussie Crunch’ sold in several different sandwich shops. It’s just not the same. It’s often too thick, too dry or has chocolate with no taste. The genuine article is quite thin with firm edges and a slightly chewy centre. It has plenty of chocolate too. Please note, it should not break your teeth.
It seems I am not alone in my quest. Since posting the recipe, Horwich has stirred. It’s like everyone just remembered. I’ve already heard reports of it being made by followers on Twitter, by Amanda at Thyme Deli, Kay at The Salad Bowl and further chit chat reported in Greeley’s Butchers and Hair Associates… it even caught the attention of the local press. More and more people are tweeting me to say they’re making it at the weekend.
We have an Aussie Crunch revival on our hands. Long live the happy memories it recalls, and may more people discover it. I’d love to know if you’ve made it, and what comes flooding back! If you’re trying it for the first time, let me know what you think. Make sure you post your pictures on Twitter too!

Snow Covered Aussie Crunch

Aussie Crunch
Milkybar Aussie Crunch
Horwich is covered in a blanket of snow this weekend… and so is the Crunch! I’ve been plotting this for some time now, but for some reason hadn’t got round to it until today. Milkybar is by far my favourite chocolate of all time, so I was certain that the combo of white chocolate and Crunch was a winner. 
Bit of a confession… I ate a lot of the Milkybar chocolate I bought beforehand. Had to check it wasn’t poisonous.

I made it using the recipe on my blog, but replaced the Dairy Milk with 2.5 large bars of Milkybar.
The original is a force to be reckoned with. The adapted version is enough to make Jimmy Five-Bellies feel stuffed! Enjoy…

What a find...

Vintage Plates
Vintage Plates - eBay
Vintage Plates - eBay, £10.49
Pretty as a picture, and probably older than I am! I found these on eBay for just a sniff over £10. What better way to spend ten of your English notes? There’s only one thing that could make these better. A big piece of cake.

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton

On 25th February 2012 I will be hosting the very first Clandestine Cake Club in Bolton!
This is the first gathering of the Bolton Clandestine Cake Club, and what better way to start than by having a chat about our favourite things. Whether you’re a total novice or seasoned baker, all are welcome to share in our love of baking and eating cake.
We all have a cake that we either like to make or just enjoy eating. Bring what makes you happy! Spring is on its way, so banish those winter blues with a little of what you like!
It will be held at one of my favourite venues in the centre of Horwich - more details will be sent closer to the time. Places are filling up fast, so please get in touch soon if you fancy joining us! 

Matilda Bundt Cake...

Matilda Bundt Cake
Three things before I start.
  1. This recipe is the reason I started the blog. My Twitter friend Susan writes a lovely blog called ‘A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate’. Over Christmas she asked me to to do a guest post after seeing my Spiced Bundt Cake on Twitter. I was convinced no-one would read it. People did, and were very sweet. Susan is my mentor ~raises glass~.
  2. This recipe started my recent bundt obsession.
  3. The reason it is called Matilda has nothing to do with any whimsical childhood literary memories. It’s because my husband said the tin reminded him of Matilda off Robot Wars. Really. 
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know the pain I feel with every new recipe. I feel fear every moment of the cake’s creation until it is safely released from its tin. This is no exception. It took several goes to get this little monkey perfect, but now it works like a dream every time.

  • 250g unsalted butter (softened for about 15 seconds in the microwave)
  • 650g golden caster sugar (the finer the better)
  • 5 medium free range eggs - beaten
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp ginger
  • 400g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • Icing sugar for dusting

  • Grease and flour a standard 10 inch, 2.4 litre, 10 cup bundt tin.
  • Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 C.
  • Mix the butter and sugar until it is well combined (I use a hand mixer, but elbow grease and a wooden spoon is just as good). Add the beaten egg a little bit at a time until light and fluffy).
  • Add the extracts to the milk and again add to the cake batter a little at a time.
  • In a separate bowl, sift the flour, spices, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Add the dry ingredients to the cake batter a little at a time. Mix everything until its light and creamy looking, taking care not to beat the living hell out of it!
  • Put this bad boy into the prepared cake mould and level off with a quick shake of the tin. 
  • Check your oven temperature is correct before popping it in the oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
  • At the 60 minute point take it out for a nosy. Its stable enough to not sink so don’t panic! If a skewer comes out clean, your work here is done. If not pop it back in for about another 10-15 minutes (Note for other OCD sufferers - this is a very forgiving cake and is very hard to over-bake). The top will look quite dark, but this is a beautiful firm base to the cake when finished.
  • Once cooked through leave the cake to cool in the tin fully. I mean fully.

When cooled dust with icing sugar to decorate, I find a tea strainer quite useful here! It really picks up the shape of the tin.

Boooom! Best cake ever and everyone thinks you’re a cake making genius. Little do they know it was actually quite simple…

BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

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Thursday 23 February 2012

Back to School... Aussie Crunch

Aussie Crunch
You will fall into one of two camps here; those who have knowledge of the crunch, and those who do not. I’m fairly confident that if you have heard of it, you live in the Bolton area. If you haven’t, that’s not a problem. Follow these simple instructions to create a tasty treat!

For me, Aussie Crunch is all about the nostalgia. It brings back memories of roller skating at Horwich Leisure Centre, greasy paper backed cellophane bags, and nattering with my friends in the playground at high school. I spent ages looking for a recipe that captured how I remembered it. I’ve spent a while perfecting the measurements in this one, and dare I say it… it’s better than the original, which when done badly was so hard it could break teeth.

I recently heard it was banned from being cut into triangles at Rivington and Blackrod High School because it was deemed to be too 'weapon-like' - not a good example of what was a fine bake in the 1990s! No such danger with this version.

  • 200g Stork (you can use butter, but Stork gives it that authentic taste) 
  • 140g golden caster sugar (it's way better than standard caster sugar)
  • 85g desiccated coconut 
  • 75g cornflakes (crushed up)
  • 1 heaped tbsp good cocoa powder (like Green & Black's)
  • 140g self raising flour 
  • 250g of Cadbury’s chocolate

  1. Melt the Stork in the microwave 
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl 
  3. Pour in the Stork and mix until well combined 
  4. Pour into a Swiss roll tin (I use disposable tray bake trays from Asda) 
  5. Squash it down with the back of a spoon - make sure you push it into all the corners! 
  6. Bake at 180c/gas 4 for 35 minutes. 
  7. Allow to cool. 
  8. When cool, melt the chocolate over a bain-marie (or gently in the microwave if you must...) and pour over the Crunch. Level off with a spatula and pop in the fridge to set. 
Take out of the fridge about 30 mins before eating (so it’s easier to cut) and cut into slabs!

This is best served with a brew, but I assure you it works equally well whilst roller skating or freezing to death in a playground…
Aussie Crunch or Australian Crunchie

Aussie Crunch
Please leave your comments below... x

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Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake

Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake
It’s all about the bundt. I have a growing obsession with bundt tins, which appears to have extended to any shaped tin. Here I am again. I find myself in receipt of the latest eBay purchase… a savarin pan. These lovely tins make a really impressive cake with very little effort. This cake looks as beautiful as it tastes, and is a perfect centre piece to any table. 
 My three top tips for shaped cake glory:
  1. Prepare your tin with cake release spray and a dusting of flour.
  2. Use an oven thermometer - this is much more accurate than relying on dials.
  3. Leave the cake to cool fully in the tin. It means it’s much firmer on ‘release’. 
This recipe is based on one I found in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2009). It just has a few tweeks which I find makes it a little more reliable!
Makes about 12 decent slices.
You’ll need a 25cm bundt or ring tin.
  • 85g unsalted butter, softened
  • 245g golden caster sugar
  • Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 10g poppy seeds
  • 165ml milk
  • 235g plain flour
  • 2 level tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • Juice and zest of one unwaxed lemon
  • 50g golden caster sugar
Lemon glaze
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • 250g icing sugar
Prepare your tin - this is the bit that prevents poor results. Get this bit right and you’re laughing. You can grease it with butter, but I find the only fail-safe option is to spray the tin with Dr Oetker Cake Release and dust with flour. 
  • Mix the butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds.
  • Add the milk a bit at a time - it’s going to look a bit curdled, but fear not. Trust the cake…
  • Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  • Slowly add this to the main mix and beat until pale and fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. It probably isn’t necessary to hold it over your head to check, but I always do… Take care to ensure the bowl and your whisk beaters are scrupulously clean, dry and free from grease (unless you want a damp squib…).
  • Mix about a tablespoon of the egg mix into your main mix. This gets the party started.
  • Add the rest of the egg whites in three goes, each time folding the mix in. Don’t beat it to death, or your lovely creation will be as flat as a pancake…
  • Gently pour the mix into your tin, and level off slightly.
  • Pop in the oven at 170c/Gas 3 for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. It’s really important that it’s cooked through, or the cake will come out in pieces.
  • Whilst the cake is doing its magic in the oven, you can make the syrup.
  • Put the sugar, juice, zest and 100ml of water in a saucepan on a low-medium heat and bring to the boil.
  • Whack up the heat and reduce by half.
  • The finished result should be syrupy but not gloppy (too thick).
The Transformation
  • When the cake is out, leave it in the tin and prick it all over with a skewer.
  • Spoon over the syrup. Try to avoid the edges as it makes the cake stick to the tin a bit…
  • Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
  • When cool, run a knife round the cake, just to loosen any bits the syrup got to.
  • Pray.
  • Then put a plate over the cake tin and turn it upside down!
  • Don’t be tempted to faff with it if it doesn’t fall away straight away. Gravity is a powerful thing. It’ll come free!
  • Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to make the glaze. This should run off your spoon easily.
  • Decorate as you so desire. I used a teaspoon to flick the glaze back and forth to make this pattern.
Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake

BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

Enjoy! As always, let me know how you get on and feel free to ask questions x

Time for T&Cake...

T and Cake AlmondburyT and Cake Almondbury
What better reason to plan a road trip to Huddersfield than the promise of cake? T&Cake in Almondbury has been on our radar for a while now, and a dreary Saturday afternoon in January seemed the perfect opportunity to banish some blues with a cake fix.
Stephen and Tracy Jackson have hit the nail on the head. Their menu boasts a delectable combination of comfort food and sweet treats, and is complimented by a colourful array of specially blended teas and coffees. 
You can’t book tables at T&Cake, so I called ahead to get some advice. The lady I spoke to recommended arriving at around 11.30am for lunch to avoid disappointment. She wasn’t exaggerating! We walked through the door bang on 11.30am, and took the last table. Within about 15 minutes there was a sizable queue of people waiting to be seated. 
The Food: 
It’s only polite to have a main course, even though I could have quite happily stuffed my face with every cake in the joint. The sandwiches and ‘Things on Toast’ are no run of the mill list. They keep the classics such as the club sandwich, but also have interesting combinations like treacle-roast ham with spiced pineapple relish. We tried the welsh rarebit, the fish-finger sandwich and the hot shredded pork with pickled apple. All were reassuringly ‘chunky’ in appearance and filled the significant hole which had developed during the car journey from Horwich. No complaints here. I would, however recommend getting a side of chips as all came with either a few salad leaves or a handful of crisps. Or, perhaps you are not as greedy as I am…
T and Cake AlmondburyT and Cake Almondbury
The Tea:
We sampled two teas; the T&Chai and their namesake T&Cake. I’m not normally a huge fan of chai, but I was lured in with the promise of cinnamon. It was worth the risk. This was really delicately spiced. T&Cake is a totally different experience. It smells of marzipan, but tastes of berries. Beverage alchemy at its best! 

The Cake:
I’m a girl who likes cake. Genes passed from my cake loving father. Although I appreciate a pretty cake, I’m all about the taste. We sampled the famous almond-berry cake, a chocolate brownie, the carrot cake and the lemon drizzle cake. All appeared on pretty little plates with cute-as-a-button cake forks.
This is clearly where T&Cake excel. The almond-berry cake is like a firm victoria sponge with a tangy jam, subtle almond taste and a zingy frosting. I liked this a lot. So much so, I bought more to take home! The brownie was reassuringly dense. I’m fairly confident this would kill the faint hearted, and provides enough stodge to immobilise most for at least an hour. Their carrot cake is moist with just the right quantity of frosting, and the lemon drizzle can only be described as a citrus sensation. You get it. They make ace cakes.
All cakes and teas are available to take home. They even sell home made dog biscuits for the pampered pooch! I’d definitely recommend T&Cake to anyone who enjoys a slice (or two) of cake. However, those with a more savoury palate will not be disappointed either.
T and Cake Almondbury
Constructive Criticisms:
  • Parking - it was a bit tricky parking outside, as you can only stay for an hour on the high street. It’s possible that locals know of better spots though.
  • Service - the service was friendly, but a little slow at times. I think I gave poor Tracy a small case of heart failure when I asked for some takeaway items when there was a queue.
  • Not being able to book - we travelled quite a way to get to T&Cakes. We were really lucky not to wait, but I imagine by mid-afternoon things could get a little rushed as tables are required for waiting customers.
  • Cakes - even by my greedy girl standards, they were impressive!
  • Choice of different savoury dishes - we took ages trying to decide what to have, because everything sounded divine!
  • Overall experience - we travelled 50 miles each way to get to T&Cake. We left with takeaway goodies and full tummies. Not much wrong with that…
T and Cake Almondbury

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