Are you a fan of the Great British Bake Off? If so, this secret club in Ipswich may be for you
- Credit: Archant
With an emphasis on fun and socialising, secret baking clubs are growing in popularity and springing up all over the country. Keen baker Naomi Gornall went along to the Ipswich group to find out more.
The first rule of the Clandestine Cake Club is...don’t talk about Clandestine Cake Club.
Oops..anyway now that the cat is out of the bag, I want to introduce you this sickly sweet secret world of baking.
The first ever Clandestine Cake Club meeting was held in Leeds in 2010 by the founder Lynn Hill. Her aim was to get people together to eat cake. Since then, its popularity has exploded, with hundreds of branches set up all over the country, and there has even been a book of recipes published. Its simplicity seems to be the key to success. After all you can’t go far wrong by joining a club with a mission statement of; ‘Bake, Eat and Talk about Cake’.
The Ipswich branch was set up almost a year ago by sister-in-laws Katherine and Sarah Howe. Katherine had attended club meetings in Bury and Colchester and thought that Ipswich needed its own group.
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Katherine said: “I work shifts and so it often meant I couldn’t go to the meetings in Colchester or Bury. We [Sarah and I] started talking about having our own club in Ipswich.
“I love baking but live by myself so for me it is a way of sharing cake and having a social event at the same time.”
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It is free to join - there are now 21 members in the Ipswich group, though numbers vary – and it is an online forum with meetings held about once every six weeks. Each one has a theme – sometimes tying in with big events, like the World Cup, and others are more random, like the TV and film week. Katherine explained that some themes are focused on the baking, whereas with others, it is the decoration that counts.
There is no competitive element to it though - it purely is for the love of baking.
I attended the pre-Christmas meet, which had the theme of alcohol-based cakes. Instructions beforehand were minimal- we could either bake something with alcohol in or decorate the cake to fit the theme. The only rule (for all branches) is no pies, tarts or cupcakes. This strict stipulation is relaxed a few times a year with an ‘anything goes’ theme.
Clutching my Tupperware box on a chilly Sunday afternoon, I tentatively knocked on the door of a house in north west Ipswich (the exact address of which was only revealed two days before). I was warmly greeted by Katherine who showed me into the living room where seven fellow bakers sat with their impressive wares already laid out on the table.
The idea was simply to get stuck in. The warning was just to take a small piece of each – and I was pleased I heeded this advice as by the fourth slice, I was already getting full.
I was struck by how much variation of cake there was among the group. I had wondered if someone might have come up with the same idea as me, but all eight were totally different, from Spiced Rum to Cosmopolitan.
Having deliberated for a while over what to bake myself, I opted for Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake. I enjoy baking regularly but like many other members of the group, I tend to stick to what I know, so it was a good exercise in leaving my comfort zone.
The black stout together with rich cocoa produced a wonderfully dark sponge, which was topped with cream cheese frosting, to represent the smooth white top of the famous pint.
I’m going to cast aside any English modesty now and say that it was very tasty indeed.
In-between mouthfuls, we spoke about each other’s creations, agreed to swap recipes and there were some laughs as a couple of cakes were fairly potent to say the least.
I spoke to some members about why they had joined. Sue Latham, who made a Coffee and Amaretto cake, said: “It takes you out of your comfort zone. It makes me look up different recipes that I haven’t tried before. I used to love baking and this has rekindled my interest.”
Anna Last, baker of the Coffee and Whiskey cake, added: “It is just about bringing people together who have the same interest.”
Leaving the meeting with plenty of the other members’ leftovers, I felt I understood why this idea for a secret baking club has become so massive. It enables keen amateurs to channel their creativity and indulge in their passion for baking. Plus you get to eat a lot of cake. What’s not to like?
The Ipswich branch’s next meeting will be its anniversary event on Sunday February 8 between 2pm and 4pm. The location will be revealed a couple of days before.
For more details and to join visit their website