Clandestine Cake Club – North Star Deli, Chorlton

Cake, cake, cake. What’s better than cake? How about 22 cakes? How about 22 cakes and 25 people talking about cake. How about 22 cakes and 25 people talking about cakes AND you get to eat the cakes for FREE and take the leftover cake home with you?

Cakes galore!

Welcome to the world of the Clandestine Cake Club, a group of like-minded individuals that meets up at secret locations and chats cakes once a month.

As I’m a cake club newbie and consider myself an amateur cake baker at most, I roped in both Pin Ups in Pinnies founder Fanny Divine, and the ever delectable Welsh Wonder to accompany me to North Star Deli in Chorlton; the venue for this month’s meeting of the Manchester branch of this erstwhile gathering.

There’s no restriction to the type of cake you can bake, apart from that it has to be ‘big’ (no cupcakes, cookies etc) and that it adheres to the club’s theme – this month’s being British Summer. After deciding that a drizzle cake would only serve to remind people of yet another wash out, the inspiration for the bake was that other bastion of summer time; afternoon tea.

In preparation for the club, countless books were consulted but no recipes jumped out. As well as representing the British Summer theme the idea that the cake should be inclusive to people like Fanny Divine who is wheat and dairy intolerant, appealed. From this idea it was decided to create my own recipe. Dairy free was not the issue as I commonly replace butter with light olive oil when baking – however wheat free was a new horizon.

Much testing ensued to ensure the cake would taste of tea and rise; wheat free flour doesn’t rise as well and is sweeter, until the boy held up his hands and bid me never to bake another wheat free earl grey cake for him. EVER. Or face the consequences.

The day of Clandestine Cake Club arrived; the recipe was watertight, but disaster struck. After rigorous cake testing, the filling was just to be a simple layer of soya sour cream, therefore untested – don’t buy this product, in sight and taste it is akin to white acrylic paint. After grating in some lemon to mask the cloying chemical taste, the natural oils ceased the sour cream to set and it melted out of the cake. On trying to remove the top to take out the filling, it cracked. Disaster.

If this doesn’t scream summer then I don’t know what does

However the lovely people of Clandestine Cake Club invited my cake with open arms and devoured it (or took it home). There was no snobbery, people seemed genuinely happy to see my slightly deformed cake and chatted away to me regarding the recipe and the inspiration to create something wheat and dairy free.

So whilst news that London was burning and the yobs of Manchester geared themselves for a night of looting; we sipped drinks and discussed the mojito cake, the fab lolly cake, a New Zealand yellow cake, someone’s courgette and chamomile creation and the amount of cakes with berries on. Sometimes all it takes is a bake to bring you together and remember to take time out of the day for others and yourselves.

Yum! (ps this was seconds!)

If you want to get in on some lovely cake action with some great people; please refer to the Clandestine Cake Club website, email Gwyneth or check out the VintageTs or ClandestineCake twitter. Don’t despair if you don’t live in Manchester; there’s many a Clandestine Cake clubs across the UK – it’s a cake baking phenomenon.

Ps – thanks to Danielle Ferguson Bespoke and Design Dressmaking for saving the day and giving me some white ribbon (for FREE) to hide the cake disaster that was the melting filling.

Earl Grey Cake (wheat and dairy free)
Makes 1 x 21 cm cake – I made two cakes and sandwiched them together

4 x earl grey teabags (you need quality, I used Twinings)
80ml boiling water
80ml light olive oil
3 large free range eggs
160g unrefined caster sugar
190g Doves Farm wheat free self raising flour
Pinch of salt

Six lemons
250g icing sugar
Soya margarine

1. Preheat the oven to 180c (fan) and grease (with oil) a 21cm springform cake tin

2. Separate the yolks and the white, placing in them in separate large bowls

3. Boil the kettle, add 80ml and one teabag to small bowl/mug and put to one side

4. Empty the contents of the other three teabags into a pestle and mortar, add a pinch of salt and grind to as small as possible

5. Whisk the whites until just before stiff peaks and put aside

6. Beat the eggs with a fork until just combined (literally a minute), then beat in the sugar in four separate amounts. Start with the motor running slow and as you add more sugar, work up the settings until on high (this incorporates as much as possible and air is integral to this cake). Should go pale and sticky.

7. Drizzle in the oil using the same technique as step 6.

8. Take out the teabag and squeeze as much out as you can. Add the ground up tea to the tea/water and mix in together. Beat into the eggs/sugar/oil using technique in step 6. Make sure all the tea leaves in the small bowl/mug end up in the big bowl.

9. Keep whisking for a few mins, you need as much air as possible in this cake.

10. Sieve in the flour and fold in carefully with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

11. Add 1/3 of the eggs and fold in with a metal spoon or spatula (wooden spoons knock out the air) until mixed in – repeat two more times until all mixed in carefully (don’t leave massive bits of egg white as they look/taste weird in your cake)

12. Pour in to tin; the mixture will be a little more liquid than a usual cake batter, but not uber runny. Knock gently to release and big air bubbles and then pop in to oven.

13. Bake for roughly 30-35 mins until the top is golden, the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

Repeat all the steps above to make the second layer of the cake. Whilst they are cooling beat two big spoons of soya margarine with half of the icing sugar. Grate in the peel of three lemons and mix together until the right consistency (adding more icing sugar/marg as needed) and spread between the two layers. (This isn’t what I put in my cake, but what I should have).

Make the icing by combing icing sugar and the juice of one lemon – make up the right consistency and then pour over the cake and leave to set.

Enjoy with a cup of Earl Grey with a slice of lemon in the dappled light of a tree, feeling the light summer breeze on your face. Or, more usual for Britain, in a warm kitchen imaging summer.

Wheat and dairy free Earl Grey Cake – with thanks to VintageTs for the photo
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