Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club – Chocolate Therapy featuring Easter Bunnies

Logo created by Anita Mangan.

Last April for our Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club we went to The Conservation Volunteers shop on the Ecclesall Road. It’s a terrific charity shop spanning two floors with everything well organised and keenly priced. To top it all the manageress, Denisa, joined in and baked a cake. It was so good that we decided to go back again.

IMG_6391With Easter just a week away we went for the full chocolate experience with hint of eggs and bunnies along the way. We kicked things off with Debs and her Chocolate and Guinness cake. This was a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery and was given the Easter touch with chocolate bunnies and mini eggs.

IMG_6377Paul and Moira went for a very decadent Sachertorte with the traditional dark chocolate ganache topping. Instead of the usual whipped cream accompaniment Paul made some chocolate marshmallows.

IMG_6386We went for another visit to the Hummingbird Bakery with Bernie’s Brooklyn Blackout Cake. All of the chocolate flavour in this cake comes from pure cocoa with no melted chocolate at all. It is three layers of chocolate cake with a chocolate custard filling and topping.

IMG_6383You don’t need to get fancy with a cake for it to be good. Claire went for in her words a ‘nice and simple’ Chocolate Cake with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. The recipe was from Good Housekeeping.

IMG_6384Vikki had a similar idea to Claire with her Chocolate Sponge Cake but went for a rival chocolate manufacturer’s eggs and topped her cake with Smarties eggs.

IMG_6385Cake in a bag? Yes, it can be done. You don’t need to worry about transporting your cake to a Clandestine Cake Club meeting as Rosie proved. From out of her handbag she produced her Banana Bread with Chocolate and Peanut Butter.

IMG_6394Our organizer Karen Perkins went nuts with a Chocolate Nutrageous cake. Based on the chocolate bar of the same name it contained peanut butter and was filled with rose jam. On top was roasted peanuts and almonds and a couple of chocolate bunnies.

IMG_6382Chocolate on chocolate was the theme of Helen’s cake. Her cake made from a Nigella recipe had 80% dark chocolate in it plus extra cocoa. With a chocolate filling and topping plus mixed chocolate curls on top this was full on chocolate experience.

IMG_6392Mother and daughter baking duo Sophie and Charlotte also turned to Nigella for their chocolate cake inspiration. Theirs was a marble cake with a chocolate cream and sour cream frosting. A stencilled decoration of cocoa and icing sugar finished it off.

IMG_6389With so much dark and milk chocolate it was refreshing to have a taste of Victoria’s White Chocolate Victoria Sponge Cake filled with raspberries. On the side was a selection of handmade truffles with cocao, dates and tahini.

IMG_6388Denisa, the manageress of The Conservation Volunteers shop, made a cake when we held our meeting last year and decided to join in again. She made a fruity combination of White Chocolate with Mascarpone and Blueberries.

IMG_6390Professional cake maker Silvana made some chocolate bunnies and had them sitting in a Spring garden. This was on top of a Chocolate syrup cake which she has adapted from the ginger syrup cake recipe in the Clandestine Cake Club cookbook.

IMG_6378We got all of our chocolate and cake bounty in one go with Nahzi’s Chocolate and Coconut Cake. Based on a Bounty bar, it had coconut American frosting covering a Brooklyn Backout Cake.

IMG_6381There were no bunnies in sight on Jess’ Chocolate Cake but I’m sure they would come hopping along quickly once they spotted the carrot tops! There was no carrots in Jess’ cake but a layer of orange buttercream to fool those pesky rabbits.

IMG_6393My Junior Baker went for the full chocolate bunny experience with a Chocolate Sponge Bunny. The ears, whiskers, nose and eyes were all made out of white chocolate icing.

IMG_6379I went for an Easter Chocolate and Orange nest. I half filled a Nordic Ware Jubilee Bundt tin for the nest and then piped chocolate buttercream around it for the ‘twig’ effect. Nesting around the cake was little chocolate eggs.

IMG_6380Many thanks for The Conservation Volunteers for hosting us again. If you want to join in we have a couple of more meetings planned for the coming months. First we are joining up with the Sheffield Food Festival on 24th May for Cakes which remind us of home. On 28th June we’re going Tour de Yorkshire made with Oooh la la Le Grand Depart Cakes on a Cycling Theme.


Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club – Cakes disguised as pies

Logo created by Stylist and Designer Anita Mangan.

As much as we love sweet things as members of the Clandestine Cake Club we can’t bring pies to club meetings so the only way to seek them in was to disguise them as cakes! We met in the lovely Bardley’s Cafe which is situated on the first floor of the Nichols Building. Tea, cakes and vintage bargain shopping all in one place!


We kicked off with our host Karen Perkins and her Lemon meringue pie cake. This was a refreshing and zesty combination of baked meringue, lemon curd, cake and marzipan.


Debs went fruity as well for her pie/cake combination of Banoffee pike (see what she did there?!). Pastry formed the base with a banana and walnut cake inside and the toffee topping.


A favourite sweet pie of mine is mince pies and Christine decided to turn it into cake form. Mincemeat and brandy was used to form a light fruit cake with marzipan used for the lattice pastry.


Christine’s daughter Fleur went for the chocolate with her Mississippi mud pie. A baked biscuit base was topped with a homemade milk chocolate custard. No fewer than 10 eggs was used for this cake!


You think you’ve found the perfect recipe for a cake and then horror of horrors – it says to use ‘cake mix’ in the ingredients! Rosie overcame this problem by baking a Madeira cake before adding frozen forest fruits and lattice pastry and then baking again.


Lucy and Holly came with their cunningly disguised Apple pie. Underneath the caramel coloured sugar paste ‘pastry’ was an apple cake flavoured with spice.


Part of the joy of baking is passing recipes down through the generations and onto family and friends. For her German apple cake Margaret used her cousin’s recipe which was given to her cousin by her German mother-in-law. A shortbread pastry case was filled with slices of apples and dried fruit.


Paul and Moira came with their Pork pie cake. No they didn’t! Paul managed to turn fondant icing into a very realistic looking hot crust pastry. For the ‘pork’ filling there was a strawberry compote sponge cake and a crème patissiere ‘jelly’.


I also went for an Apple pie cake. It had a sponge base which was then covered with slices of Bramley apples and sultanas. This was topped with a cinnamon spiced crumble.


Mississippi mud pie was obviously the cake of choice for our young bakers as my junior cake maker also made one. Hers was made with 400g of dark chocolate and 300ml of single cream but other than that perfectly healthy!


Thanks to Bradley’s Cafe for being such nice hosts. We have several other meetings already planned if you wish to join us. On 12th April we going for Chocolate Therapy featuring Easter bunnies. In May we’re joining up with the Sheffield Food Festival. More details to be announced shortly. Finally, on 28th June we’re celebrating Le Tour de France coming to Sheffield with Oooh la la Le Grand Depart – Cakes on a Cycling Theme.

Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club – My Vintage Valentine

Logo created by Anita Mangan Check out Anita’s other design work.

We had a vintage theme this month but it was off to a new venue for us. Jameson’s Tea Rooms on Abbeydale Road has recently been expanded to include a second venue to complement their antiques shops. The busy Saturday evening traffic was forgotten once we stepped inside and we were transported back to an era of old-fashioned glamour and elegance.

 Jameson's tea rooms

Christine started off our cake fest in a suitably sophisticated manner with her Valentine’s Bubbly Bundt. Based on a recipe by Rachel at Dolly Bakes this contained Champagne for that special romantic touch.


From mother we went to Christine’s daughter Fleur and her Chocolate Love Surprise Cake. Fleur had come up with the idea of baking a heart shaped cake and then including a surprise red velvet heart only to be revealed once the cake had been cut.

 Fleur love heart

Raspberries and pistachios were paired with some beautifully piped buttercream roses on Jess’ cake. Rosewater was also added to for some extra flavouring.


We can wait a lifetime for the love of our life to come along but sometimes you know that who you love most is your cat. Dawn’s cake was a tribute to her beloved feline and once again managed a colour scheme to match her hair. The base of the cake was a Victoria sponge flavoured with citrus, filled with jam and covered with buttercream.


Anne’s cake may have been covered in cream (which contains does calcium) but underneath was a fatless sponge it was topped with fresh fruit, so it must be healthy! This was a cake that Anne’s mum used to make for her dad and was finished off with some Love Hearts.


Our organizer and life coach Karen made a strawberries and cream sponge heart sandwich cake. For extra moistness and flavour an orange syrup was drizzled over it and it was finished off with some fresh fanned strawberries.


In days gone by there was a tradition in Lancashire of young ladies making a special cake for the man they were betrothed to. Debs revived this tradition with her three layer courting cake but did make a point of saying she is married!


Rosie had a cake in mind to bake for the meeting but changed her mind after a recent visit to her granmother’s. Her nana’s recipe for Coconut and Cherry cake provided us with a genuine vintage bake.


One of the oldest cake recipes is for Pound Cake using the same ratio of sugar, butter, flour and eggs to make a cake. Alice covered hers with coconut to give it a fun and fluffy feel.


Love Heart sweets have many messages on them and Liz decided to use the ‘Kiss Me’ one to decorate her cake. She also ground some up and included them in the sponge mix to give it a bit of fizz.


We spotted a photo of a chocolate cake in a cookbook and my junior baker liked the look of and decided to give it a go. The recipe wanted a packet mix so we made a chocolate Madeira cake instead. The top and bottom were covered in red icing and we filled it with some homemade chocolates.


My ‘Honey for my Honey Cake’ was inspired by a recipe I saw in Fiona Cairns’ ‘The Birthday Cake Book’. I made a honey cake in my faithful heart shaped tin and covered it with duck egg blue icing.


So with tea drunk and cloudy lemonade guzzled it was time to share the cakes around and pack up. You can join us in the future as we already have two more meetings lined up. The first is next month with the theme ‘Cakes disguised as pies‘ and then in June with our special Tour de France meeting.

Newark & Sherwood Clandestine Cake Club – Mary Mary, Quite Contrary

 Group logo of Newark and Sherwood

The rain keeps coming and the wind keeps blowing which means our gardens aren’t growing very well at the moment but it didn’t put us off for this month’s Newark and Sherwood Clandestine Cake Club meeting. Our theme was the classic nursery rhyme:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells

And pretty maids all in a row.

It was fitting therefore that we met at the lovely Darfoulds nursery, just outside of Worksop. Their café is located in a cosy and light-filled greenhouse and proved to be great venue for us to meet.


Our organizer Deb showed off her fine cake decorating skills with her bee and daisy cake. Without the bees we wouldn’t have many flowers in our gardens. Inside was a lemon sponge cake based on a recipe from the most famous ‘Mary’ in baking – Mary Berry! By covering the plate with icing as well this would also make a great Easter bonnet cake.


I can vouch that Christine has a beautiful garden all year round and she made use of her thyme in her cake. The recipe is Nigel Slater’s Lemon and Thyme Cake which makes a beautifully moist cake with the extra texture and flavour from some ground almonds.


Carol and Amy find in the summer their garden gets taken over by Californian poppies and this inspired their Poppy Seed cake. They used a Rachel Allen recipe for it which makes two poppy seed sandwich cakes which are then filled and covered with vanilla buttercream, Some edible roses on top finished it off.


Shelley and Charlotte both had the same idea with their Rachel Allen After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cake but decorated them in different styles. Shelley’s cake had a dark green icing and some very indulgent After Eight Mints on top.


Charlotte was joining us for the first time but is already a seasoned Clandestine Cake Cub member. She was very organized in being able to bake a cake for us as she only moved up north last week. Charlotte chopped up mint and stirred them into icing for her topping and used chocolate leaves.


The only thing that is growing in my garden at the moment that is edible is my faithful rosemary plant which also fits in with the ‘Mary’ theme! I decided to add it to a gluten-free lemon polenta cake. Over the top I drizzled a lemon syrup infused with rosemary.


Thanks to Deb for organizing and Darfoulds for hosting us. It was lovely to see everybody and have cake for breakfast! If you want to join us in the future and know of any possible venues please contact us. Remember we cover the whole Newark and Sherwood district and we are willing to travel for cake!

Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club – Wicked Cakes Made Healthy

IMG_5783The skies went dark and the rain came down but any day can be brighten by cake especially in the lovely surroundings of Martha Heritage. Located on Terminus Road, just off Abbeydale Road South, it is a haven full of gorgeous giftware and artisan homewares and jewellery. We took over the tearoom at the back for our special New Year’s Clandestine Cake Club event of ‘Wicked Cakes Made Healthy’.

IMG_5784 First cake on show was our organizer and life coach Karen Perkins. Not only did Karen’s cake contain some very healthy beetroot but she made it lactrose-free. Instead of sugar she used glucose and replaced the dairy ingredients with Oat Dream and Pure margarine.


With Seville oranges in season at this time of year Christine made the most of them with her sticky marmalade cake baked with homemade marmalade. This moist cake contained ground almonds, orange juice and a duck egg.


Christine’s daughter Fleur used the last of their stored cooking apples for her apple and cider cake. A special sparkle was added with some edible glitter.


A fatless but fruity sponge was Rosie’s choice of cake. Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food it was filled with mandarins and peaches.


The Hairy Bikers in recent years have turned into the Hairy Dieters and it’s easy to see how they do with their fatless and sugarless fruit loaf that Debs baked. The natural sugars and moistness came from prunes and bananas.


Carrot cake may contain some very healthy vegetables but still have some other naughty ingredients in it. Lucy solved this problem by reducing the fat content and using wholemeal flour.


If you want to cut the butter out of your cake making and go sugar free is to make a savoury cake. Vicky made the loaf version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Ham and Olive Cake. This would make an excellent addition to a picnic.


To conjure up a low-fat and low-sugar chocolate cake Alice turned to the recipe for The Alchemist’s Chocolate Cake. It contains tinned pears and and a small amount of walnut oil. Alice created her own topping of chocolate drizzle.


Karen cake maker number two considers cake a treat and wonders why then we would need to make it healthy! However as a concession she changed the alcoholic glaze of Cointreau to orange juice. Her Cranberry and Cream Cheese Cake did though have some very healthy fresh cranberries in it.IMG_5782

I have been making a fatless Bara Brith for years now and always to the same recipe. To add a twist to it I used a selection of dried tropical fruit containing apricots, pineapple and papaya as well as the usual sultanas, raisins, currants and candied peel. This was also soaked in some Earl Grey tea instead of a standard blend.


My daughter’s usual chocolate cake bake was turned fat-less and gluten-free. The Chocolate and Cherry cake had polenta (made up with boiling water), ground almonds and gluten-free flour.


Thank you to Anna at Martha Heritage for opening up both of her fabulous shops for us. If you wish to join us we have three future events already planned. On 22nd February we are Romancing the cake in Sheffield with My Vintage Valentine. For March the theme is cakes disguised as pies and we will be meeting on the 22nd. Onward to June and as we welcome the Tour de France to Sheffield for the first time we are marking it with an Oooh la la Le Grand Depart, Cakes on a Cycling theme. Our neighbours in Newark & Sherwood are also having a meeting in February near Worksop with the theme of Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? I hope you can join us at one!

Clandestine Cake Club – Christmas Cakes from 3 Counties

 Logo created by Anita Mangan Inspired by her designs for the CCC Cook Book. Linked to her website ‘The Cooper Family’ where you will see more of Anita’s design work.

It was time to get festive with our cakes and being such a friendly bunch we decided to get together for our Christmas meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club. The groups of Sheffield, Chesterfield, and Newark & Sherwood span three counties so it was rather fitting we met at the winter wonderland that is Christine’s house which borders all three counties. My apologies for the terrible photographs but I had to use my mobile phone (sack me).

Sheffield group organizer Karen Perkins made us her ‘Deconstructed’ Chocolate Yule Log. It was covered with chocolate ganache and filled with ginger cream. She also came with a cautionary tale as the round plate her cake was on was that morning a cake stand but the bottom fell off! Thankfully the Yule Log escaped unharmed.


We were encouraged to seek inspiration and ingredients from our three countries and Jean and Nick came with their cakes with a local and festive twist. Jean looked to Derbyshire and made a Christmas version of a Cherry Bakewell Cake. This was a sponge cake filled with rich morello cherry jam and looked very effective with the snowflake, (inedible) holly and glacé cherry berries.


Nick decided to go to Nottinghamshire for his cake inspiration. It was a ‘Rufford House Welcome Cake’. The idea was that visiting monks would have brought exotic ingredients back from their travels and they would have been made into something special. This was a gluten-free cake made with ground almonds, tangerines and poppy seeds.


Our hostess Christine made a similar cake but used her current favourite festive fruit of clementines. To achieve the intense citrus flavour in this moist, flourless cake Christine had to boil five clementines for over two hours.


Another Christmas favourite is Panettone and Helen made an impressively tall version. It was flavoured with white chocolate, cranberries, almonds and mixed peel.


Robyn came with a sorry tale of a festive chocolate orange nut cake which never made it out of the house as apparently it was a disaster! Determined to come as a baker and not just an eater Robyn whipped up her husband’s favourite Chocolate Guinness Cake.


There were Christmas ingredients aplenty in Barbara’s cake. Her iced cake contained dates, orange and pecans.


We had our own Christmas Bake-off with the appearance of two Stollen Wreath Bundt Cakes from the same recipe. Thankfully the rules of Clandestine Cake Club state no judging! Carol and Amy made the first one…


and Chesterfield organizer Fiona the second cake. Filled with dried fruits and nuts it was topped with marzipan. Fiona gave us the tip of putting the marzipan on the cake and then pressed the cake tin back down on it so it forms the shape.


The famous Derbyshire mineral of Blue John gave Steph the inspiration for her Lavender and Lemon cake. The name Blue John derives from the French ‘bleu-jaune’ meaning blue-yellow and points to the colouring of the mineral. To give the cake extra natural yellow colouring Steph added some saffron.


Colin used to live in Aberdeen and and remembered some Hogmanay traditions with his Black Bun. This has a rich dried fruit interior like a traditional fruit cake but is incased in pastry.


For Silvana’s cake she went back to her Italian heritage with her Panettone. Her sculptured version was covered with citrus flavoured custard.


My local ingredient was some 3 Counties Honey I bought from Clumber Park. To incorporate this into a cake I made a Spiced Orange and Honey Cake. This had some candied peel in it and was topped with some blanched almonds.


The Junior Baker made her customary chocolate cake by turned it into a winter scene with some icing. Chocolate Snowmen and Snowdogs from Derbyshire based Thorntons finished off the frosty setting.


Many thanks to Christine for opening up her house to us. I hope you have cleared up all the cake crumbs by now! Join us in 2014 for some more great cake gatherings.

Clandestine Cake Club 3rd Birthday Party

Logo created by Anita Mangan Inspired by her designs for the CCC Cook Book. Linked to her website ‘The Cooper Family’ where you will see more of Anita’s design work.

I had the great honour of attending the Clandestine Cake Club birthday party in Liverpool last weekend. It’s now three years since Lynn Hill hosted her first secret gathering in Leeds and my, look how much cake love has been shared since!

 It was off to the Novotel in Liverpool I went, with Debs, the Newark & Sherwood group organizer. As you may know I am a member of the Newark & Sherwood, Chesterfield, and Sheffield groups and I was proud to fly the flag for us. Liverpool was chosen as our host city because the party was held in conjunction with Renshaw Baking who are based in Liverpool.

 When we arrived at the Novotel we brought out our cakes and soon the table was full with our offerings. When you walked into the room you could smell the sugar and chocolate rising up enticing us in!

IMG_5511 There were too many cakes to go through individually but I will mention a few in dispatches (because I scoffed them). The Phantom of the Opera cake was made by Debs. All the decorations she make herself including the fabulous mask.

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The Honey Nut Bundt was made by Rachel of Dolly Bakes and organizer of the Bolton Clandestine Cake Club. Sharon made the Streusel Wreath cake. She is the organizer of the Pudsey Clandestine Cake Club and chronicles her cake making and post box spotting at Humbugs House. It was lovely to finally meet Sharon and her husband and have a chat about life’s important matters (yes cake, post boxes and football). Both Rachel’s and Sharon’s cake would make wonderful Christmas cakes as an alternative to the traditional fruit cake.

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Since it was a 3rd birthday party I made a cake which I knew a three year old would love. I have great recent experience in this matter! It was a chocolate sponge covered in orange buttercream and then decorated with chocolate fingers and buttons. I picked out ‘3’ in white chocolate buttons.


Renshaw decorated each table with a cake displaying some amazing decorating skills. We were wondering how the fluffy towel effect was created and apparently it was achieved by using a nail brush!

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Although we had plenty of cake to share around it won’t have been a proper birthday party without a showstopping birthday cake. This magnificent cake was made by Terry Tang Designer Cakes, who are based in Liverpool. Can you identify some of the Clandestine Cake Club members?


Not being one for cake decorating myself I was a little daunted by the thought of a demonstration by Renshaw but I was quite engrossed by it. We were shown by Claire how to marzipan and ice a traditional fruit cake. There was a number useful tips I picked up. To calculate the amount of marzipan needed to cover a fruit cake the formula is simply half the weight of the cake. The reason we need to boil the apricot jam and water to brush across cake and marzipan is to blitz away any bacteria and to stop the jam from fermenting. The finished decoration was a very easy to make Christmas tree made by snipping branches with a pair of small scissors.

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After a nice buffet lunch, designed to gently line our stomachs, it was time to test the cakes! Since we only had small plates I obviously had to go back twice to restock my plate. Afterwards there was a terrible scene of cake devastation!


We each got given a goody bag from Renshaw containing a selection of their marzipan, coverings and icing. After that we cut the big birthday cake, which seemed a terrible shame but it was made to be eaten! After saying our goodbyes and a big thank you to Lynn and Renshaw it was time to head home.