BAKING is enjoying a huge revival these days with many more of us reaching for our pinnies and dusting off the Mary Berry tomes.
And our self-styled queen of cakes, Claire Clark, as organiser of the Gosforth and Jesmond Clandestine Cake Club, is one of those at the forefront of the revolution.
Cake bakers across the city crank up the oven when they get a missive from Claire telling them when their latest clandestine gathering is to be held.
Mum-of-one Claire, who is also expecting baby number two, was inspired to set up her own club after visiting the hugely popular Newcastle Clandestine Cake Club.
Claire, 30, works part-time at a bookshop in Newcastle, where I imagine she’s naturally drawn to the cookbook section, and also has her own sideline baking business, YumYum Cakes.
She launched her first event in September, a gathering of ladies and their delicious home-baked cakes, at Café Nero on Gosforth High Street.
The event had the theme, ‘Your Favourite Cake’, and Claire brought along a devil’s chocolate cake while other offerings included lemon cake, stout cake and carrot cake.
The club, part of a national collection of scores of Clandestine Cake Clubs, has strict rules such as no tarts, no brownies and no cupcakes allowed.
Members meet at ‘clandestine’ locations, such as cafes, eateries and pubs, and are only told a day or two before where the exact location is.
Members are allowed to bring a friend with them, who doesn’t need to bring a cake, and everyone’s respective cakes are sliced up for everyone present to try.
Claire, who is over 20 weeks’ pregnant, lives with husband Tony, and son Joe, three, in Gosforth.
She held her last cake club gathering at the Brandling Villa pub in South Gosforth this month, with a Thanksgiving/autumnal theme.
The event attracted a good crowd and their scrummy bakes – the evidence of which can be seen here.
Flavours included chocolate and butternut squash cake, pear and cranberry upside-down cake and Claire’s sticky ginger and lemon cake.
Claire often has her trusty Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book to hand for recipes and inspiration. “Mary Berry’s a favourite and the BBC Good Food site and Leiths Baking Bible.”
She says it has all grown from being a hobby.
“It’s grown from baking my own. People always said they tasted nice. I used to make them for work and people said, ‘I would buy them’ so I thought I might as well!
“I made my own wedding cake a couple of years ago. I have made a few Newcastle United cakes and I’m doing my friend a 40th cake.”
A more unusual request was for a cake decorated Zumba-style, in zingy colours, for a children’s party.
Her own taste in cakes, though, leans towards the more traditional.
“I like old cakes, fruit cakes, traditional-type recipes, a cake which you can have a slice of with butter on. I think cupcakes are too overdone.”
The club gatherings, she says, are a great way for people to meet new friends.
“A couple of the girls have moved to the area and they thought it was a great idea, not knowing many people.
“It’s not competitive at all. That’s the point of it. You can be really rubbish at making cakes!” insists Claire, “as long as you are really good at eating them.
“It’s easy going, people turn up, have some cake and a chat with nice people. And we’re supporting local businesses.
“I email people a couple of days before to let them know about the venue. It’s not really the most important bit. There’s usually about ten cakes.”
The September gathering, says Claire, “It was anything goes. Someone made stout cake with cream cheese frosting. Some people go really decorative.” Others, she says, may not look overly-decorative, but they too ‘taste immense’.
“I did a devil’s chocolate cake which went down all right.
“It’s all different ages that come along. It’s been all women at mine but at the Newcastle club there was a couple of boys.”
For more info on Claire’s club, follow the link to her page: http://clandestinecakeclub.co.uk/ groups/gosforth-and-jesmond/
I made my own wedding cake a couple of years ago. I have made a few Newcastle United cakes