Thursday, 24 November 2011

Clandestine Cake Club - November

In Newcastle, you know Santa is on his way when Fenwick reveals its Christmas window. For the last 40 years the department store has entertained shoppers with an elaborate display of moving, singing automata, a bit like XFactor only better.  I love the Christmas window, though I do think they should do something about all those pesky children spoiling my view.

A few years ago Fenwick courted controversy by choosing the theme of aliens (Newcastle was NOT happy) but since then has stuck firmly to full-on Christmas and recently even had a nativity scene ('who wants that at Christmas time?' muttered my mother). This year the theme is children’s characters and the tableaux include the Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Sooty, Cinderella, Camberwick Green and Oliver Twist.
There is also Alice in Wonderland enjoying cake at the mad hatter’s tea party.
Last night, cousin Helen and I also enjoyed cake in Fenwicks, as it kindly hosted the last Clandestine Cake Club of the year. The theme was “Winter” and I decided to make an Italian Christmas panettone, banking on it being light enough to leave room for trying as many other cakes as possible. I found a recipe for cranberry and chocolate panettone on the BBC Good Food website, which is a treasure trove of tried and tested recipes. I swapped the white chocolate for dark to make it less sweet. I’d never made panettone before but it wasn’t hard, it just takes time as the dough needs to prove for a couple of hours before baking.

We had special guests at cake club:  CCC founder Lynn Hill from Leeds and Appetite magazine, who photographed the cakes while we ducked from the camera squealing “don’t publish photos of us stuffing our faces with cake”. If you see a photo of a table of women politely sipping green tea, know that it is a lie.

 Helen and I managed to try most of the cakes – my favourites were the eggnog cake - light and spiced and not too sweet (would love the recipe please!); the damp gingerbread - fluffy and delicious, and the spiced orange. Eating a dozen slices of cake is hard work and over the past few months I’ve picked up some good tips:

1) Fairly obvious, but cut a small slice. A really small slice. Then cut if in half and share with a friend.
2) Go easy on the icing. For some reason it’s very filling.
3) Save the chocolate cakes for last. For similarly obscure reasons, chocolate cakes seem more filling.
4) Remember it’s a marathon and that you need to rehydrate. Keep the tea and coffee flowing.
5) Dig deep. Just when you think you can’t eat any more, you will find some extra stamina to carry you to the finishing line.

By following these simple rules, Helen and I were able to sample at least ten cakes, then go out for a large and excellent meal at The Broad Chare, where I complained to a journalist friend that Geordies are too often portrayed as drunken fools, then tipped a glass of wine into my own lap.

Helen and I will continue our semi-professional training over Christmas in readiness for January’s cake club. Hope to see you there!
Too much cake, I can't go on. Leave me, Gary and save yourself.


  1. Great tips Kate - they certainly helped me stay the course! Looking forward to doing it all again in January!

  2. Sounds like my kind of night! I'm hoping to register for the next one! :)