March 2014

March 2014

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter 2013

As I sit writing this on Good Friday my thoughts have turned to my childhood. On this day, my mother would send me off to my grandparents’ house with a bag of warm hot cross buns which were only available at this time of the year and not, like today, when they can be bought all year round.  I was instructed to ring the bell and place the paper bag on the doorstep and run back home – it was, after all, the Easter bunny that left them, wasn’t it!? It was all part of our family’s Easter tradition. My sister and I were also so fortunate to receive a number of chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday including sometimes a giant shop display egg to share – my mother knew a confectioner’s rep I believe! We would nibble them in secret and see who could keep their eggs intact the longest. I remember that my big sister always seemed to win and it wasn’t for some years that I realised she would eat some of her egg and then rewrap it in the foil paper in such a way that it still looked whole. Such fond memories.

During my own daughter’s childhood at Easter we would make an egg hunt for her. My husband and I would spend a happy hour writing clues for the locations of the eggs which we had been hidden all over the house or garden and I’m sure she still remembers the challenge and the fun of this annual event. I wonder, in the future, whether she will continue with her own family’s Easter traditions?

I haven’t, this week, baked a large Simnel cake for us but have made an individual version for each patient at Cynthia Spencer Hospice. 100 grams of the cake mixture sat perfectly in the little loaf cases and cooked superbly in an hour. I decorated them with a little fondant icing and couldn’t resist placing a miniature chocolate egg on top. My clever designer daughter, Laura, made tags for me and they looked really pretty in their cellophane packages tied with ribbon. It’s a nice thought that the Clandestine Cake Club might make an Easter memory for someone outside the family this year.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Clandestine Cake Club Northampton - Viva Italia

Instead of ‘Viva Las Vegas’ our local CCC club celebrated March with the theme of ‘Viva Italia’. Our cakes included Italian ingredients and highlighted the many regions of this warm Mediterranean country.

I brought along an Italian style chocolate cake with ricotta frosting.
Carmela made an Orange polenta cake.
Hanna baked a Lemon polenta cake.
Sue presented us with an Orange polenta cake with chocolate mascarpone cream.
Tina made a Torta de corta.
Laura chose to bake the Finnish Mother’s day lemon cake with mascarpone frosting from the CCC cookbook.
Helen baked a Limoncello and balsamic cake.
Sue brought along a Ricotta and polenta cake.
Debbie made her Tiramisu cake.
Marian presented us with a Soft as silk Italian cream cake.
Lorraine baked a Panattone with Limoncello cream.
Tess made a Coffee cake decorated with the Italian flag.
And, finally, Lisa made a Limoncello & poppy seed cake.

Despite receiving several cancellations on the day and 2 ‘no shows’ the remaining 17 of us had a happy and delicious evening in the attractive and well-situated Leopold’s Chocolate and Coffee shop in Abington Street, Northampton. Mark, the co-owner and CCC member, kept us topped up with teas and coffees and we must say a big thank you to him for inviting us back again and opening up especially for us.

Our very own Carmela Hayes – aren’t we lucky to have such a warm-hearted and talented cook in our midst - gave us a little talk about Italian baking and passed around some of the ingredients that she uses in her own kitchen like the golden herbal liqueur Straga and sachets of Pan deli Angeli (bread of the angels) which is a raising agent mixed with vanilla. She also gave us a top tip to buy Amaretti biscuits, whizz them up in a processor to make crumbs, and store them in a jar ready to include in a cake or frosting mixture to add flavour and texture. Thank you, Carmela, for a small insight into your Italian baking roots.

So - looking ahead - our next event ‘Showstoppers’ has now been published on the CCC website and details can be found here as well as further photos taken at 'Viva Italia'. Also, please email me if you would like to receive a copy of our local March CCC newsletter.

Happy baking!

Gillian x 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mothering Sunday

Last December I visited Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton, along with other members of the Clandestine Cake Club. On that occasion I took along some individual Christmas Cakes and the fund-raisers at the hospice asked whether I would make more of these little delights for them on other occasions through the year. And so, coming up to Mothering Sunday, I made a special batch but this time used a lighter simnel cake recipe and incorporated a layer of marzipan within the mixture. 

My sister Lynda, my Mum, my Grandmother, me and daughter Laura
My own mother was a patient in the hospice many years ago and I know I will think back to those days when I deliver the cakes tomorrow. Along with happy and sad memories of the generations of family mums that have gone before me, I can recall each of them, in their own kitchens, cooking and baking for the family, offering bowls and spoons to lick, and sometimes allowing grubby little hands to turn the pastry grey! 

The cakes I baked today, finished, with labels and ribbons, do look so pretty and I hope they will please someone else’s Special Mum this coming weekend.

We traded sleep for dark circles
Salon haircuts for ponytails
Long baths for quick showers
Late nights for early mornings
Designer bags for school bags
And we wouldn’t change a thing!

We call ourselves Mums and we don’t care about what we gave up
And instead LOVE is what we get in return.

That’s what being a Mum is all about!