April 24, 2014


Having joined my local Clandestine Cake Club branch in Derbyshire last year, it occurred to me one day that it might be fun to create a club in France.  A lot of the people we have made friends with in our little corner of France are enthusiastic bakers so I asked a few of them if they would be interested.  Enough said “yes” so I decided to give it a go.

CCC3aYesterday we had our very first meeting and I am thrilled to say that it was a huge success.

Considering our actual membership is very small, we had sixteen people turn up and thirteen cakes – a baker’s dozen !!

CCC4The theme was “favourite cakes”.  In other words, the cake that each person liked best to eat or to bake.  Everyone embraced the spirit of the theme and a truly magnificent collection of cakes appeared on our table.


There were lots of lovely old fashioned cakes such as ginger, date and walnut, coffee and walnut, banana and walnut, chocolate sponge and strawberry sponge.  There were several gluten free cakes, delicious adaptations of favourite old recipes, plus a variation of carrot cake and an upside down cake.

The number of cakes containing walnuts could be down to it being the nut that people are most fond of, or that we are in walnut country.  They fall off the trees in autumn and you simply help yourself to delicious fresh walnuts.CCC6 CCC7 CCC9 CCC10 Out of the thirteen cakes, four of them were made by men -  and for two of them it was their very first time – this was the first cake they had ever made.  Now that’s what I call real and brave enthusiasm !!

Several people had made a cake for the first time in their French oven – people who had come to France for the holidays and wouldn’t normally bake a cake on holiday.

I have to admit that on the afternoon before I had a little chuckle to myself when I thought of all those cakes being baked in the Loire at the same time – all those anxious faces peering into ovens they are not used to baking with, hoping it would turn out alright !!

CCC12 Of course the proof of the cake is in the eating so with formalities quickly out of the way we got down to the main business of the day – eating the cakes!  All washed down with proper English tea and later – naturally – a glass or two of Vouvray.  Conversation was without doubt rather different to meetings at home.  There the talk is of work, children, grandchildren, traffic jams and supermarket prices.  Here it was of brocantes, old cars, holidays, local wildlife, and renovation of ancient houses.

It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and I hope that that everyone is looking forward to the next meeting!


April 21, 2014


Easter is synonymous with chocolate for me and I was looking for a recipe to make a gluten free chocolate cake for a bit of a do at a friend’s house.  Having bought a pack of Doves Farm gluten free self-raising flour I noticed a recipe for brownies on the back which looked very easy to make and too good to resist.

gluten free chocolate brownies3

Looking at recipes on the Doves Farm website, it’s almost as if they suggest you can use the gluten free flour in place of ordinary flour in anything.  So far I’ve only used the product a handful of times but it’s certainly always been a success. 

gluten free chocolate brownies2Anyway, these brownies were very easy to make and worked out really well.  There was a nice crust and a squidgy middle.  (The dents in the cake are where I pressed to see if it was done!)

The flavour was good and chocolatey and although the texture was slightly different from many other brownies, I think anyone would be hard pressed to identify that this was because of the GF flour. 

gluten free chocolate brownies

Brownies are often better the day after baking but I’m afraid I can’t vouch for this as they all disappeared on the day!


100g butter

150g gluten free dark chocolate

100g Doves Farm self-raising GF flour

200g sugar

3 eggs


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.

Beat the eggs together in a large bowl.  Add the flour and sugar and mix well to combine.

Put the chocolate and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until melted together, stirring well.

Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture and mix well.  Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the skewer test is passed.  There should be a crusty top and a soft middle so be careful not to over bake.

Cool in the tin.

Cuts into 25 small or 16 regular brownies.

April 18, 2014

CHOCOLATE RUM CAKE (for serious chocoholics)

chocolate rum cake4

It was our local Clandestine Cake Club’s first birthday recently so I felt compelled to attend the meeting, even though I really haven’t got the time to bake!  (Any excuse!)

A quick shuffle of my last few unpacked cook books led me to a recipe in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  Chocolate and booze go well together at any time but are especially good for a birthday!

chocolate rum cake2In the first chapter of her book Mary states that she rarely uses dark chocolate with a high cocoa solids content, believing it to be unnecessarily expensive and not always the best thing for baking.  Luckily I had two bars of Cadbury’s Bournville chocolate in the cupboard so with those in stock I had more or less everything I needed to make the cake.

Apart that is, from the apricot jam.  The recipe states that you should brush the cake with warm, sieved apricot jam before coating it with the chocolate icing.  As we are trying to run down our stocks of everything before we move house, the only thing I had in stock that might do was half a jar of morello cherry jam.  As cherries go really well with both rum and chocolate I decided to use that instead and I have to say, it was a really good choice.  The sweetness of the cherry jam contrasted will with the intensely chocolate flavour of the cake and icing.

chocolate rum cake3 

I decorated the cake with the chocolate icing as given in the recipe and also added some crystallised violets, a sprinkle of chocolate vermicelli and a single candle.

This is not a cake for the faint hearted.  There are after all two whole large bars of Bournville chocolate in the cake and even though they’re not the 70% cocoa solids content of some chocolate, it still adds up to a very strong dark chocolate flavour.  One to which the cherry jam adds a welcome contrast.

You can see the recipe here but in the Baking Bible Mary also incredibly adds yet another almost whole bar of chocolate by making a ganache to pipe decorative swirls on the cake !!  It was already more than chocolatey enough for me so this would have made it inedible for my taste !!  Needless to say, I’m glad I omitted that step in the recipe.

Tea Time Treats Lavender and Lovage

Adding the cherry jam was a lucky alteration to the original recipe so consequently I feel entitled to submit this post to this month’s Tea Time Treats Challenge, organised by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Jane of the Hedge Combers.  The theme this time is “jam” and you can see the details here.


For the cake

200g plain chocolate, 39% cocoa solids, such as Bournville

100g unsalted butter, diced

3 large eggs, separated

100g dark muscovado sugar

50ml dark rum

75g self raising flour

50g ground almonds

For the filling and icing

225g Bournville chocolate

100g unsalted butter, diced

2 tbslp morello cherry jam


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and a 20cm round springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Set aside to cool.

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together until pale and creamy.

Add the cooled chocolate and rum and mix together until combined.  Sift in the flour and fold in, along with the ground almonds.

Whisk the egg whites separately until stiff and fold into the mixture.

Transfer the mixture to the tin and bake for about 45 minutes until done.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, remove the paper and cool on a rack.

To make the filling, melt the chocolate as above, then add the butter and mix well together.  Put the jam in a small saucepan and heat gently, then push through a sieve to remove any lumps of fruit.

When the cake is cool, slice it in half horizontally using a bread knife.  Spread two tablespoons of the chocolate icing on the bottom half and put the two halves back together.

Brush the sieved jam over the top and sides of the cake and allow to set.  Then gently spread the remaining icing over the whole cake.  Decorate with sprinkles, candles or your choice of decorations.

Cuts into 10-12 slices as it is very rich.

April 9, 2014


plum and apple dappy Two of my favourite baking challenges have joined forces this month.  Random Recipes by Dom of Bellau Kitchen, and Aphabakes, by Ros of The more than occasional baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes, have joined together to create an Alphabakes Random Recipe Challenge.

The idea is to choose a cook book at random and then randomly choose and cook a recipe in the A section of the index. 

Most of my cook books are now packed ready for moving house so my choice was limited to the remaining few in one bookcase.  Glancing along the shelf I saw this book by Laura Washburn:

plum and apple dappy2

Thinking that apples conveniently begin with the letter A, I took it off the shelf and discovered a post-it already attached to a page, one I had obviously bookmarked for baking some time ago.  So I decided to cook that.  I hope that’s random enough to comply with the rules of the challenge!

I deviated slightly from the recipe as I wanted to use up a few plums remaining from baking a crumble the previous weekend, but other than that I was reasonably true to the original.  I also conveniently had half a pack of ready made shortcrust pastry in the fridge left over from making a quiche.

 plum and apple dappy3 plum and apple dappy4

I had never heard of a “dappy” before I bought this book (one of my charity shop finds) and essentially it’s like a pastry roly-poly, filled with fruit instead of jam and sliced before baking.  The author describes it as a little known dish from the West Country. 

I now have several of Laura Washburn’s books, the first one I acquired being a Christmas present a few years ago called “the French country table”.  I have cooked quite a few recipes from all of them and they have always been a success.

As well as charity shops I find a good way of acquiring cook books for a very modest price is to use the “used and new” offer on Amazon.  I have collected some really good books for the cost of  only 1p each plus postage, which is usually £2.80.  One or two of the used books have been slightly grubby and very well used, but at that price, if it doesn’t inspire me, I am quite happy to take it back to the charity shops, which is where I imagine most of these 1p books come from in the first place.  Most of the used books have been in near perfect condition.

plum and apple dappy5

As shop bought plums can be a bit firm I usually cook them before putting them into a crumble or pie, so I cooked these along with the apples and also added a dash of cinnamon for extra flavour.   There was a bit too much fruit so rather than make the pastry too difficult to roll up by over filling it, I just tucked the extra in between the pastry rolls in the tin.

plum and apple dappy6

It was delicious!  A nice change from a pie or crumble and I will definitely be making it again.  I have to say that the shop bought ready made pastry was good too.  I’m using it at the moment to save time but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again and again.


You can read all about this month’s “Random Recipes meets Alphabakes” challenge here and here.


250g ready made shortcrust pastry, approx half a pack

5 large plums, halved, stoned then cubed

2 medium eating apples, peeled, cored and cubed

2 tblsp golden caster sugar

½tsp ground cinnamon

1tblsp demerara sugar


Put the cubed fruit into a medium saucepan with a splash of water and heat gently for 10-15 minutes until the fruit is tender.  Stir in the caster sugar and cinnamon and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Line a 20cm square baking tin or dish with baking paper.

Roll out the pastry into an oblong approximately 20 x 30 cm.

Spread the cooked fruit over the pastry and roll up like you would a Swiss roll, from one long side.

Cut the roll into 7* even slices and lay one slice in the centre of the dish, cut side up.  Arrange the remaining slices around the centre one, not touching as the pastry will expand.  Sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with custard, cream, ice cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 4*.

*I followed the instructions and cut the roll into 7 slices but next time I will cut it into 8, to make portioning easier and fairer !!