It’s official, baking brings people together! OK, we knew that, but it’s always nice when you get a chance to experience it first hand. It wasn’t until I read an online post by a 66 year old American visiting the UK that I realised just how important baking is in British and Irish culture. Scott Waters from Florida made a long list of observations he’d experienced on his travels across the Atlantic and every point was very true. My personal favourites were:
Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms.
Their TV looks and sounds much better than ours.
Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America.
There are no guns
And my favourite of all: Cake is one of the major food groups.
How true! A couple of years ago, some of my school friends set up a club: Cake Club. It’s for the fun of baking, the need to eat cake and the social of course. Many of my friends had (and have) young children and it was a way to get together and catch up. I have been lucky
enough to dip in and out when I can. If I’m available, I love to bake and take part. There are no real rules – If you can make the date, great. If you can bake something, brilliant – But no pressure! And most importantly, just pop along for a cuppa and a natter.
Held on a Friday once a month, the location changes each time. There is also a different theme to keep it interesting! This month’s theme? Christmas of course! I have had the privilege of hosting a couple of times but for Christmas cake club, held last Friday morning, it was the turn of Rachel in her festive and gorgeous Gloucestershire cottage. As well as being the hostess with the mostess, Rachel made the loveliest mince pie brownies. Rich, chocolatey and subtly festive.
Sian’s polar bear cupcakes have to be the cutest of all creations on offer and looked just as festive as Anna’s Christmas tree ginger biscuits. Nicola’s kruidnoten, tiny spiced Dutch biscuits with a delicate hint of black pepper were delicious too. (I feel the need to say that Nicky was very impressed I detected the pepper!)
My offering was twofold, I made pumpkin and pecan cupcakes with a Williams-Sonoma cake mix (I just had to add the wet ingredients.) I tried it last year when friends made a loaf tin full of it and it was delicious. So I decided to turn the mix into cupcakes. I baked them in the Aga and I added a cinnamon and ginger butter icing to the top. My homemade mince pies also made their
debut! I’ve never made mine pies before (as Mum’s are always so good!) but this year, I have discovered my Mary Berry cook book so I decided to try her mincemeat recipe which is delicious by the way! I made shortcrust pasty with clementine zest and baked them in the Aga. I have to say that as much as I like them, I’d like to try adding ground almonds to the recipe in the hope that the pastry becomes shorter. I have loads of mincemeat left so I’d better get pastry making!
So back to cake club, a fun, cake filled morning was had by all. It’s great to use baking to facilitate catching up with friends. And one of the best things about the club? The cake divvy. At the end there’s a chance to swap bakes to ensure you don’t have to eat your own baking for the next week!