You know that feeling when you go to a cafe and you see all the delicious looking slices of cake; but you don't know which one to pick. You see them all lined up behind their little glass window, or even worse sitting out on the counter just inches away. Your mouth begins to water, you ask yourself is it a chocolate or lemon day (who am I kidding it's always chocolate).
Then comes the moment where you have to make a decision. You place your order and then you sit, relax and enjoy. Hopefully. Or you sit there wishing you'd picked the other cake. Either way you only get to choose one piece of cake.
That's why I was so excited when a friend introduced me to The Cake Club! Yes you read it right, a club for cake. I can't think of anything more amazing, except maybe a book club, or a book club that reads books about cake, while eating cake!
This isn't just any cake club though, no this is the Clandestine Cake Club which adds a heightened level of secrecy and excitement - it's what the Masons would be if it was set up by women.
It's free to become a member and all you do is sign up and wait for your email revealing all the details of the secret location of the next meeting. I was bubbling with excitement when the email pinged into my inbox. Where could it be? I already knew that the theme was a Secret Garden; but that still left a lot of scope and surprise.
It was going to be in the Bishop's Garden, a beautiful garden hidden in the heart of the city, in the shadow of the Cathedral. It sounded perfect! I'd never been before so I was really looking forward to going and exploring.
As the name suggests everybody that goes to the Cake Club has to take a homemade cake, and it must be a cake. No brownies, cupcakes or pies here - which is actually kind of refreshing. There's something wonderfully traditional and comforting about a whole cake, the beauty of it before you slice in and the sense of sharing with others, that you don't get with cupcakes.
The theme of the meeting doesn't only encompass the location, it also dictates the types of cakes people make. I was on a mission to find a recipe that was suitably garden themed. I wondered about a lavender cake; but after reading all the guidance about cooking with it, I chickened out and decided to go for a mint flavoured cake.
I spent ages searching the net before discovering this recipe for a Blueberry, Lemon and Mint Drizzle Cake.
It was really scary baking for other bakers; but it turned out reall welly, despite my fear of it rising up and out of the very full cake tin. Never before have I not wanted a cake to rise. If you make it, don't fill the tin too full - use the extra cake mix for a few cupcakes.
Here it is in all its drizzly glory....
Arriving at the Bishop's Garden, Mum and I were greeted by some lovely ladies and a table already covered in dramatic looking cakes. Beautifully decorated, towering sponges that sent serious anxiety through me. Would my cake match up? What if they hated it? Eeek!
I needn't have feared, everybody was really friendly and welcoming and they introduced me to the rules of cake club.
The first rule of cake club... don't eat dinner before you go!
The second rule... cut small slices so you can try them all!
The third rule... take a container so you can bring some home!
Other people had done all sorts of flavours, from rose, to carrot, parsnip, chocolate and beetroot, strawberry and poppy seed, even potato - check out the Mr Potato Head cake in the picture - a genius idea I thought!
We all sat, chatted and worked our way through the cakes - all of which were delicious and better than a cafe - free and you could have some of all of them. My cake was one of the first cut which was terrifying; but everybody said they liked it. Big sigh of relief for me, although I admit I didn't mention it was my cake until I heard people enjoyed it!
After cake people went for a walk around the garden to burn off some of the calories and make a little room! Mum and I had a short wonder and then sat enjoying the spectacular view of the cathedral and grounds. It really was a Secret Garden and a truly magical experience.I came away with a Tupperware of cake, already looking forward to the next meeting!
To find out more details about the Clandestine Cake Club, you can check it out here...
These are some of the pictures I took of the gorgeous garden....
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.