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I love baking cakes now! I love trying new recipes and baking away with Millie helping me. I have had many disasters but it's all been so enjoyable to do. Over the little while that I have built on my baking skills I have bought and been bought many books. This is one which was bought for me and although there are some fantastic cakes in here it is not one of my favourite books and that is mainly because they all seem a little too challenging for me as I don't have huge amounts of confidence in the kitchen. It is still a lovely book to look through though.
Baking and me
Previously I didn't know how to bake at all. When I was growing up I didn't do any baking with family members and when I had Millie I really wanted to be able to bake and have her join in. I didn't know what I was doing at all though and we had some disasters. I didn't realise that the measurements are actually important and if you get them wrong then the whole bake can be a complete disaster! When I was ill for a while I spent a lot of time looking through books and magazines and decided that one thing i would do once better would be to really make a start at learning how to bake by teaching myself through the books. I now find it very therapeutic to bake, it is so nice to focus on something which has clear steps and then a lovely (hopefully lovely anyway!!) outcome at the end. I am really enjoying teaching myself what to do and I love that Millie often helps me out too so she is creating some lovely memories but also learning a skill that I hope she will build on and be better than I am! I am still not hugely confident at what I do whilst baking but I am starting to progress to more difficult things. I just wish that I had more time to do it but juggling two children is making it difficult to have the ability to concentrate in the kitchen. I have missed baking so I have still been getting my cake fix by reading lots of books and circling recipes that I intend to tackle once I am able to spend a good amount of time in the kitchen making lovely things!
Why I got this book
I was bought this book as a gift. If I had have looked through it in a shop I wouldn't have chosen it and this is because it has quite a lot of difficult cakes or that they at least look very difficult so this puts me off. I would have been too intimidated to buy it but now that I do have it I am glad that I was bought it because I have attempted one of the cakes and I do think that it gives me something different to aim for and I like the feel of the book with the stories behind the cakes.
Who are Clandestine?
I had never heard of Clandestine before but I really like the idea of it! This book is written by Lynn Hill who writes the introduction which tells us all about what the society is about. The idea of it is that it is a meeting where amateur bakers make cakes and all get together to share their bakes and to talk about cake but it is all secret! The location of the venue is kept secret until the very last minute! Lynn Hill first set it up in Leeds in 2010 and she had a good turn out and now it has spread from beyond Leeds to various locations and it has become popular. I really like the idea of this, how nice for people to get together over cake. For me it isn't good because I like to know everything so I can plan so not knowing the venue in advance isn't any good for my anxiety but I can imagine if you can be spontaneous and aren't OCD over things like me that it would be a lovely meeting! The locations that the Leeds group meet in seem really unique such as old fashioned train stations and a castle and things. I think this is a really lovely idea and a way to get people in a community together and of course baking! So this book has recipes presented by the members of the clubs around the UK.
This book includes recipes from various people in the club but also some tips too. The contents include:
Icings and frostings
So it's quite nice to have the various kinds of cakes broken down into sections so you can easily find something. I don't know about you but I'm always quick to turn to the chocolate section! At the beginning of each chapter there is information about what is to come for example how some of the cakes coming up will keep a few days and are quick and easy to make or that they are more challenging and so forth.
The majority of recipes come with a beautiful photograph of the finished product next to them but there are some recipes which have no photos at all and I find that so disappointing. I won't ever bake a recipe if it hasn't got a photo, mainly because it is the photo which sells a cake to me. Some of them I have no idea what they'll even look like such as the pumpkin cake and so forth so it would be nice to have a picture. The pictures that they do have are really nice looking such as displayed on a cake stand with little plates next to them or ready cut on a rustic shopping board. It makes them look very real, not as though they've been photographed in a studio but rather in a home. The recipes tell you at the beginning which club it is from for example The Isle of Man CCC or the Devon CCC, I must admit I am sure the Leeds CCC has more recipes in than any other club. The name of the cake is big and bold at the top and the name of the person who has baked it is beneath along with a short introduction about how they came to making the cakes and maybe a tip or two about alternative ingredients you can choose and things. It's nice to see that there are recipes from both men and women too. The recipe is well laid out with information down one side about ingredients and how many it serves. It is in grams, which is fine as my scales convert but it would be useful to have ounces too for those who work in ounces. There are little bits of information next to it too such as advice about the brand or whether it's optional or not. The actual recipe is set out in bullet points. There are no step by step pictures or anything. It talks in quite easy to understand language with not too much technical talk. They are easy enough to follow, but the majority of cakes have lots of bullet points which does make it look quite daunting especially as these bullet points are several lines long so it makes me feel a bit afraid of starting one! I have tried to not be put off by them, what I do is actually read what it says and then I realise some of the bullet points are very straight forward, just because it is worded in a long winded manner doesn't mean it is difficult!
My experience with the recipes
Now when I am looking through this book I feel intimidated as the cakes look fantastic and perfect so it makes me afraid that I won't be able to achieve it. They look like there is so much to do and the recipes do look quite long-winded but I have overcome my fear and I have baked from this book at last! The one I made was the smoked chilli chocolate cake. I mainly chose this one because the picture looks amazing, so gooey and soft that I just couldn't resist it. The recipe looked a bit daunting but once I read through it I decided I could achieve it. The recipe had a variety of cooking things that I hadn't used before like ground almonds and smoked chilli. I found it hard to find the smoked chilli that was mentioned but did eventually send my husband out to hunt it down! Following the recipe was straight forward and it was enjoyable to make. It did take quite a while as there was several steps to it and lots of cooling down and so forth but because it was well written I was able to follow it without panicking! The result was a really beautiful chocolate cake that tasted lovely! We were really pleased and I have now made it twice and everyone who has sampled it really like it! I am yet to make anything else from this book because they do seem long winded but I am hoping over Christmas that I will be able to have time to try another, the next recipe I am hoping to complete is a passion fruit cake. This recipe goes over two pages so is a bit scary but I am up for a challenge!
There are tips in this book which are just great! Because I am teaching myself as I go along I don't know why some things go wrong like if a cake doesn't rise properly or if it goes soggy in the middle and this book has tips which cover these problems. It is so useful to see how you can avoid a soggy middle and how to make a cake rise properly. I find these really useful and it's helped to answer some questions really. The icing section is only one page which was a bit disappointing I was hoping for more but this one page just tells you very basically how to make a glace icing, how to make cream cheese frosting and how to make buttercream. I'm a bit disappointed by this as it would have been nice to have piping techniques and advice on sugar paste and others, it looks like it was put in as an after thought when really they could have extended it a bit to make it more useful.
What I think
This book has some amazing looking cakes in it. When you flick through quickly you feel intimidated as they all look so good! Cakes included are huge, I never knew there were so many cakes! There really is something for all taste buds in this, there is an Amaretto cream cake, sultana cake, vanilla chocolate cake, chocolate honeycomb truffle cake and many more even an Italian wedding cake! I think what is great is that some recipes are fairly straight forward like the sultana cake so if you're like me and not too confident then you can try that but then there are real challenges in here too so you can build up to it or if you are a great baker then you'll thrive with this book! There are lots of recipes, I think it would be good to have a rating on them in terms of how easy they are so you can see right away whether you're having a big challenge or not, that would definitely be a good way this book could be improved. I would also improve it by having photographs of every cake in here. I am always put off by a recipe if they don't have a photo of the finished article.
When I have followed the recipe I found it quite easy to do but I did have to really concentrate as there was lots of wording in the bullet points. The book is hardback and it does actually like flat which is useful so when I followed the recipe it stayed open at the correct page instead of flicking shut like some books that aren't spiral bound do. I was pleased with the finish of the cake it was lovely. I made it by myself as I had to concentrate, in future I will be having Millie assist me so she can learn what to do too. I do love baking when it includes her, I love to think we are creating nice memories together.
I am giving the book 4 stars because it could be improved by having a rating next to the recipes so you can see how difficult it is and I would also like the icing section to be improved, one page is not sufficient enough, it would have been useful to have some techniques of piping and things in that section too. I would definitely add pictures to all recipes too.
In summary this is a nice book to look at that may be daunting as the recipes look intimidating and the cakes look stunning but it is quite nice to have recipes available that are a bit of a challenge and will create a wow piece for a party or something! I'm glad I was bought it. It costs £20 but you can probably find it for cheaper if you have a look around.