Have I mentioned my almost devotional commitment to cake? I think I might have touched on the fringes of it here, but I do truly, madly, deeply love cake! My mum baked all through my childhood, and I have lots of happy memories of the most amazingly creative and delicious birthday cakes, as well as still steaming-hot mince pies, slabs of millionaire’s shortbread, sticky ginger cake, and the best coffee and walnut tray-bake I’ve ever eaten. Cake for me means happy times.
But if I’m completely honest I am not even remotely interested in the dry, flavourless, over-processed, super-long sell-by-date type of cake that you find gracing supermarket shelves the world over. If I am going to need elasticated trousers as I grow older and fatter, let it be for decent cake!
So I bake my own. Probably a little too often, but hey, what is life without a little cake! My husband is constantly laughing at my growing obsession with buying different cake tins. But seriously, what is a girl to do? How can you possibly make proper mini victoria sponges and mini cheesecakes without the right tray for the job? I am in love – it is my new favourite!
I am also fortunate to have lots of friends who are also pretty handy in the kitchen (and – just as importantly – understand and empathise with my baking paraphernalia obsession!). With a combination of good timing and good planning, this week saw my birthday coincide with the first meeting of a new social bake club I’ve launched. I’d been wanting to get it started for a while, and finally got my act together just recently. Late, crazy nights out do not inspire me at all, but nights in with good friends and good food …well, that’s a different matter! So here it is, a fortnightly bake club to share things we have made (on a different theme each time), swap recipes, and generally talk food, tips and ideas.
The first session for any new group is always the hardest, I think. People want it to be fun rather than a burden, so there is often an element of apprehensiveness because nothing is decided yet, and members aren’t quite sure how to make it work well. But as far as I’m concerned, any opportunity to get together over cake is worth a little ground work to get things ironed out initially! And as it was my idea, it seemed only fair that I should get the ball rolling.
Cheesecake is a personal favourite of mine, and there are so many different possibilities. So as the birthday girl, I took the liberty of suggesting that I would provide some bubbly if everyone made their own choice of cheesecake to bring along and share the recipe for.
It was the most fun evening I’ve had for weeks. I expected nothing less from my talented friends, but the cheesecakes were spectacular. Although not everyone baked on this occasion, those who did brought an impressive and delicious selection. There was more than enough – and then some! – for everyone. A super creamy white chocolate and raspberry one, beautifully decorated little mini baked raspberry cheesecakes, a rich baked double chocolate cheesecake, and finally a mouth-watering white chocolate malt cheesecake.
For my own contribution, I brought a tray of salted caramel mini no-bake cheesecakes to the table, courtesy of the Baker Chick. I only recently discovered her blog, but I will be back for more inspiration as her recipes are incredible. We were all very full and utterly contented by the end of the evening. There was not a lot of room for bubbly, with all the cheesecake on offer, that’s for sure!
First session ice well and truly broken, we decided that for future sessions we would shake things up a bit. Lovely though it was this time, rather than just sit around eating the fruits of our collective labour, we agreed to get creative in the kitchen when we next meet up. It seems a little less indulgent that way!
As we are already on the countdown to Christmas (can you believe it?!) we thought Christmas hamper goodies would be fun. Either to gift to others or keep for our own families to make the holiday season extra special. Fruity chutneys and savoury biscuits to go with that boxing day cheeseboard and left over cold cuts of meat. Peppermint canes for decorating the tree, a festive tipple such as mulled wine or vanilla spiced vodka, Christmas chocolates and cookies. The ideas were really flowing once we started thinking, so I think our collection will be pretty impressive come Christmas Eve!
So, another year older, but with it comes new opportunities for baking, eating and socialising. All because of cake! See, I told you it was good! And if Audrey Hepburn agrees, then I know I’m in good company!
Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.