As part of my rather disorganised 'plan to make sure I meet some new people once we move' I had investigated whether there was a Clandestine Cake Club here in the Cardigan area, and discovered that there wasn't. Initially, I was disappointed, then I was encouraged.
Perhaps I could START a Clandestine Cake Club...
Another of my 'plan to make sure I meet some new people once we move' involved a little bit of Twitter
If you don't know about the Clandestine Cake Club (where have you been??) the idea is that a meeting is arranged, and knowing the date and time and roughly the area where it will take place, you book a place. The exact location is then revealed to those who have booked a place a couple of days before the event. Well, we need some excitement in our lives, don't we.
Each event is themed, and you take along your cake, share it with the others and generally have a good old natter.
That's pretty much exactly what happened on Monday. My co-organiser, the fabulous Vicky North, micro-baker, workshop provider and bread club owner, had already found a venue for us, and when the time came, a select but not insignificant group arrived, with cake. You can read our write up of the event if you're interested, thinking of setting your own CCC up etc, but the purpose of this post is to share the cake that I made for the evening.
The theme was 'My Cake, My Story' which we hoped would get people talking about themselves, their baking stories, and just act as a bit of an ice breaker. It was interesting how people approached the theme. Some people baked a cake that included ingredients representing parts of their lives, for others, the cake itself represented something. For me, it was an easy choice.
As you will know, my life was thrown upside down when my 2 year old son was diagnosed with leukaemia. No more high flying legal career. No more structure to my life other than that imposed by his hospital regime. Chaos reigned, and when, 3 months later my daughter arrived by emergency caesarean, chaos doubled. It wasn't a happy time, although there were plenty of happy moments, and much of it has merged into a kind of fug. One thing that did come out of it, indirectly, was this blog. I wasn't writing at that point, but I seized on a self-imposed challenge to cook everything in How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson in an attempt to gain control over something in my life. And from there, eventually, came this blog.
I still haven't cooked everything from Domestic Goddess - I reckon I've cracked about 1/3 of it, but the easy almond cake represented everything I love about Nigella Lawson and about baking, and the escape that it gave me during that period of my life when everything else was so difficult. The alchemy of throwing together some simple ingredients and creating something of utter loveliness will never leave me.
In honour of the Cake Club, I added my own lemon and poppy seed drizzle icing, and very pleased I was with the result, too.
Easy Almond Cake with Lemon Drizzle Icing & Poppy Seeds
250g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
250g mazipan, cubed, at room temperature, 150g caster sugar
1/4 tsp each almond essence and vanilla bean paste
6 large eggs
150g self raising flour
75g sifted icing sugar
juice of about 3/4 lemon
1-2 tbsp poppy seeds
You'll also need a 23-25cm loose bottomed/springform 'ring' cake tin, well greased and floured.
Heat the oven to 170C
Use a food processor and process the butter, marzipan and sugar together.
Add in the almond and vanilla, and process again, then break in the eggs one at a time while the food processor is running.
A top tip is to break the eggs into a little bowl first. I once made this and accidentally dropped a whole egg into the whizzing mixture. The cake was very crunchy...
Once the eggs are all incorporated, add the flour, process, then scrape the batter into the tin and bake for around 50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Turn the cake out, and mix up the icing - you may not need all the lemon juice - to quite a runny consistency. I used a clever trick I learned to put the cake on 4 strips of greaseproof paper so you can ice then whip the paper away easily. Get me.
Drizzle over the cake from a height (helps get more even drizzles) then sprinkle over the poppy seeds.
This is delicious with a cup of tea. In fact, at the CCC, we discussed that this was almost a contender for a 'cake for breakfast' type of cake...