Lynn Hill is the founder of an International Cake Club – Clandestine Cake Club. Founded in 2010 the clubs can now be found all over the world in secret locations. Lynn also started National Cake Week and has two published recipes books. The most recent recipe book called for 100 recipes submitted by Clandestine Club members from all over the world. My Plum, Lemon and Vanilla Cake was one of the lucky 100 picked to be published.
I wanted to ask Lynn a few questions…
You’re the founder of an International Cake Club… How did the Clandestine Cake Club first begin?
The Clandestine Cake Club first opened it’s doors in December 2010. We held our first event in the centre of Leeds on a very cold Saturday afternoon, and if I remember correctly, there were 11 members and 6 cakes.
We also had our first cake disaster. It happened when I went to collect one of our attendees and she accidentally dropped the tin containing her lovely cake in the doorway of her house. You may think this was a setback, but we left the cake behind and even had a few laughs about it on arriving at the event. Not only that, but her recipe can be found in the first Clandestine Cake Club cook book, aptly titled Chocolate Orange Disaster cake.
What is your absolute favourite cake flavour to eat!?
My absolute cake flavours have to be Citrus based. It doesn’t matter if it’s Lemon, Yuzu, Lime or Grapefruit. Give me a ‘cheek suckingley’ good Citrus cake and I am your friend for life. Although I do love a good chocolate cake. Who doesn’t?
I love your mission statement which is “Bake, Eat and Talk about Cake”. What feelings do you evoke when you slice into a fresh cake for the first time?
Slicing into a cake is a personal thing, I think. Each cake has a different texture and feel to it, something you can only discover when you begin to slice it. Some cakes are as light as a feather, and need a delicate touch. Tiny slices are not possible with such cakes, but being so light, you can afford to have a whooper of a slice.
Denser cakes on the other hand are good for slicing into finger portions allowing you to have several of everyone’s cakes before you hit the famous Clandestine Cake Club sugar rush.
Newbies are warned not to tuck into huge slices at first. Finger slices are best.
What is the strangest ingredient you have ever baked with?
Not so much the strangest ingredient, more an unusual combination of ingredients. I created a cake recipe for the new CCC Cook Book A Year of Cake, using the following ingredients. Saffron, Rose Hip and Ginger. Each flavour stands out on it’s own merit and if added too much, can overpower one of the other flavours. But when done in harmony with each other, your taste buds will discover the subtle flavours and not send them into a ‘bubble bath’ frenzy.
What does the kitchen in your own home look like?
My kitchen is open plan with the dining room, it was an extension done to the house back in the 70’s before we moved in. We have a large window that over looks the garden. But as in almost kitchens, there is never enough work bench area. I crave an island work bench made of granite and more cupboard space. But I seem to manage with the small space that I have as most of my counter top is used to store mixers, which, if kept in a cupboard would never be used.
Every baker has a cake disaster where something just hasn’t worked to plan, what was yours?
Like most bakers, I have the occasional disaster. The idea is the learn from them and make sure they don’t happen again. I am always weary of the sunken middle, often as a result of me taking the cake out of the oven far too early, thinking that it was baked. Cake skewers are a baker’s best friend. I always have plenty at hand.
But my worst cake disaster was just before I headed off to a CCC event. I decorated a Lemon cake with a zingy flavoured frosting, only to find that a glass had slipped from a cupboard shell above it and shattered on the counter top, ruining the cake. Note to self. Always store a cake away from shelves and cupboards, you never know when something is going to topple over.
Your second recipe book has just been published, and I am lucky enough to feature inside. How do you pick which recipes to use? You must have hundreds of recipes submitted with so many members worldwide.
I received loads of wonderful recipes from CCC members, each one as delicious as the next. But the recipes had to fit in with each celebratory date, theme and title of the book A Year of Cake. Such as your Plum Cake celebrating Queen Victoria’s Birthday. ‘Victoria Plums’ being the link to the celebration.
How did the annual National Cake Week come about?
The National Cake Week, which is celebrated the first full week in October, came about the year after I founded the Clandestine Cake Club. There seemed to be a week or a day celebrating everything from cupcakes to chocolate, but not for the bumble cake. Which is why I want people to get together at some point during National Cake Week and share a whole cake with each other. I always say that Interaction and Conversation begin when you cut the first slice. Something you can’t do with a cupcake, muffin or a brownie. Sorry cupcake lovers, but it’s not the same.
Did you ever think that the CCC would be as big a success as it is? How do you feel knowing that you have helped to foster new cake friendships between perfect strangers worldwide?
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the success that CCC now has. A couple of clubs, maybe, and perhaps one of two overseas, but not 200 clubs and nearly 17k members worldwide. Then there are the 2 published cook books of member’s cake recipes. It’s certainly growing into the world’s biggest cake club. I’m very proud of the fact that I have brought such a lot of people together, where new long-term friendships have been born. I receive lots of emails from people saying what it means to be a CCC member thanking me for creating such a cake phenomenon. Some of the emails and letters are quite moving, they often bring tears to my eyes.
Have you got any exciting news coming up for the CCC? Where will we see you next?
With being so busy the last couple of years being involved with the latest cook book and the design of the new CCC website, you would think that I ought to take a break. But as you can imagine, for anything to continue successfully, no-one should rest on the laurels. So at the moment I have recently launched the Half Dressed Cake competition to be held at Squires Kitchen Exhibition in Farnham Surrey on 11th-13th March 2016. After that, who knows. A world tour of all the Clandestine Cake Club would be nice. Watch this space. It might just happen.
Isn’t Lynn just adorable? An inspiration to all the cake bakers around the world.
If you’re interested in joining the a Cake Club – feel free to create a profile and sign up – you can also visit and ‘like’ the Facebook page. I hope to see some more familiar faces join up, I mean why wouldn’t you want to be part of this club!
For the love of cake