Monday, 30 January 2012

Devilishly Devon Cake Fest - 666 Slices in One Evening

On Thursday 26 January, I attended the inaugural meeting of the Devon branch of the Clandestine Cake Club.  Two bakers had to cancel at the last minute (we missed tasting your Black Forest gateau, Kirsty from Kirsty’s Kitchen.)

Jan Billington from Maddocks Organics kindly lent us the use of her stunning holiday cottage, The Hayloft, near Cullompton.  It has six bedrooms, a huge living space and would be perfect for two families wishing to holiday in Devon together.  The kitchen area with its huge refectory table and granite island were perfect for displaying and sampling our baked wares.

The theme was Devilishly Devon which was a great excuse to make some gratuitously unhealthy cakes.  This was my Devonshire Clotted Cream Cake (it had 225g clotted cream whisked inside, instead of butter):

 Joyce, a farmer by trade, from Pitman’s Farm had made a beautiful layered strawberry cake – some layers were sponge, some meringue and it was chocka with cream, almonds and strawberries:

Marcus, aka Country Wood Smoke, provided a ‘starter’ of his own cold smoked salmon slices (smelling deliciously and subtly of beech chippings)  atop a fresh rustic loaf, made with half white flour and half Einkorn flour (sold by Dove’s Farm).

His cake was my personal favourite, a Smoked Chilli Chocolate Cake.  The sponge had a crumbled smoked chilli baked into it – it was very subtle and there was only a small residual warmth, the chocolate ganache on top was made using smoked butter.  The combination was breathtaking and had a real depth of flavour.

Karen, who blogs here had made a delicious Devonshire Honey Cake with Lemon Frosting.  The zesty, crisp icing was a great contrast to the soothing honey sponge underneath.

Jan, our hostess, needlessly apologised for her Snakebite Chocolate Cupcakes.  They were awesome and had a decadent squidgy chocolate centre.  She very cleverly incorporated Devon produce: local cider in the icing, Otter Ale in the cake batter.  They were a surprising hit with my kids and Jan’s daughter seemed to enjoy them too!

James, the only non-blogger there, had made an alluring Sticky Love Cake.  This cake was studded with cashew nuts and had a really attractive sprinkling of rose petals on top.  It was spiced, unusual and more-ish (Moorish?)

After what felt like 666 slices of cake (OK, only six actually) plus the bread and smoked salmon and small glass of red wine, I felt unbelievably full up - we did honestly only have very small wafer-thin slices of each, plus I'd had no dinner - I thought my staying power was better than that.  The great thing about the Clandestine Cake Club is that the cakes get divided up at the end and you get to take them home, so the pleasure continues for days....well, ahem, until the next day mid-morning-ish....

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Day of Baking - For My Dad's Birthday

Sunday tea has been a tradition in our family since I was a child.  We used to go to my grandparents’ house in  Portishead (near Bristol) every single Sunday with all the aunties and cousins and feast on sandwiches, jam tarts, trifle and usually two or three types of cake.  Grandpa always used to smear the beef dripping from lunch (which had only been eaten four hours previously) over his bread.  We no longer have the time or the waistline to do that every week, but now and then we like to indulge. So when we invite people to Sunday tea – it’s not just a cuppa and a biscuit, it’s a full –on calorie fest.

I started in the morning at 8am by making soda bread for breakfast.  Smeared really warm with fridge-cold butter and homemade jam there's no better start to a Sunday.

My daughter, Giggling Wombat, and I like nothing more than an excuse for a whole day in the kitchen baking up sweet treats.  She is twelve and loves long as it's something sugary and baked.  She's not quite so keen to make a regular week night dinner - I wonder why.

It was my Dad's birthday and we started off just making a cake....which turned into quite a few other things too.  The overall effect was a little bit beige - not sure why everything we made was so brown, just happened to be what we fancied making

Clotted Cream cake, treacle tart and Cornish fairings from the ‘Great British Bake Off’ book (thanks Libby for the great present!)

And there were two types of sausage roll (the ones with green tomato chutney were excellent), cheese straws, sandwiches (cucumber, marmite, ham), Cornish fairings

It was a great way to celebrate my lovely Dad’s birthday.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Devon's First Clandestine Cake Club - 26 Jan 2012

The first ever meeting of the Devon Clandestine Cake Club will take place on Thursday 26 January 2012.  All cake bakers are welcome to attend, be they home bakers, novices, domestic gods / goddesses or professional patisserie chefs.  The only entrance ticket is .....a homemade cake.
It's a craze that's sweeping the UK thanks to this website.  The UK is really keen on baking (and more importantly eating) homemade cakes and this club provides the perfect opportunity.

The Cake Club holds slightly secretive events.  To make it more fun, final details are only revealed at the last minute to members.  Everyone gets to try everyone else’s cake and bring pieces home too.  
The Devon branch of this free-to-join club has just been set up and is holding its first ever get together on Thursday 26 January 7 - 9pm at a secret, very special location in Kentisbeare (near Exeter and Cullompton).  We are really grateful to a local Devon food producer who is kindly lending us the venue for the evening.  I know it will be a perfect setting.
As a Devon food blogger, I’m a big fan of our local produce so expect seasonal cakes with lots of local ingredients from me.  The theme for the first event is 'Devilishly Devon' so I am bringing along a Devonshire Clotted Cream Cake, which I hope will be truly rich and scrumptious.
Each  event will be held somewhere different as we Devon folk have wide-open patches of field between us!
Ideas for future cake-friendly venue are welcome; otherwise we shall search out a friendly pub landlord or cafe owner.  

The full details of the event and an RSVP form if you would like to come along are here

Monday, 9 January 2012

Food Magazine Reader Awards Ceremony, Abode Exeter, Jan 2012

Just got back home after attending the first ever Food Magazine Reader Awards event this evening.  It was held at Michael Caines' Abode in Exeter, a fine venue, the room brightly lit in Food Magazine's trademark bubblegum pink colours.  Thatcher's cider, Frobisher's fruit juices and Champagne were flowing.

Canapes were sole goujons served in miniature cardboard cones with a chunk of lemon and some tartare sauce, fish / quail's egg scotch eggs, mini skewers with baby mozarella, roasted tomato and basil.  All quite yummy.

The votes had come purely from readers (unlike some other foodie awards which can be a little bit 'manufactured') and covered the whole of the South West region - Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall so there was some stiff competition.  I chatted to the lovely people from Thatcher's cider (I hadn't realised until this evening that the current owner is fourth generation Thatcher and that they're a fairly small operation, as a Westcountry girl, I just thought they were everywhere and huge.)

The chap from River Cottage accepting the award on Hugh's behalf- we weren't really disappointed that Hugh wasn't there... 

The happy couple from Mendip Moments

Mendip Moments Ice Cream, shortlisted in the 'Food' Category, is now on my list of must-tries - apparently it's available from Chandos Deli in Exeter so I'll pop in next time I'm at Princesshay. Hey guys you didn't tell me you have Fig, Mascarpone and Honey flavour - yum!!   They were one of three products shortlisted in the Food Product category.  What a huge and varied category.  Considering all the food that is produced in the South West...

Some of the acceptance speeches were incredibly brief, but I found it quite endearing when the Best Chef, Adam Fellows just said ' Thanks, and thanks to my wife' and hurried off clutching his rather luscious and chunky pink Dartington Crystal award.  I think the chap from Browns Hotel may have even just said 'Thanks very much'.

Really enjoyed myself so thanks to the lovely folk at Mole Valley Farmers who were so chatty and friendly (and were the main sponsors of the event) and to Food Magazine for inviting me.

The Awards

Best Drink: Luscombe Organic Drinks
Best Food Product: Trevaskis Farm's Strawberry Jam, Hayle
Best Foodie Hotel: Browns Hotel, Tavistock
Best Retailer: Darts Farm, Topsham
Local Food Hero:Hugh Fearnley-Whittingtall
Best Foodie Pub: Victoria Inn, Perranuthnoe, Penzance - really want to go there!
Best Restaurant:  Allium, Fairford, Glos - besides the point but what AMAZING hair this gal had.
Best Chef: Adam Fellows, Goodfellows, Wells, Somerset
Best Cafe: Duchy of Cornwall Nursery Cafe

It was very pink in there.  These were the sole goujons in cones modelled by Yvonne from Thatchers!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Morning Coffee at Bovey Castle, Devon - A Surprising 'Frugal' Tip

My parents took my sister and me to Bovey Castle for morning coffee on my 40th birthday in October.  It was such a great idea.  We had a reservation to go to Riverford Field Kitchen in the evening and knew there'd be a lot of food served , so decided that, rather than go out for lunch, we'd have a 'posh' morning coffee and save ourselves for the evening.

Bovey Castle is a luxury hotel in the heart of the countryside within Dartmoor National Park.  It is really difficult to find!  I was following signs to North Bovey, and it's close to that village but not within it as I had assumed.  I had to ask two dog walkers, a motorcyclist and two horse riders for directions and was half an hour late (no mobile reception and no Satnav).  If you visit, do yourself a favour and follow the directions from the website and don't make assumptions that because you're a local you can navigate those lanes.

The car park was full of high spec luxury cars (and my rubbishy old filthy estate car looked hilariously out of place) so I was too embarrassed to let the Plus Fours-clad valet park my car (wish I had a photo of him!)  But I wasn't here to be over-awed by the luxury, I fully intended to immerse myself in it.


My parents had chosen well.  The main high ceilinged drawing room had a minstrel's gallery and they had sunk into the deep sofas with the most spectacular view over the valley.  Look how the brass handle gleams.

There was the option of sitting in the informal bistro area for a morning coffee, but we wanted the plumped up cushions and wood panelling of the drawing rooms:

I chose a supremely rich chocolate tart to go alongside my pot of tea.  Took no photos of the food or drink - it was almost irrelevant to the surroundings.  There were some really appealing things - the round table with 100 magazines fanned out like the dial of a clock made my sis and I (busy mums most of the time) wish for a bit more luxury time to curl up on a hotel sofa and chill.  I also adored the cheeky parrot in the neighbouring room that would call out and whistle if he spotted you walking past.  The tweeting cage of birds at Reception gave the entrance hall a homely feel, despite the grand setting.  Also the waitress was a bit of a cheeky bird herself and was eager to show us around the whole of the ground floor and even let us be nosy and look inside the private dining rooms.

Can you tell I was enjoying myself?

The bar area - for my next visit?

I have ambiguous feelings towards boxed butterflies.  So beautiful and yet so hunted and dead just for the decor.

 Children are welcome.  I doubt my kids will ever come here, to be honest.  (And this is why: a Junior State Room for two adults and two children costs from £419/ night.)  It's quite a 'huntin', shootin' and fishin'' kind of place and there was a tweed jacketed chap showing some smartly dressed kids around the garden - no idea if he was a member of staff or their Dad. Children are invited to go and collect eggs every morning and the list of country pursuits is phenomenal if that's your kind of thing, some of them e.g. the daily falconry display, croquet are free of charge.  (I wonder if I can rock up as a non-resident and do all that stuff too?!)

 Welly rack inside the front porch

Morning coffee and cake for four in these luxurious surroundings set my Dad back about £30.  I was very grateful for the treat, but I also felt that it was a great idea - if you feel like you crave a bit of luxury, but can't afford to go the whole hog and go on holiday or go out for a three course meal, a pot of tea in a posh hotel can make you feel like a very happy and lucky (forty year old) princess.

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