Thirty-six ounces of white icing, some cake batter, a dash of colouring and a smothering of social media was all it took to start a cake baking phenomenon.
Lynn Hill, who founded the Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) in Leeds three years ago, is today piping with enthusiasm as her idea has gone international.
“I never imagined it would be this big. I’d hoped there would be half a dozen clubs in the UK. Now there’s 200. But a lot have been closed down for being inactive,” said Mrs Hill, who would prefer quality over quantity.
She also implemented a firm set of rules and guidelines for CCC members at the beginning of the venture to ensure it was all about cakes. Unlike any other club, no muffins or cupcakes are allowed.
So what inspired a retired admin worker to start up a world-wide secret cake club?
When Mrs Hill retired, she decided to start up The Secret Tea Room, following on from the southern success of the Supper Club movement. Nobody else was doing it in Yorkshire but it was jolly hard work,” she said.
And after hosting the secret tea parties at her home in Woodlesford, Mrs Hill knew she was onto something.
Through the power of social media, using her twitter and blog, she launched CCC inside an office in Leeds city centre.
Baking enthusiasts were alerted online to the start of the new cake club and people were asked to sign up so they could be emailed the location of the meet just hours before it was due to start. Then under the watchful eye of a blow-up parrot, tied to the doorknob of a centrally located office, 11 bakers entered the premises with their home-made cake creations in hand.
This is no normal baking club, this is the Clandestine Cake Club, and the rules are clear.
“There were around 11 people and six cakes. People were getting competitive in the lead up and practiced a lot but I kept saying it is not a competition,” said Mrs Hill who baked a Cornucopia cake.
She added: “There’s nothing nice than a nod of approval when somebody eats a slice of your cake.”
But one things for sure is that Mrs Hill has found the secret ingredients for a successfully sweet empire. Through word-of-mouth the CCC has quickly become a popular network of bakers.
“It’s all about our members having a bit of ‘me’ time. There’s no judging people. A lot of them are proud of what they’ve made and want to share it.”
Mrs Hill’s passion for baking and experimenting was driven by love for connecting people over cake, not business. Although she admits that it would now be nice to make a bit of money from advertising and sponsorship due to membership being free.
She said: “The CCC is funded by my pension savings!”
But whatever happens, the CCC will remain to be about the members sharing tips, recipes and a love of cake said Lynn.
“I am always learning from what people ask me.”
Which is one of the reasons why Mrs Hill launched the CCC Book Club, where members try out new cookbooks and recipes.
“It’s very geeky, you have to enjoy baking,” she said. Mrs Hill who does not have a favourite cake herself but enjoys experimenting, recently made a middle eastern semolina cake called Basbusa
While Mrs Hill continues to bake once a week and run the CCC, she is also inspiring the next generation of cake lovers.
Her own children, Richard and Joanne, share her passion with baking but she said: “They did a bit of baking at school. I was sad to discover they don’t do as much as I did.”
This may change however with the resurgence of baking, thanks to the likes of the CCC and then of course, BBC Two’s Great British Bake off, of which Mrs Hill admits to being a fan.
Mrs Hill has also recently published The Clandestine Cake Club Cook Book and founded National Cake Week, which is this week.
As part of this week, Mrs Hill will be speaking at Morley Literature Festival for an Afternoon Tea with Dr Annie Gray at Morley Town Hall on Saturday, October 12 from 3pm-4.30pm There, the two baking enthusiasts will be discussing how cake sprung from Victorian kitchens into everyday life - and there will, of course, be cake on offer.
To go along to the event go to: www.morleyliteraturefestival.co.uk or call 0844 8482706
To find out how to join the Clandestine Cake Club, go to clandestinecakeclub.co.uk