Shhh! Don’t tell anyone but this Valentine’s Day sees the publication of a book I’ve had a small hand in. Way back last summer I was asked to supply some props (table coverings, plates, cake platters, etc) and assist (including various episodes of cake/mug-holding to camera) on a couple of photo shoots for The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill, out today from Quercus Books. It was a brilliant, fascinating experience.
The team of independent creatives and editors working on the book was wonderful: funny, fabulously talented, really welcoming, but also incredibly hard-working. I can offer you an illicit glimpse behind the scenes: some clandestine shots of a clandestine cookbook. How meta-secret is that?
Here’s Jane styling one of the more surreal images featuring a giant lemon fondant fancy. It’s sitting in a mini table-top set backed by the front of a doll’s house (supplied by moi) and accompanied by tiny chair place-markers (also supplied by you-know-who). The tablecloth was mine too.
Here’s Emily, checking her shots. The little cloth with the lace mouse pattern hanging over the box is one of mine.
And here’s Anita, peering through one of my dodgier props (crocheted lace minus the linen tablecloth insert – aherm).
This may sound incredible, but arranging and shooting so much cake caused the whole team to suffer from a serious case of cake fatigue; by the end of each day, we couldn’t bring ourselves to consume any more of the spongey stuff. Can you believe it? I know! Tragic.
Here’s some of the massed ranks of prop crockery, waiting to be pressed into service.
And here’s a prop I was asked to rig on the spot: a vintage linen tablecloth* with transfer embroidery marks which I whisked up into an impromptu notice board. It may look finished but was actually entirely held together at the back with straight pins. It was destined to hold pictures from local Clandestine Cake Club groups, but didn’t make it into the final book. I thought I’d show it to you anyway.
The base was two thicknesses of card cut from a chunky cardboard box. I padded it out with wadding cut from an old sleeping bag, then stretched the old linen over that. The ribbon (scraps, of course) is pinned to the cardboard with some drawing pins onto which I’d hot-glued plain plastic shirt buttons. I was rather pleased with the finished item’s Scandi styling. And, yes, that tiny wooden coffee pot hanging from a string is one of mine too.
I had the good fortune to meet Lynn Hill, the book’s indefatigable** author, who came down from Yorkshire to Bath for one of the shoots. She established the Clandestine Cake Club a couple of years ago, and its amazing success story is told over here. You can check out the CCC site to find a local club; if there isn’t one, you’re welcome to set up your own. Consult the website for details.
I’ve had a chance to look over the finished volume, playing ‘Spot My Prop’ with childish glee. But what really struck me is how dense this book is, packed to the endpapers with intriguing recipes, filled with the combined cakey know-how of the nation’s enthusiastic amateur bakers. You can view an extract from the book over here: that’s me holding the Strawberry Butterfly Bundt on page 223. A couple of my personal favourites (as tasted on shoot) were Lime & Coconut (wonderfully zingy) and Green Tea with Orange Icing (subtle and delicate); here’s a slice I took home and just managed to find room for.
The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook launch events are happening across the nation. Take a peek over here for details of one in your neck of the woods.
*actually, I think it was a sofa antimacassar, but we wanted it to look like an old tablecloth
**I have to use this adjective periodically, just to remind myself how to spell it