Monthly Archives: June 2011

A book launch and clandestine cake

I’ve had a busy few weeks! I’m very lucky as I don’t just make (and occasionally eat!) cake, but I also get to meet some incredibly talented and very nice people and 2 weeks ago I did just that.

I stumbled across Vanessa Kimbell on Twitter several months ago. There’s no other way to describe our meeting really. She was in the middle of writing a cook book (her first) and wanted guinea pigs to test her recipes. I jumped at the chance and I tried her rhubarb and elderflower cupcakes, which were amazing. As a thank you for testing, I was invited to the book launch of the finished book, ‘Prepped!’ in Northampton.

The day itself was lovely. Many of Vanessa’s friends and family turned out to support her, as did the ‘Prepperati’; us merry band of recipe testers. To show how lovely and generous these people are, they provided the cakes and biscuits on offer. My diet went out the window that day!

The book itself is fabulous (and yes, I am biased!). Vanessa takes simple ingredients and turns them into delicious creations in no time at all and it’s a really lovely book.

Is it possible to top a book launch? I had a go with a meeting of the ‘Clandestine Cake Club’ – a group of cake enthusiasts gathered in Kilburn to talk about, and more importantly eat cake and lots of it! I had made a slightly different version of my favourite cake and it didn’t go to plan. My kitchen was hot and time wasn’t on my side. I took the cake, still in its tin, across London and very nervously set up. If this wasn’t bad enough, there was a lady from Radio 4 interviewing me as she had hoped someone would turn up with a ‘cake disaster’ and mine was the closest she had! Whilst dieing inside, I had to give an explanation of what I was doing and why it hadn’t worked! I was mortified!

It turned out that my cake wasn’t a total disaster (it certainly tasted good) and friendships were struck amongst people who started the day with one shared topic (cake) and later found others.

Cake (and food) is a great way to get together with friends and people who become friends. And really, there are no disasters, not amongst friends.

Eggs a no-no

I have an apology to make! It seems a bit more like a confession. ‘Hello, my name’s Claire. It’s been a while since my last blog’… It has been and for that I apologise. I have been busy; I’ve been updating my website (OK, the updates still have to go live, but I have spent hours on this!), I’ve been baking (I had several cakes to make), I had a stall at a fair, I went to a book launch, I went to a meeting of the ‘Clandestine Cake Club’, I’ve become a friend of my local mill and I’ll be attending their AGM next week… These all sound like excuses and I’m afraid that they are.

I was going to write about the last few weeks and I will, but I started a debate on the website of the British Sugarcraft Guild this week, unintentionally, and it sort of snowballed from there!

I was out on Saturday and I had a cake with me that had marzipan on it. I was asked where my marzipan was from and I jokingly replied ‘Mr Waitrose’. I’ve never made marzipan in my life. As far as I’m concerned, life is too short. I was then told how easy it was to make and to be honest, I kind of walked away at that point.

Anyway, I went onto the website of the British Sugarcraft Guild (a fantastic place for ‘cakey’ people) and asked whether any of my fellow cake-makers made their own marzipan. The overwhelming response was ‘no I don’t’, though one or two had in the past.

Very quickly, the debate went from ‘life’s too short’ to ‘against food safety’ and local EHOs were introduced. To be honest, the use of raw eggs in marzipan hadn’t occured to me as the overriding reason not to make it, though it should have. I have done a food safety course (I had 100% in it!) and I’ve been involved in food all my life one way and another. I haven’t eaten beef (at least not British beef) since the BSE scare in the ’80s. I know it’s safe now, but after 20+ years, it’s hard to go back!

This got me thinking though. If I don’t make marzipan because it has raw eggs in it, what about chocolate mousse? I make a divine chocolate mousse, but it has raw eggs. I’ve had a look at the website of the FSA (link at the bottom) but I’m not much clearer. Sadly, this thought only struck me an hour ago, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow before I can call my EHO. I am trying not to be melodramatic (honestly!), but it is important that I make the right decision about using raw eggs. If I just needed the whites, I could purchase pasteurized egg whites and I mightn’t be writing this right now.

Unfortunately, I use whole eggs. I don’t want to make anyone ill and my reputation is important to me. So for now, all I can do, is take my chocolate mousse off my menu, go back to the drawing board and find a mousse that doesn’t use raw eggs and contact my EHO tomorrow to find where I stand. In other words, can I use them if I state that they’re an ingredient?

I want to protect myself and I also want to protect my customers. With food, I can’t afford to get it wrong. I’ll update this when I’ve contacted my EHO, but I’m interested in your opinions too. Would you be happy eating something that contained raw eggs? My kitchen has been inspected & approved by the EHO and I have a food hygiene certificate, but do you feel that’s enough?

If you want to read more about the use of raw eggs in food, please click on the link below and do please let me know your opinions. Thank you.