The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill

IMG_5619Geneen Roth, author of Women Food and God and latest go-to guru of Oprah Winfrey, has six rules for healthy eating, the fifth of which is:

5. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

The clandestine bit of the Clandestine Cake Club, set up by Lynn Hill in 2010, is clearly in breach of at least one Roth rule. And that’s because its own rules are far more appealing. What can be more noble than the following premise on which to build an organisation:

“It was purely a need in getting more people together over Tea and Cake, without having to do all the baking myself.”

She’s practical, reckless (in her use of capitalisation for all words pertaining to cake) and sociable.

And there are only two rules for the CCC:

1) No Cupcakes, Muffins, Brownies, Pies or Tart. It’s all about Cake.

2) You get to take cake home.

There’s a lot to like about Lynn Hill. She freely admits that she is not riding the bakery/Boden/Berry wave on a pastel coloured, polka-dotted Lakeland madeleine tin but in fact just likes good gossip. With cake.

Impressed by the popularity of secret supper clubs and dining clubs in secret locations, she wanted to put her own twist on the idea and thus the Secret Tea Room was born in her living room in Leeds. Not happy with that success, she moved on to the idea of a secret baking club and on the back of social media, the idea has now spread nationwide and there are now over 100 affiliated clubs in the UK and abroad.

Each recipe in the book has been made by a member of the club, including some of Lynn’s own creations. From classic cakes to global cakes, zesty cakes to chocolatey cakes, each recipe has been tried and tested by amateur bakers and fellow CCC members, a rather solid recommendation for the cakes included.

Unusual highlights include a chai-soaked vanilla sponge, a pink champagne cake with white chocolate ganache, a smoked chilli chocolate gateau, a blood orange and rosemary syrup cake and a chocolate and marmite (!) caramel cake.

Tried and tested: Blood Orange and Rosemary Cake


Serves 12


Fine polenta for coating the tin

200g ground almonds (or replace partially or wholly with polenta)

200g caster sugar

200ml olive oil

4 large eggs

pinch sea salt

grated zest 2 large lemons

grated zest 2 large blood oranges

1 scant teaspoon of green cardamom seeds, finely ground

4 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped or ground



Juice of 2 large lemons

Juice 2 large blood oranges

1 whole orange, pith removed, thinly sliced

4 sprigs rosemary

100 – 150g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 fan, 140 gas and grease and line a 900g loaf tin, coating the inside with a layer of polenta.

In a large bowl beat together all the cake ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 45 mins – 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and springs back when pressed. Be warned this is a very moist cake.

Make the syrup as the cake bakes: put the lemon juice, blood orange juice, rosemary sprigs and 50g of the icing into a small pan and stir until the mixture reduces to half – avoid letting it boil if possible. Add more icing sugar to taste.

As soon as the cake comes out, prick it all with a skewer or knife and pour over two-thirds of the syrup. Arrange the thin slices of blood orange over the top and pour over the remaining third. Leave to cool in the tin and let the syrup soak in.

Serve warm or cold with plain yoghurt and extra blood orange slices.



4 thoughts on “The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill

  1. Lovely review, makes me want to grab my copy and run to the kitchen immediately. I’ve wanted to make a blood orange cake for the last few weeks, but couldn’t track down any oranges – I would not have thought of adding rosemary.


    • the rosemary was a real revelation – thought it was too much but I strongly recommend it- the CCC Earl Grey and lemon loaf (ground up fresh Earl Grey leaves) is deelish too. See you for chocolate making sooon!


  2. Gillian

    I not sure about this book. I think the concept of the club is amazing and Lynn sounds wonderful. However the design of the book seems to go against what she stands for (very Cath Kidstom / Boden esque), there is not a photo for every recipe and some of the photos aren’t even with the recipe. Disappointed. BUT there are some great cakes! Phew!


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