Leeds baker Lynn Hill on the founding of the Clandestine Cake Club phenomenon
PUBLISHED: 17:30 05 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013
Leeds baker Lynn Hill shares her recipe for success with Jo Haywood
The first rule of cake club is that you dont talk about cake club. Actually, thats not true. The first rule of cake club is that you love cake. Lynn Hill, who lives in the East Leeds suburb of Woodlesford, set up her first Clandestine Cake Club at the beginning of last year.
She hoped it was an idea that would capture the hearts, minds and stomachs of cake fans across Yorkshire, but it has gone on to leave a trail of butter-soft crumbs across a much wider geographical area with more than 4,000 members now meeting and eating at 135 clubs nationwide.
And it hasnt stopped there. Her cake clubs can now be found around the globe, so you dont have to miss out on this particularly tasty slice of life if you happen to find yourself in Australia, New Zealand, France or Spain. Heck, theres even one in the Cayman Islands.
It all began with a short but sweet tweet on Twitter. Lynn, who took early retirement from First Direct, had previously set up Yorkshires first Secret Tearoom, offering bookable tables for tea and sweet treats in her own home.
But this hadnt proved challenging enough for a woman who is clearly allergic to the very idea of idleness.
I was fiddling about online and put out a simple tweet saying I was thinking about setting up a cake club, she explained in between decorating a glorious strawberry-topped sponge in her compact, well-equipped kitchen. I wasnt expecting anything back, but the response was amazing.
I searched the internet and couldnt find a secret cake club for people who wanted to discover new venues, new friends and new recipes, but I knew from that initial flurry of tweets that the demand was definitely there.
She launched her first Clandestine Cake Club in Leeds, drawing a small but promising crowd of 11 people bearing six cakes. Within months she had members slicing sponges across her home county as well as in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Manchester. And by the beginning of this year, she realised it was fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
But why has this simple premise proved so popular? After all, its just like-minded cake-lovers gathering at mystery locations to share the fruits of their kitchen labour.
I think its the simplicity that people like, said Lynn.
Cake is about sharing you could eat a whole one yourself but it wouldnt be wise and sharing promotes conversation and interaction. Making a cake is wonderful, but sharing it is even better.
Members of the Clandestine Cake Club will be sharing their recipes via their first baking book, due for publication in February next year. Lynn is writing it and providing about 20 per cent of the recipes. But whether the recipe comes from her own kitchen or from one of her generous members, it will have been tested and re-tested to ensure it works.
I get very irritated when recipes dont work, she said.
I trust Rachel Allen, and some of Mary Berrys stuff is pretty good, but its amazing the number of recipes especially those online that have an ingredient or stage missing.
Ours will work, she added.
And they will all be for cakes; not muffins or cupcakes or tray-bakes, just honest to goodness cakes.
We dont have many rules in cake club but thats one of them, said Lynn. Its all about cake.
Some people are really talented and practice a lot. Some have disasters or just turn up with a plain old Victoria sponge. Either way, it doesnt matter.
Theyve cared enough to bake a cake and bring it along. That says a lot about them. There is not an element of judgement in the clubs and there is no official competition, but that doesnt mean that members arent keeping a close eye on whose chocolate cream creation goes first and whose carrot cake remains largely intact. Its a very supportive environment,
said Lynn. Members can see on Twitter if someones been having a bad baking day and immediately offer help and suggestions.
I defy anyone to say theyre not looking for compliments though; that silent nod of approval when someone takes that all-important first bite of your cake and is transported by it.
Lynn is very partial to a lemon drizzle cake herself, claiming it hits the spot pretty much every time. But what if she had to choose her ultimate Desert Island cake would it be something light and simple or iced and fancy?
If I could only eat one cake it would have to be something decadent and chocolaty with truffles on top, she said. Itd have to last me a while so Id need something rich.
She would like her Clandestine Cake Club to eventually become a profitable business, making just enough money to keep it ticking over.
But in the meantime, shes happy to bake cake, eat cake and talk cake with her ever-growing army of baking buddies.
Id hate for us to become too corporate, said Lynn.
It would really spoil the fun, friendly atmosphere weve developed.
I do want us to continue growing and evolving though. And I would like it to make a bit of money, maybe just enough to fund a grand tour of some of our more exotic clubs. I mean, who wouldnt want to eat cake in the Cayman Islands?
For more information about the Clandestine Cake Club, visit