LONDON — On a humid late spring evening, women from across north London descended upon a Victorian pub in the eclectic neighborhood of Camden for a secret meeting. Each slipped inside cradling a package under one arm. They weren’t there for a pint, though. They’d come for cake and to share the keys to its creation.
Long home to edgy worlds of music and art, urban Britain can now claim one more underground scene: baking. The Clandestine Cake Club, a hush-hush society for baking enthusiasts, has become wildly popular here. Since its inaugural meeting in 2010, the CCC has grown from one chapter to more than 185 across the British Isles and beyond, from Abergavenny to Wythenshawe and York.
Members have congregated in castles and canal barges to share their passion for cakes (no cupcakes or pies allowed), with one firm rule: The location is top-secret until shortly before the event — an attempt to add a little spice to the sometimes pedestrian occupation of home baking.The success of the CCC, and other British cooking clubs like it, reflects the increasing appetite for the culinary arts here. In the past year alone, 9 million more Britons have started baking, according to research by Mintel.
This British baking renaissance is being fueled, in part, by the recession. Renewed interest caused the industry to grow by 59 percent between 2007 and 2012 to reach $2.57 billion, Mintel reported. Home baking was one of the few sectors to experience growth during the financial crisis — in products from cake decorations to sugar. Even though consumers are spending less on groceries, the Office for National Statistics reported that British household spending on flour has steadily increased since 2008, jumping by 24 percent since 2010.
“Pressures on consumers’ real incomes combined with rising food inflation have encouraged more adults to go back to basics and bake from scratch as a means of economizing,” says Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel. At the same time, Clifford says, popular cooking shows have raised the profile of home baking.
“I love baking and obsessively watch gluttonous shows on telly,” Clare Ellis, 36, a publicist and newcomer to Camden’s cake club, said. Continue reading