Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook – Design, Illustration & Styling

I do enjoy using a well-designed cookbook, as much as I dislike a badly designed one! So I was really hoping that The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook would fall into the former category.

The book by Lynn Hill is a collection of 120 recipes from ‘Britain’s most famous cake club’. Lynn created the Clandestine Cake Club in Leeds in December 2010, this first meeting in Leeds has led to over 167 clubs being set up within the following two years in the UK and internationally.

In 2011 Lynn invited all the members of the cake club to put forward recipes for a cookbook. This delightful book is the result of that and masses of hard work by Lynn and the team at Quercus Books. It’s been so well received that it’s gone to reprint on the strength of pre-release orders alone.

So, I’ll come clean here – I do have a vested interest in the book. I co-organise the Loughborough Clandestine Cake Club with my sister and this book contains a recipe that, well, I invented (Choo Choo Chai Cake, pic top right – blog to follow soon). However – this in turn makes my focus somewhat sharper than on a book I can either take or leave.

Other bloggers have reviewed the book from a bakers perspective – I’ll list some at the end – but I wanted to look at what’s involved in designing a cookbook. I love the shape & feel of the book. It’s substantial, very well bound and falls open easily making it a good baking companion. It also has beautiful photography, layout and illustration throughout.  I wanted to know more – so had a chat with Anita Mangan who led the design, illustrations and styling for the book.

There’s a great doily motif used throughout the book.  Was that developed as part of the project?

Yes. I created it for a previous cover option. I wanted it to say ‘Clandestine Cake Club’ as a doily pattern. And to be something that you didn’t notice at first glance but on second viewing! When the cover changed, I decided to use it as a chapter opener. 

There’s obviously been immense care taken over the staging of the photos in the book. The cakes look great – and as if you CAN bake them yourself, unlike some other books. Did the concepts for the staging come easily or did it take a few goes?

I came up with ideas initially and Emily (photographer) and I would talk them through to see if they’d work visually / photographically and we’d tweak them if they needed amending. Sometimes we would just make up the ideas on the spot ‘play on the day’ as we call it. 

How long typically did it take to get a photo of cake, and were some harder than others?

On average an hour or two per cake and yes some were more involved. The hedgehog cake had a whole series of pictures taken of him around the garden (we called it Harry the hedgehog’s journey) and we ended up only using one. The tuck shop cake took a while to set up all the sweets that surrounded it (I tried not to eat them as I went along).

I’m a big fan of handmade lace & embroidered cloths.  How did you source them –  favorite shop, heirlooms?

My props have come from all over the place. Home, friends’ houses, charity shops, eBay and prop hire places.

I like the way you’ve used illustrations as well as photography through the book.  How did you decide when to use them?

When a cake had no photograph we decided to illustrate them. Abigail Read did most of the illustrations. She was completely unphased by my request for her to draw things like ‘Queen Victoria in the bath’ or ‘some cherries drying out in a washing line’…

It looks like you had a great time bringing it all together – any stories you’d like to tell about it?

It was really good fun. We all got on very well and loved creating more and more interesting and unconventional shots. Eirlys seemed to have ANYTHING that we were missing by way of props. For the giant fondant fancy cake, I think Emily commented on how it would be good if we had a dolls house to go in the background. 5 mins later Eirlys showed up with one. 

And finally – how many of the cakes did you try? Do you have a favourite or, which one surprised you the most?

Jane Middleton made nearly all the wonderful cakes. We tried ALL of the ones we photographed. Needless to say they were all delicious. My favourites were the chocolate hazelnut Bundt cake, the tarta de almendras (very light) and the swiss roll. 

One of my favourite touches is the gold embossing sprinkled over the top of the cake on the cover! Thanks Anita, you can find out more about Anita’s design work here. You can also follow Anita on Twitter @neeneelou

Lynn dedicates the book to ‘home bakers everywhere, who just bake for the sheer joy it brings them’.  There’s a great mix for the baker in this book – both in terms of the amount of time or ingredients needed for each cake and something for every occasion, from fruit loaves to graze on over a few days, to cakes packed with fresh cream or home made curd for days when you fancy a treat. The book is a genuine delight, and has already earnt its place on the bookshelf. Thank you Lynn & everyone involved – it’s a cracker!

Publication & Book Launches  The book’s published on the 14th February 2013, book launches are taking place across the country.  Most will be run by the local Clandestine Cake Club and have cake, Lynn Hill is attending as many as she can.  If you’d like to try some cake & browse the book check out the list of book launches here.

Anne, Lynn & I would love to see you at Waterstones, Loughborough 2-4pm on Saturday 16th, we’ll be there with 9 bakers & cakes!

You can buy the book here.

Other blogs

Behind the scenes peek from the book photo shoots – blog by Eirlys as Scrapiana

Helen Costello is organising a clandestine cake-a-long join her and others baking a recipe from the book every 2 weeks.

Review with loads of pics by Dolly Bakes.

Read about Blue Kitchen Bakes experience baking the Soured Cream Coffee Cake.