THINK of a quintessential English summer and you’ll conjure up images of the sound of leather on willow, sleepy village greens and idyllic country gardens.
But if there’s one thing that screams Britishness louder than any of those its the delights of afternoon tea. Dainty, beautifully decorated cakes, a plethora of sweet treats washed down with a steaming cup of Earl Grey and pleasant company with which to enjoy it.
Visitors from across the globe flock to quaint tearooms such as the world famous Bettys in Harrogate to revel in the silver service niceties of a seemingly bygone age.
And now a pair of enterprising baking enthusiasts are hoping for a slice of the action themselves after creating their very own pudding club.
Fear not, its not some kind of gathering of mums-to-be or a secret sect where the first rule of pudding club is that you don’t talk about pudding club, it is in fact the brainchild of Diane Somers and Sue Eller, two clever cooks who have turned their passion for naughty but nice treats into a monthly social gathering.
The premise is simple - let them eat cake.
Oh, and puddings, biscuits and desserts too, with part of the money raised through the £5 dining fee going to charity.
Once a month, the pair delve into their recipe books, dig out the pots and pans and lovingly craft up a variety of delicious delights - and then serve them up to willing pals eager to tuck into the likes of raspberry macaroons, fresh cream and lemon curd Victoria sponge and orange and lemon buns.
Explained Sue: “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve always dreamed of running our own tea rooms. We realised that might be a dream too far so we’ve done the next best thing - and the response has been fantastic.
“We are really pleased with how well it has gone.”
For more than a year, women have been gathering at Warmsworth Community Centre to sit down for tea, a good old chinwag - and of course, the pair’s truly scrumptious and sumptous offerings with lemon meringue roulade, apple crumble, pancakes, scones and Bakewell tarts all fighting for a space on the beautifully decorated table adorned with tablecloths and fresh flowers.
Said Diane: “We have both always liked cooking and baking, but just as a hobby really. We mentioned the idea of a tea room to people and that’s where the idea of a monthly get-together came from.”
The club is held on the second Wednesday of every month with guests coming from as far afield as Chesterfield to tuck in with the pair’s hard work getting under way just a few days beforehand each time.
Said Sue: “We have a chat and discuss what to make, swap ideas and come up with themes if there’s something going on that month. We come up with a nice variety - and the portions are taster portions so its not too over-powering for people to eat six different cakes in one evening.
“The first time we did it we had enough to feed an army - people were going home weighed down with boxes of cakes! But we have learned our lessons now.”
Inspiration comes from all over the place - handed down generational recipes, books, the internet, TV and magazines - with the likes of Nigella Lawson and the Great British Bake Off both serving up suggestions for the pair to tackle.
Sue said: “You see something and think ‘oh, that looks nice - I’ll give that a try’ and take it from there.”
Following a trip to the supermarket to stock up on all the necessary ingredients, Diane and Sue then spent the next few days feverishly working away over hot stoves to ensure everything is tip-top in time for tea.
“Fortunately, we’ve had no real disasters in all the time we’ve been doing it,” added Diane. “There have been a few nervous moments here and there where something hasn’t quite worked out but because we are well prepared, we can always come up with something else at short notice.”
Naturally, the proof of the pudding is in the eating - and each and every time, guests walk away with empty plates and full stomachs - as well as any leftovers they can take home and share with their families - although the pair’s own relatives aren’t always so lucky!
“They see what we are making,” said Sue, “and get very jealous that they are not allowed to have any!”
Sue, 59, a part-time hairdresser and Diane, 65, a retired cleaning company manager, are now looking to roll out the idea across Doncaster - as well as setting up a business to offer bespoke cakes to offices and factories across Doncaster.
Said Diane: “There are lots of women’s groups across Doncaster where people get together and might want to have cakes but who hate the idea of cooking or who simply can’t cook.
“We’d be able to take care of that, so we’d love to hear from people who would like us to get involved.”
In addition, the pair have also established their home baking enterprise Daisy’s which plans to plug a gap in the market by delivering freshly prepared goodies to the doorstep.
Added Diane: “When it is someone’s birthday, its tradition in a lot of places for someone to go out and get the cakes. Well, that’s something we can do - what better way to celebrate an occasion than with some beautiful hand-made cakes for everyone? And its real food too - we use free range eggs and Fair Trade food whenever possible.”
But there is one guest the pair would love to see dropping in for cakes - renowned Yorkshire-born television chef James Martin.
“We take inspiration and recipes from a lot of famous chefs,” said Sue. “But he is the one we like best - we’ve picked up loads of tips from me - and we’d love to appear on Saturday Kitchen with him - fingers crossed!”
* Warmsworth Pudding Club takes place on the second Wednesday of every month and places, at £5 per person, must be booked in advance. Contact Sue on 01302 854535 or Diane on 01302 854426 for more details and also to place orders for delivery.