Now we are bak­ing a liv­ing

We meet three mums who are took the plunge, changed their lives and are liv­ing the Bake Off dream

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - BY VIC­TO­RIA PREVER

SINCE THE first Great Bri­tish Bake Off hit our TV screens in 2010, a ca­reer in cake has be­come ev­ery­body’s pipe(d) dream. JC Food met three mums who spend much of their work­ing week el­bow deep in flour, but­ter, eggs and sugar, to find out what it’s re­ally like. Natalie Allen left a six-fig­ure salary as a pro­ject man­ager in the City to bake. “It was a to­tal change but I wanted to en­joy my work­ing day. My fa­ther said ‘you’re mad’. But for me it was not about money, it was about ful­fil­ment,” she smiles over tea and peanut but­ter mini cup cakes at her Prim­rose Hill cak­ery, Sweet Things.

Allen says she al­ways had a pas­sion for food but de­cided to do a busi­ness de­gree first. “I knew it was go­ing to be use­ful even­tu­ally and I went on to work in sales, re­cruit­ment and pro­ject man­age­ment.”

Ten years ago she catered a friend’s baby bless­ing for 60 peo­ple.

“Ev­ery­one raved about the sweet stuff, so I knew I had some­thing. I started sup­ply­ing some lo­cal busi­nesses with car­rot cake and brown­ies.” She ad­mits the early days were hard work. “I was do­ing it all — bak­ing, ic­ing, de­liv­er­ing, in­voic­ing — but I would never say no to work. I was up un­til 3am one night ic­ing 300 cakes all baked at home with my do­mes­tic ovens.”

Af­ter three years, with her home dis­ap­pear­ing un­der moun­tains of in­gre­di­ents, Allen found com­mer­cial premises in Prim­rose Hill where she con­tin­ued to ex­pand.

“From day one my goal had been to get into Sel­fridges. As soon as I moved into my premises I ap­proached them. When I fi­nally spoke to their buyer, he turned me down. I was hor­ri­fied, but in­sisted in drop­ping my sam­ples in any­way. An hour later he called to or­der cakes for the Lon­don and Birm­ing­ham stores.” In 2011 — just af­ter the birth of her sec­ond child — Allen moved the busi­ness into the cur­rent café unit with the bak­ery down­stairs, where she em­ploys nine staff.

Un­like Allen, Emma Babb, who last year found­ed­v­in­tagetea­party cater­ers, Tea Time Events, had no des­per­ate long- Happy bak­ers Emma Babb, Natalie Baynes and Natalie Allen ing to bake. Her mo­ti­va­tion was a love of af­ter­noon tea and a need to change her work­ing life. Says Babb, who spent 15 years in advertising, 10 of them with her own agency: “I didn’t even know I could bake. I’d made a Vic­to­ria Sponge and cook­ies and that was about it.

“My mother and I loved tea — that was our thing. We were hav­ing a moan about work, over tea, when we came up with the idea of Teatime Events.”

Em­ploy­ing a baker wasn’t fi­nan­cially vi­able, so Babb — now a pas­sion­ate baker — de­cided she would bake — and dis­cov­ered a hitherto un­known tal­ent. “I made a car­rot cake and it was de­li­cious. I was re­ally sur­prised,” she laughs.

Babb and her mother, Jan Ber­man, — a one-time win­dow dresser who’d worked for Mary Quant — serve sand­wiches, scones, cakes and York­shire tea on vintage china at stylishly laid ta­bles in their cus­tomers’ homes. They also de­liver tea tray gifts of a cup, saucer and side plate with a mini cake, mini bot­tles of Prosecco and or­ange juice plus cho­co­late dipped straw­ber­ries and scones, clot­ted cream and jam. “They make a re­ally un­usual present as you keep the tray and cups and saucers.”

Another baker whose treats are pop­u­lar with gift givers is Natalie Baynes, founder of Love­cake­pops. Baynes’s Ital­ian fa­ther and his fam­ily own Pasta Brown res­tau­rant in Covent Gar­den.

Apart from a six-year stint in advertising, she’d al­ways worked around food. A year ago she needed sweet birth­day treats for her daugh­ter to take to school. She de­cided to try cake pops — a truf­fle-like cake on a stick cov­ered with cho­co­late. “I was re­ally de­lighted with the re­sult. Baby pink cake pops cov­ered in sugar — ev­ery school girl’s dream.”

The re­sponse from her daugh­ter and friends was Emma Babb’s Tea Time Events vintage teas ( cake pops by Natalie Baynes ( and ( a range of Natalie Allen’s mini cup cakes fan­tas­tic and she started fid­dling around with dif­fer­ent colours and de­signs, mak­ing some for a friend’s 40th birth­day. “I dis­cov­ered a cre­ative streak I never knew I had.”

Like Allen, Baynes never re­fuses work. “I never say ‘no’ to any­thing, but I think I should some­times. My first chal­lenge was 40 Minions. I was re­ally ner­vous but they turned out so well they are now a pop­u­lar choice for chil­dren’s par­ties.”

Baynes has found fit­ting her cre­ations around her young chil­dren can be a chal­lenge. “I can’t do it when they’re around or they’ll want to eat them.”

Allen and Babb have also had to fit their cre­ations around their chil­dren but hus­bands and friends have been in­valu­able sup­port­ers.

De­spite the jug­gling, none of them re­grets her de­ci­sion to bake.

“I have the best of both worlds,” says Babb, who com­bines her week­end bak­ing with two days’ free­lance advertising work.

Allen, who is about to open a sec­ond store in Not­ting Hill, says it has been a ca­reer that has fit­ted into moth­er­hood.

“There are pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives — I some­time­shave­to­come­back­in­towork af­ter school pick-up if there has been an is­sue, but the chil­dren love be­ing here. In the early days I couldn’t have a week off, but now it is eas­ier to man­age with a fam­ily.” sweet­things.biz; tea-time-events.co.uk; face­book.com/cake­pops­by­na­talie

PHOTO: DEB­O­RAH RAM

left) above)

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