As you will have seen, we continue to open at the weekend and for all the events, classes, parties, and Afternoon Teas that take place here on a regular or pre-booked basis.
Above all however we are taking more and more orders for Beautiful, Bespoke, Birthday and Celebration Cakes.
There’s something about cake that seems to evoke quite a lot of emotion – customers are often quite overwhelmed and describe our cakes as beautiful or amazing. When it comes to the taste we’ve seen people astonished that a simple sponge or lemon cake can taste so good. Yet there is often a sense of “guilt” that cake is “naughty but nice” and we shouldn’t really be eating it.
Many of us remember our mothers and grandmothers making a cake each week – my own grandmother used to specialise in a good Madeira cake and I loved it when she topped it with glace icing and cherries! No one ever told us it was bad for us – it was a sweet treat that took its place in a diet of meat from the butcher, fish from the fishmonger, vegetables from the greengrocer and bread from the baker. Other ingredients for family meals may have been purchased from the small grocery store at the top of the road but I have no recollection of trips to an out of town supermarket, a drink in their coffee shop, and a fridge full of offers and deals that would sometimes end up in the bin.
I’m showing my age of course but recently stopped to consider the reality of life nowadays for small business owners compared to how it was perhaps as recently as twenty years ago.
The High Street has changed massively – everyone comments on the proliferation of estate agents, charity shops, and the big coffee shop chains who presumably make a profit based on mass production across their hundreds of outlets. Butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers and bakers are gradually disappearing as how can they possibly compete with supermarket convenience and prices?
Their customers seem now to be those who can’t make it to the supermarket – perhaps for mobility reasons. And if these people are elderly, then without an influx of new customers will they survive another generation? There are some people who refuse to shop in supermarkets but these are few and far between (worth a read though).
Back to the cake then. Supermarkets sell cake products at prices which make those of us who bake gasp in disbelief. 12 cupcakes for £7.00. Seriously? A birthday cake for a fiver. You must be joking, right?
I blogged a while ago in response to why our cupcakes are so “expensive”. You can read what I had to say here The response was overwhelmingly positive – thank you!
Whilst we’ve been closed however I’ve been doing more sums and thinking even more about why it is so difficult to make an independent coffee shop “work”. Which takes me back again to the butcher and baker. When we knew these people who provided the food we put on our table each night (and it was a table – rarely a lap!) there was a relationship of trust and friendship. I’m not sure I ever thought of it as “supporting my local small business owner”. These were just the people we bought our food from (okay – I did at one point fancy the Saturday boy in the butcher’s but that’s another story and as a vegetarian would not have made for a lifetime of happiness…)
Supermarkets are convenient – if you are working full time and raising a family how would you find time to shop at all those local stores even if they still existed? They are inexpensive – another massive bonus if you are feeding a family and on a tight budget. They provide employment for many local people especially those looking for part time work, so it seems wrong to criticise them completely.
But – where are the relationships? Perhaps resurfacing in the Market Street at Morrisons, but not with those on the till any more as self scanners increasingly rule the checkouts. All in the name of profit but at what cost?
And where too is the sense of trust? Labelling has improved, free range and Fairtrade are more easily available, but what goes into those ready meals and takeaways? Does that quiche contain fresh milk and eggs or does the sell by date suggest something different?
Which brings us back – again – to the cake.
A slice of delicious home baked cake is a sweet treat. Generations grew up enjoying it every day, when work was physical and the epidemic of obesity hadn’t been heard of. How sad that it’s seen by so many as something to avoid, or be eaten guiltily with the promise of an extra gym session to make up for it!
This article is well worth a read. It explains better than I can myself how a cake product is created. And why it is so cheap – mass produced from ingredients most of us have never heard of. This is the type of “cake” to avoid surely – sitting on supermarket shelves, tempting us and our children with the bright packaging and low prices.
Instead – why not do one of two things?
- Buy a cake from a local baker. We highly recommend The Kitchen where a Victoria Sponge may cost £20.00 but will be made with top quality ingredients, love and care. A lemon drizzle loaf may set you back £15.00 but will have fresh lemon zest and juice keeping it moist and flavoursome for you. You can order online and collect at your convenience.
- Learn to bake yourself! We can help – our Saturday Kitchen is open to adults and children alike and we’ve already covered many classic cakes with some new recipes in January. Drop us an email if you are interested.
It’s only with the support of those such as yourselves who have taken the time to read this that small businesses such as The Kitchen can survive. We can’t compete on price with the supermarkets but we will match them on convenience when we can and we’ll always aim to outdo them on flavour and customer service! I’d love to see a return to gentler times when life was less pressured and we could shop from those we know, contributing to the local economy.
So – here’s another idea. Please feel free to share and look out for the next post with more details of what we have on offer!