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Plymouth’s Cakewhole is 10! It’s taken some fancy footwork to get here… take a look back with the team.

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Cakewhole
Posted on
29 Apr 2024
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Cakewhole is 10! It’s taken some fancy footwork to get here… take a look back with Natalie and the team.

On 1st May we will be celebrating 10 years baking.  We’ve come a long way from 2014, when we were baking at home in our little domestic oven and staying up into the early hours of the morning to fill our orders. There are distant memories of getting up for 0530 deliveries from Bako, and humping 25kg sacks of sugar in our pyjamas, often in the rain.  When we first hit the giddy heights of 30 cakes in a week we couldn’t quite believe it.

Cakes were being cooled on a camping table in the living room, and it soon became apparent that we needed some more professional equipment. Our first commercial oven arrived in 2015, followed by electrical trunking, stainless steel work surfaces, 36kg ingredient bins, 20 litre mixers, fridges and cooling racks, and before we knew it we had a full professional kitchen in the dining room.  Nat’s little Peugeot didn’t have enough cake space, so we splashed out on Gareth, a Citroen Berlingo which was later painted in what inevitably became known as Cakewhole green.

Demand grew by word of mouth as people realised Nat’s commitment and passion for quality and high standards.  There was a gap in the market for Gluten Free and Vegan cakes, and things just kept on growing.  By 2017 we were often baking 60 cakes a week and had outgrown home.

“Cake might not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but it helps”

It took us a while, but eventually, in 2018, Cakewhole Wilton Street was ready to open its doors.  With proper premises, and a shop, there were a lot of lessons to learn, but we felt we were getting on top of it.  And then along came Covid, and our wholesale business disappeared overnight. Some creative thinking was called for, and we quickly branched out into savoury items, and also started selling essentials such as flour and eggs.  These, combined with the fact that we were one of the few places still open selling good coffee (thank you Owens), radically changed our focus and saw our retail sales more than double, with long (and socially distanced!) queues stretching down the pavement

A few lockdowns later, with everything slowly getting back to normal – our wholesale customers open again, and queues of a more manageable size – the cost of living crisis paid an unwelcome visit.  Everything went up. Electricity trebled in price and all our ovens are electric.  More fancy footwork ensued, more adapting to changing circumstances, and we decided to not open on Mondays and compress our baking into four days.  The staff weren’t complaining – it meant a longer weekend for everybody!

And so here we are, an established Plymouth brand, turning out as many as 140 bakes a week, and with a payroll of ten.  Who’d have thought it?

What have we learned?

Stay true to your ethos: despite all the turbulence we’ve had to weather over the years, our commitment to quality has never wavered. We do our best to be as sustainable as possible, using re-usable cake boxes and having our city deliveries done by cargo bike (thank you Zedify).

Be prepared to try new things in order to adapt.  They won’t all work, but you can quietly drop those that don’t.

Have a clear idea of where you want to go, and stick with it.  We’ve been quite cautious in growing the business; we’ve often been asked when we’re moving to bigger premises, or where our next branch is going to be, but we’ve never wanted to take over the world, with the pressures that entails.

Cherish your customers (cappuccino with oat milk, Margaret? Coming right up), your connections with the local community (thank you Co-op for letting us use your freezer when ours broke down), and your relationships with your suppliers (thank you Diamond and others too numerous to mention).

Look after and trust your staff and they’ll look after you (thank you Emma, Karolina, Kit, Pamela, Josephine, Issy, Bob and Martin).

Visit the Cakewhole website here.

 

 

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