Norwich bakery to make all its cakes vegan - including cinnamon buns!

Timberhill Bakery.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Timberhill Bakery.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Muffins, cakes, scones and even cinnamon buns are getting the vegan treatment at Timberhill Bakery.

Timberhill Bakery.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Timberhill Bakery.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

An artisan business in Norwich that takes bread and cakes seriously, is committing to making all its cakes vegan this year.

Timberhill Bakery, run by Mike Sweetman and partner Natalie, has grown a solid reputation during the two years it's been open in the city, with customers falling in love with the couple's organic, completely natural bread.

But now the duo are turning their attentions to serving the city's flourising vegan and dairy-free eaters by removing butter and eggs from their sweet goods.

Natalie's been a vegan for five years, says Mike, and their relationship with cakes has completely changed during that time. 'I started making a vegan brownie for us to eat at home. I made it for Natalie originally because she couldn't find anything nice enough. When we moved here we started selling it in the shop and it's our bestseller. We only make vegan products where we think there's no compromise on flavour and texture. We've been slowly converting our products to vegan, but so they appeal to the whole market.

Timberhill Bakery. Mike Sweetman and Natalie Stringer.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Timberhill Bakery. Mike Sweetman and Natalie Stringer.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

'We have lots of customers who prefer dairy-free who aren't vegan. They're trying to cut their cholesterol or lactose. It all overlaps with our commitment to natural food and organic farming – and making vegan cakes means we can take more home and eat them ourselves too!'

Mike and Natalie make their own vegan butter on site to a secret recipe. Although the main ingredient is raw extra virgin coconut oil, they say it's far from tasting of suntan lotion, and only has an undertone of coconut, offset by the other ingredients. It's not only finding its way into baked goods, but the couple are serving the butter as a spread in the Timberhill café too, alongside vegan scones and toast.

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Currently the butter is being used in the vegan Florentines, brownies, apricot and toasted pecan muffins and bramley and ginger cake. The lemon and raspberry cake and carrot cake are next on the list to be transformed from dairy-free to entirely vegan, followed by the dark chocolate orange cake.

And the latest development, launching soon, is vegan cinnamon rolls, made with sourdough culture. 'There are other people making them,' explains Mike, 'but I think ours are going to be pretty special. We're quite excited about those!'

Timberhill Bakery.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Timberhill Bakery.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The couple are this week celebrating two years in Norwich, having moved to Norfolk from Bridgend near Cardiff, where they had a bakery for over 10 years.

'When we came here,' says Mike, 'we had a clear idea of what kind of bakery we wanted to run. It had to be ethical, which includes vegan. And organic was a big feature for us. Generally we wanted to do something very natural with high quality ingredients.

'Once we decided to leave Bridgend we thought we might as well move anywhere. We looked for cities we thought would be open to what we wanted to do, like Bristol, Brighton and Cambridge. At the time we were supplying Rainbow Wholefoods in Norwich and called in to see them on a visit.

'I was blown away by Norwich. I thought it was really advanced in terms of ethical and real artisan foods, and as soon as we came here we thought it had a nice feeling, and lots of places along the lines of where we want to be. We thought, if they were thriving, there could be a niche for us, and that's proved right.'

All bread at Timberhill is 100% organic, from the flour to the oil, seeds and nuts. And they only make sourdough, raised with a natural, wild form of yeast they've grown themselves and brought from Wales. 'You have to nurture it, and give it a hug now and again,' Mike laughs. 'It has magical properties. It's the way bread was made thousands of years ago, and it's highly digestible, with a naturally lower gluten content.'

The bread has a longer shelf life, despite having no preservatives or additives, lasting around three to four days, or five to six if you're using it for toast. Some customers even report their bread lasts a week.

Mike says the bestseller is the chia and flax sourdough, made with five types of seeds and five different flours. It took years for the baker to perfect it and, he says, doesn't taste sour at all. In fact, he reveals that contrary to popular belief, not all sourdough has to be sour. The finished flavour profile is down to the way the 'mother' (sourdough culture) is produced.

'There's two types of acid you can find in sourdough – acetic and lactic. Lactic acid is buttery and milky. If you keep the 'mother' well-fed with the right amount of flour and water you get more of that lactic, buttery bready flavour than the super tangy acidic flavour. We engineer it to be at the buttery end rather than vinegary. There's still a little zing to it, but we think we've got the balance right.'

If you fancy trying a loaf, or some of the vegan cakes this Real Bread Week, you can find Timberhill Bakery in the city centre on Timber Hill.