New Norfolk bakery's brownies are in hot demand
- Credit: Archant
A former care home worker says she's living her dream after opening her own bakery filled with sweet treats.
Rebecca Wilkinson is the proud owner of Scrumptious Home Bakes, a takeaway cakery in Stalham High Street.
The store opened at the end of last year, offering up a slice of heaven in its traditional sponges and mouth-wateringly modern twists on brownies and cookies, and has been doing deliciously well ever since.
"I started baking at school," explains Rebecca. "Then I went on to study it at City College in Norwich. I really loved doing patisserie, I could have done that every day of the week!" she laughs.
Upon finishing her course, Rebecca quickly found a job working in a care home as a kitchen assistant, working alongside the chef and helping out with basic prep.
She was soon asked to step into the chef's shoes, and although she'd never cooked for large numbers before, she accepted the challenge - a decision which turned out to be a useful foundation for where she is today. "I find it easier to mass cater, which is what I’m doing now," she says.
Over the years, recognising her baking talents, friends would ask her to make various goodies like birthday cakes, cupcakes and cookies, and Rebecca realised she wanted to do more of it.
But it was during lockdown when she was inspired to work towards her dream of running her own business. "I took to baking more. I was trying out lots of different things and taking them in to the care home staff to try," she says.
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Coincidentally, it was this time last year that a shop became available to rent on the high street in Stalham. "My friends would tell me that the high street needed a cake shop and to go for it, but I didn't know whether to take the risk," she says.
"When the space came up, my mum persuaded me to go and have a look. As soon as I walked in, I thought, 'I need to do this.' So I just went for it!"
To launch (in November) Rebecca decided on a combination of traditional bakes - Victoria sponges, coffee and walnut loaves, Norfolk shortcakes and Eccles cakes - and more modern recipes with a twist.
"I brought in some of the newer things like loaded cookies, brownies, blondies," she explains. "I thought it was important to have a mix of both.
"Talking to people and looking at the response of the Stalham Facebook pages, they didn't want just old-fashioned stuff, they wanted a mix, and I wanted to cater for everyone rather than just target one audience."
Everything is made on-site. Rebecca bakes at the shop but is also registered to bake at home. The delicious stock is topped up in the shop during the day.
When it came to opening day, there were definitely some front-runners as far as customer demand went.
"The brownies! I did a Kinder Bueno one, and buried the chocolate in the middle," she says. "People were really intrigued as to how it didn't melt and how you got that definition of the chocolate bar in the middle of the fudgy brownie. It's still really popular now."
Other best-sellers include blondies (white chocolate brownies), Creme Egg stuffed cookies and sweet scotch eggs. "I did a white KitKat blondie the other day and posted it on my Facebook page. It was gone in minutes!" she laughs.
As with many businesses, social media plays a big part in Rebecca's. She posts her daily bakes on Facebook and Instagram which encourages customers to visit the bakery or message her for a later collection.
Any business owner will know it's important to move with the times, and Rebecca is always looking for inspiration to keep her ideas fresh, following sites like Instagram and TikTok for recipe inspiration.
But while she draws on ideas from platforms like these, fundamentally, she says, it comes down to experimentation and seeing how a combination of different flavours and ingredients work together.
So, for those of us who can only produce a flat fairy cake or saggy old sponge, what's the key to making a really delicious looking and tasting cake? Natural skill and artistic talent, surely?
"It's really funny because in school I could never draw. My art teacher was always so disappointed" she laughs. "I never had the knack, so it's strange that I can decorate cakes and make them look really nice, but I don't have that artistic streak in me, as such," she adds modestly.
"I think it's all in the making. I'm quite old-fashioned, I don't just throw it all in a bowl and mix it up, I do it more step by step. I do my butter and sugar till it's really soft, then add my eggs and my flour and mix it, but not over-mix, just to incorporate the flour.
"That's how I do everything. Even though I'm doing these new things, I make them the old fashioned way."
The first bite, as they say, is with the eye, so the way her products look has to be appealing too.
"I like to be drawn in by how it looks. I can make a nice chocolate brownie, but it's got to look appealing too. I like to dress them nicely, make sure they bring people in and make people want to buy them.
Rebecca does cater for bespoke orders, which are mostly drip cakes, chocolate iced cakes or Victoria sponges. "I work it so if I have a quieter day I can take something like that on. I don't want to ever rush anything and it not be perfect, so I tend to take things on as and when I have the time for them," she says.
"Once, someone messaged me to see if I could make a 5ft tiered cake. I had to turn that down because it was about the same height as me!"
The interior of the bakery is simple, classic and cool. Grey units and walls were put in, brick effect wallpaper, and a pink LED light with the mantra, "Life is what you bake it".
"I love pink," admits Rebecca. "I'm a girly girl. I wanted to keep the shop clean-looking, but it had to have a few touches of pink to it too!"
There's a lot of support for this new businesswoman, which comes from family, friends and the local people and businesses in Stalham, which she can't praise highly enough.
"It's been absolutely amazing," she says. "When I opened in it was out of this world. I couldn't even put into words how I felt.
"I was overwhelmed by the response and how lovely the businesses have been on the high street. They supported me, and they still do now. They message to see how I'm getting on. They're fantastic, and the people of Stalham have been so lovely."
And while she has support from her mum, who helped her in getting set up and running, Rebecca knows that it's ultimately down to her to make the business a success.
"Mum's taken a bit of a back seat now I'm up and running. She'll come in and help with the baking if I need some help, but she wants me to learn as I go, as it's my venture.
"We both know that she's always behind me if i need any help or advice, but if I want to be a successful businesswoman, it's important to grow and learn as I go along."
After a stellar start, Rebecca's looking forward to 2022 and all its potential. "I'm really excited for a fresh and full new year, and to go through all the seasons," she says.
Scrumptious Home Bakes is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm and also offers teas, coffees, milkshakes and a small range of savouries.