A FORMER school dinner lady has discovered a sure-fire recipe for success.
In just two years Allison Whitmarsh’s home-made cake business has gone from a table top enterprise to a company employing eight staff and baking 1,000s of cakes for sale around the region.
ProperMaid now supplies upmarket cafes, bistros, garden centres and art galleries as far afield as Manchester and Harrogate with speciality cakes.
The business is so successful that it has outgrown its present premises in an old carpet shop along the road from Allison’s home in Carr Street, Marsh.
She is now looking round for a bigger building to convert into a bakery.
Four years ago, mother-of-two Allison decided that life begins at 40. So she gave up her dinner lady job, having spent many years at Reinwood Junior and Infant Schools, and signed up for a hospitality management course at Huddersfield University.
She is a passionate baker and her original intention was to become a cookery teacher.
For one of the course modules students had to create a hypothetical business. So Allison invented ProperMaid, a cake-baking enterprise.
She said: “I did some research and as I went on I realised that I could have a genuine business here.
“People wanted a good quality traditional home-made cake with locally sourced ingredients. Nobody was producing one.
But Allison still had no idea how to set up a business. The turning point came when Huddersfield University steered her towards a three-day “boot camp” for entrepreneurs held near York.
Filled with enthusiasm and new-found knowledge, she returned home, baked some cakes and set up stall at her first Farmers’ Market in Huddersfield five days later.
Since then she has never looked back.
The university’s Business Mine, which helps budding entrepreneurs, gave her start-up cash of £1,800.
This enabled Allison to buy all of the equipment and utensils needed. And she started baking at her kitchen table in Marsh.
Her company has a rising reputation for creating traditional home-made cakes with a modern twist. She and her staff now bake 300 cakes a week.
Some of her best selling cakes are cappuccino and walnut, courgette and lime, moist carrot, chocolate chilli and fudge and Victoria vanilla sponge with raspberry and rose jam. The newly-launched chocolate orange cake is proving popular too.
For Huddersfield residents with a sweet tooth, Allison and her team have created the unique dandelion and burdock cake. This won the best bakery product in the deliciouslyorkshire awards.
She recruited most of her staff while chatting to other mums at Reinwood School. She has also recently taken on apprentice Sadie McDee, 16, who was at Salendine Nook High School with her son Callum.
Allison is now searching for larger premises in the Marsh and Lindley area, so that all her staff can walk to work.
Here's Allison's recipe for Lemon and Poppy Seed cake
For the sandwich:
150 grams of vegetable margarine or butter
150 grams of caster sugar
150 grams of self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoonful of baking powder
3 large eggs.
24 grams of poppy seed
zest of one lemon
Cream the flour, sugar, margarine and baking powder together until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs slowly and finally the poppy seeds and lemon zest.
Place in two 7” greased and lined cake tins and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.
For the filling:
80 grams of icing sugar
20 grams of lemon curd
20 grams of margarine or butter
Cream together and spread on bottom sandwich when cool. Spread a further 75 grams of lemon curd on top of the filling.
Sandwich the cake together.
Take another 50 grams of icing sugar and mix with boiling water to create a dropping consistency. Spread this on top of the cake.
Finally, sprinkle with caster sugar and lemon zest as required.