Brighton’s Mr Bake
Laura Cartledge discovers Brighton’s Mr Bake is not only cooking up a storm, it’s proof bigger is better.
Despite only launching earlier this year Brighton based Mr Bake has already made headlines.
From cooking for One Direction to kick-starting their own ‘CroDough’ craze, owners Ed Hallifax and Tommy Gwatkin are not just proof that cakes are big business they are taking the artform to tasty new heights.
“Ed is six foot two and has massive hands, which means fondant doesn’t work,” explains Tommy, “so we make big, brash bold cakes which are pretty in their own way.
“Ed’s been baking his whole life, him and I are partners, and earlier this year he asked if I could make his dreams of being a baker a reality – I said challenge accepted.”
This was the start of a whirlwind which shows no signs of slowing.
“We love being challenged,” Tommy agrees. “Friends and family will say ‘we want this’ and that is how our business has developed.”
Balancing American inspiration, both in flavour and in scale, with their Sussex audience is another tricky task.
“Often we are asked for a smaller slice and I say no,” smiles Tommy. “I think we will reach the stage soon where we do have to worry about people’s waistlines. We are not saying that people should have one of our cakes every day but when you want to treat yourself we want you to properly treat yourself.”
This is clear in Mr Bakes’ CroDough creation – a unique take on the Cronut, a combination of croissant and doughnut which has taken the states by storm – which has people coming from far and wide for a taste.
So how did it come about?
“We both still have full time jobs and Ed works in London,” replies Tommy. “One of his work friends challenged him to make one.
“It has been mad,” he adds. “We launched with Bagelman in Brighton at the end of September and they sell out in the morning. We never thought it would take off to the extreme it has.
“While Brighton does love its food it likes the ethos which goes with it – being healthy. And deep friend pastry doesn’t fit with that,” he laughs. “We have had people from Portsmouth and Eastbourne travelling to try them which is amazing.
“When I first tried them I wanted them every breakfast,” admits Tommy. “Since then we have developed the dough and flavour so it is now completely our own. Some people just roll them in sugar; we roll them in lemon sugar and coat them with a glaze.
They are lighter and taste more like a croissant than a donut.”
And the experimenting hasn’t stopped there with custard filled varieties and a toffee apple crumble creation also a tempting offering.
“We are trying to keep up,” Tommy says modestly. “It is worth giving it a go, there is always someone who will eat it even if it goes wrong – namely our parents. ‘Abuse by cake’ is how they explain it.
“Ed doesn’t have a sweet tooth, he just loves baking. He’ll have a nibble to check it but he is savoury all the way.”
Tommy believes that baking is “all about the testimonials” and while word of mouth has certainly served Mr Bake well
there is one in particular which stands out.
“To be able to say Harry Styles described our cake as ‘sick’ is quite something,” agrees Tommy. “Sick means good, I have checked.
“The lady who designed our logo works for Radio One,” he explains. “When they called, on the Friday, they wouldn’t tell us who it was for so we expected it would be for someone famous.
“Then on Monday they called to say it was for One Direction, they wanted it red and black and with fans’ Twitter names iced on top. We had to deliver it on Tuesday, so we were up until 1am. It was very surreal.”
The madness didn’t end there however with news of the cake staying in the list of most discussed things in the world on the social media site for two days.
“We were sat there watching all the crazy fans talking about it,” Tommy recalls.
Are there any other big names the pair would like to bake for?
“I think Ed would say Ellie Goulding,” answers Tommy, “Paul and Mary [judges on the Great British Bake Off] is the obvious answer but they have already eaten Ed’s cakes.
“He’s got quite far on the Great British Bake Off [he was a stand-in contestant]. He even had to practise for all of the challenges in case anyone dropped out.”
It seems the pair were always destined to make it big.
“The hope is for us to be able to take the baking full time and doing it ourselves will be a really nice reward,” Tommy agrees. “Keep fattening up Sussex, for now, is our plan.”
To get a flavour of Mr Bake at home, try this recipe..
The Zesty Choc-a-geddon
Ed says: “This rich chocolate cake is cut with zesty orange and balanced out with a Baileys frosting creating a real showstopper. It might be decadent but the festive season is all about that right? Well, that’s our excuse anyway. If the Baileys isn’t to your taste you can happily replace it for whole milk.”
For the cake:
405g plain flour
315g Crème fraîche
293g soft unsalted butter (plus a little extra
518g soft light brown sugar
90g coco powder
23g baking powder
1tsp of vanilla essence
2 pinches of salt
Zest of 1 orange
For the frosting:
350g soft unsalted butted
750g icing sugar
75g dark chocolate, melted.
3 tbsps Baileys (or to taste)
1. Preheat your oven to 180c / 160fan and grease and baseline three nine-inch pans.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together (coco, baking powder, salt, flour) and leave to one side.
3. Use an electric whisk to cream the butter and sugar together until really light and fluffy – almost like a mousse. Once at this stage add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla essence, mixing well after each addition. If the mix looks like it may be splitting slightly, add a pinch of flour to bring it back together.
4. With your electric whisk running on low speed add the dry ingredients and crème fraîche in alternating parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Add the grated orange.
5. Split the mix between the tins, bake in the centre of your oven for around 30 minutes (ovens do vary, so give it a look after 20 minutes). The cakes are done when they spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
6. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out on to a cooling rack, peel off the paper and leave to totally cool down.
For the frosting
1. Add the soft butter to your mixer with the icing sugar. Blitz until fully combined. (Top tip: To stop your icing sugar flying all over your kitchen, cover with a clean tea cloth until its been mixed into the butter).
2. Melt the chocolate, either in a bain marie or in 20 second increments in the microwave, stir and allow to cool.
3. With the mixer running on slow, add the melted chocolate slowly down the side of the bowl. It’ll mix in and make the frosting really creamy and light. Next add the Baileys in the same manner. Turn up to medium speed and continue to mix until the frosting is really light and the icing sugar has worked its way into the butter – around five minutes.
1. Place a layer of cake on your serving plate. Dollop a big heap of frosting on top and spread around using a pallet knife until level – repeat with the second and third layers.
2. To finish heap the frosting on top of the cake, spread around as you see fit and then crumble your favourite chocolate bar on the top. We went for a caramel bar.
To find out more about Mr Bake, and where to get the cakes from, visit www.mrbake.co.uk
December 10, 2013 Food and Drink