Producer of the month: The Organic Cake Company
15 May 2017
Like all of us with limited stocks of will power, Helen Rich is susceptible to being talked into having that slice of cake she’s trying to refuse – but if it’s baked by these guys then there’ll be no convincing needed…
I have a precarious relationship with cake: as a 30 something I have to think of the 45 minutes I'll need to spend getting very hot and sweaty at the gym to restore some kind of balance after each slice. But, well, you know how it is: you’re out for a coffee with a mate, and they say, “Oh, sod it – just go for it,” so you start making tentative eyes at the chocolate fudge cake, and, hey presto, you’ve ordered it. It comes looking perfectly formed and deliciously guilt-inducing. Eagerly you dig in and – gah! It’s dry. It’s bland. Absolutely not worth it. Sigh, what a disappointment.
This kind of style over substance is something we’ve all experienced in food – the promise of so much and deliverance of so little – especially when it comes to cake. But – here comes the discovery moment – I’ve found the holy grail of cake. The team at The Organic Cake Company are connoisseurs of sweet bakes in Bath; the fruits of their labour are moist, packed full of flavour, and melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
It’s possible that you’d assume you haven’t tried The Organic Cake Company’s goods, but these guys are the unsung heroes of cake production in Bath, providing delicious treats to venues across the city: Society Café , Café Lucca , Colonna & Smalls , Chandos Deli , Green Rocket , The Foodie Bugle , Green Bird Café and Castle Farm Café, to name a few. They also trade at the Bath Artisan Market on the last Sunday of each month in Queen’s Square.
So what’s the story?
Jessica Langford-Snape turned her passion into a business after training at Le Cordon Bleu, London. Growing up in a foodie family (her talented aunt even reached the finals of MasterChef in 2014) with a hotel and catering business, Jess learnt her trade from her grandparents.
“We would bake on rainy days. The cakes never lasted long in our family between my two younger brothers and father who, to this day, claims he doesn’t eat desserts. But when cakes are left unsupervised, they miraculously disappear…”
For Jess’s family, cakes are the centre of every celebration and, as she grew, so too did her passion and creative flair for design – through the medium of baked goods. After a spell in London, learning the tricks of the trade, Jess turned a little hobby into a business.
On her journey she met head baker, Rachel Milsom who really is the flavour genius behind the cakes. Rachel trained in catering at Brunel Tech College, and had formal pastry training at Bath College. Rachel dreams about cake and is always coming into the bakery with new recipe ideas. Her attention to detail on each bake is, well, borderline obsessive.
With a grant from the Prince’s Trust in 2014, the bakery was opened in Timsbury, seven miles south of Bath. The business now employs five people and is rapidly growing. Next month the bakers are due to move to another unit on the farm that is double the size of the current bakery. Jess says that it has been an exciting, challenging journey to grow the business, but when you love what you do, your energy can seem limitless and it really doesn’t feel like work.
For Jess, running your own business means the freedom to stick to your own values. Yes, organic does mean more expensive, but you can absolutely taste the difference. It’s not just about the taste, though (believe it or not); organic produce has a whole range of benefits for the environment, for soil and for wildlife, too. There is also the concern that continuous consumption of hidden chemicals and pesticides may have longer-term health implications.
Another core value of the business is the use of ingredients that are fairly traded and locally sourced wherever possible: Yeo Valley for organic milk, The Good Egg Company for (what else?) eggs. Organic white flour comes from Shipton Mill, and spelt flour is from Sharpham Park.
The fundamental value of this business, though, has to be taste – which is why Jess and her team are always developing new recipes, which are developed and tested over time to create the perfect crumb and flavour combinations.
You often don’t see this unsung cake hero, but Jess does pop up occasionally – you’ll be able to find her at the new and very exciting artisan market on Abbey Green on Sunday 21 May (10-4pm).
You can find these cakes at stockists all over Bath, and you can also order through Taste of Bath . The Organic Cake Company offers a bespoke cake service too, perfect for celebrations, no?
Helen Rich is founder of local produce supplier, Taste of Bath