THE RISE OF THE GLUTEN-FREE CAKE
Most people by now have heard of gluten. Or, at least, the freefrom aisle in the supermarket. It’s definitely made things a lot easier than ten years ago.
What was it like at the turn of the 21st century? Hmmm. Music-wise, great. TV-wise, brilliant. Diet-wise? Not spectacular. At least, not if you were a Coeliac.
I’ve had Coeliac Disease for over 15 years. It’s meant a significant lifestyle change and not just because I have to be careful when I eat. After all, if I could eat gluten then I wouldn’t have a business.
The Bristol Bakehouse was born because there wasn’t enough fresh delicious gluten-free cake around. Actually, there wasn’t enough freefrom cake full stop. And if you know me well, you’ll realise cake’s an important part of my life. In fact, if I were to draw an identity chart, it would feature in a big way.
I always made cakes. When I was eight years old I made a heart-shaped cake and iced it in the tin, ready for Mothering Sunday. Sadly, I didn’t know about cake testing and the inside was raw. But you live and learn (to eat the outside of a cake).
When I got older, I’d make really weird cakes, like armchairs and cat food tins. Mercifully, they didn’t actually contain inedibles (like sofa stuffing or meat) and they got fantastic reactions from their recipients. When I did a Snakes & Ladders board for my grandfather’s 90th, someone suggested I start my own business.
Of course, I just thought they were being nice, and I was far too young to know anything about doing business, so I brushed the idea aside.
Two years later, Coeliac Disease struck. To begin with, it was infrequent, but after a while the pain got worse and worse. It took 3 years, multiple trips to Casualty and a needless hospital operation before a doctor finally diagnosed me (aka the start of something wonderful…….my life back!).
It wasn’t long before I was back to my old self. Except that my old self no longer existed. New self had a diet to deal with, and new self kept finding obstacles, like ‘what to eat at lunch’. New self ended up doing a lot of research since no-one else seemed to know much (or if they did, they weren’t letting on).
But it wasn’t all tough. Before I knew it, I’d lost weight. Me! The one who was always on failed diets. And I was a size 10. The joy!
Of course, once you’ve paraded your new figure around town once or twice, the sensible thing is to get back to cake, and boy, did I get back to cake.
No, I didn’t become a tubster! I just learned how to make a decent cake again, and it took years.
In my defence, the gluten-free flours back then were awful. One brand was actually grey. It was no wonder cakes tasted, well, rubbish.
And then demand grew and the freefrom flours got better and before I knew it, I was making my first wedding cake. Did anyone notice it was gluten-free? I don’t think so. Someone mentioned to me it was “rather boozy”, which was a slight understatement as I’d been feeding it week after week with an entire bottle of brandy. (Ahem, it wouldn’t surprise me if the more inebriated guests had had a couple of slices.)
It still took another 18 months for me to start the business, though, and that’s another story…
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