People often ask why gluten-free cakes cost so much. Or why a simple victoria sponge is "overpriced". And I can see their point: it's just butter, eggs, flour and sugar, isn't it?
And yet there's so-o-o-o much more to a cake than that, so I thought I'd better explain. (N.B. This should be especially useful to anyone who's wondering whether they should set up their own freefrom cake business. It's always handy to know what you're really in for!)
Firstly, if you're going to bake gluten-free, you're going to need a gluten-free kitchen so there's no possibility of cross-contamination. You're also going to have to buy from suppliers who provide a gluten-free environment. This may mean paying a little bit more for things, even if they're naturally gluten-free. I've lost count of the number of times I've not been able to buy something because it has a "may contain gluten" label thanks to the manufacturing methods.
Then there's the gluten-free flour itself. A kilogram of 'normal' flour is about 80p. Gluten-free flour is about £1.75. That's nearly a pound more expensive. It doesn't take a genius to work out that the pounds soon add up.
Then there's the time and effort in sourcing all these things. You can't just nip to your local shop and expect every single thing you need to be gluten-free. Those cake decorations? You need to check they don't have wheat starch. I've even seen jam with a "contains wheat" label. So going further afield takes time, petrol and knowledge. All these costs have to be managed.
And this is before we've even baked anything! Even if you don't own a shop, the cost of electricity, gas, water and so on has to be accounted for. So does insurance. Working from home with business insurance to the tune of £5million for product & public liability ain't cheap, let me tell you, especially if you have employees.
Then there's training. That food hygiene certificate takes time for a start. So do the very strict criteria (quite rightly) set by the council to ensure you don't poison anyone. Think I'm over-reacting? Remember all those high profile media cases about people who were told x wasn't in their y and then it was and they died? It's imperative if you provide gluten-free food that you know your food is absolutely, definitely, gluten-free. This takes clear and thorough planning and that time costs money.
Now let's look at the actual time of making a cake. All cakes at The Bakehouse are made from scratch. That includes buttercreams, jams, frostings, ganache and little sugar toppers. Even the simplest cake can take about 3 hours. And those 3 hours have to be paid for. Even if I paid an employee the minimum wage (which I don't - I pay more) then the 3 hours alone would cost over £25. Add on the ingredients, insurance, website costs and fuel for delivery and there's your cake cost.
So if anyone ever asks you why something costs £50 because they could make it themselves for a tenner, just ask them if they have insurance, want to work for nothing, have someone else to pay their rent and are highly skilled in cake decorating.
When it comes to my business, I'm hugely proud of what I've built. It's a place my customers can trust to provide the highest standard of gluten-free cake that tastes and looks amazing. But please don't ask for the world for a fiver. I'd like to be able to feed my kids.
Do you have a job everyone thinks should be paid less? Do share your experience below!