Lady Bakewell rises to the occasion
PUBLISHED: 12:56 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:56 20 January 2015
Tessa Allingham meets the entrepreneurial baker, Becky Sebright-King
As Ed Miliband might attest, attempting to eat a bacon sandwich while in the company of a journalist might not be the wisest thing to do.
Lady Bakewell-Park, insouciantly hungry in the last weeks of pregnancy, shrugs off such inhibitions and chows down on a BLT, albeit in the most ladylike way possible.
In between mouthfuls (we’re in the delightful Ipswich coffee shop, Baker and Barista and the mouthfuls are good) we talk babies and birth, the joys of east London and those of Suffolk, the ups and downs of working from home, the air-punching joy at making it through a first trading year, the power of social media to build business – and cake in all its glorious incarnations.
Lady B is a self-taught baking fiend. Her youthful business, which turned one in October, supplies to order handmade baked goodies from mini cupcakes to full-on tiered wedding cakes for customers from Scotland to Cornwall and most counties in between. She works alone, baking in her domestic kitchen in Wix near Manningtree. “I’ll often spend 12 hours in the kitchen. I didn’t realise how time consuming the packaging thing is, or how much admin there is in running a business even this size – but I absolutely love what I do, and I’m so excited to have survived the first year!”
A typical working day might see Lady B – or Becky Sebright-King now that a BLT has put us on familiar terms – run up a batch of scones, a tray or two of her signature mini bakewell tarts, probably two or three regular sized bakewells, scores of cupcakes and probably hundreds of personalised iced biscuits – they’re fast becoming popular wedding favours or hen party gifts, she says.
“I drop my husband at Manningtree station at about 7.30am. I bake till about 3, then do admin and pack up orders till my husband gets home in the evening. Quite often I’ll bake for three days without seeing anyone!” She bakes using recipes gathered over the years, but has a particular fondness for classic Delia and loves Australian baker Dan Lepard’s book, Short and Sweet.
Does she nibble on what she’s baking? For someone surrounded by butter, flour, sugar, eggs (free range, delivered by Hoxne-based Havensfield Eggs) and all manner of sweet toppings and fillings, glazes and ices, it’s extraordinary that, bar her eight-month baby bump, she is so trim.
“I can forget to eat I’m so busy. I snack on cereal! Also, I’m always on my feet. If I sit down I won’t get up again.”
What is now a Princes Trust-accredited business all started with a blog.
“I’ve always loved baking – I learnt with my mum – and while we were living in London my boyfriend challenged me to bake something new every week for a year and blog about it. He said if I don’t do it now I never will, which was right, but a few weeks later he proposed, so what started as a baking blog became a wedding planning blog too!”
Married, Becky left her job in a design agency and built up baking know-how by working in various commercial kitchens before leaving London with her husband for her home county – she was brought up in Wherstead. And there, Lady Bakewell-Park was born.
“The Bakewell bit is because that’s my favourite bake, the Park refers to the lovely Victoria Park in east London close to where we used to live, and the Lady is because I’m a lady I suppose!”
She has no investors, but insists that the business is not just a hobby.
“This is my job and I’m ambitious,” she says. “I’m already running out of space in the kitchen so I need to decide whether to move to an outside kitchen. I’d love to open a coffee and cake shop in Manningtree, and I’d love to design a kitchenware range, and possibly do something for TV.”
That’s all a five-year-or-so plan. More pressing, of course, is motherhood.
“My parents have always run their own business. I grew up in a working environment and I’ve seen that it can work and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I feel I’m on the edge of something wonderful and, as I said [a bit tearfully, she admits] at a recent presentation, Lady B might be my first baby, but I’m doing this for my first real baby.”