Looking for something different to send as a gift, Charlotte Harding finds out more about a Battle business.
When asking Alice Jeakins of Bee and Bear Bakery where she got her Christmas pudding recipe from, you may be surprised that her answer starts with ‘when I was on jury service’.
“It was about five years ago,” explains Alice.
“I was sent home but I had been signed off work for two weeks. It was October and I thought ‘what can I do?’.
“I found a Christmas pudding recipe in a food magazine and then over the years I have added and taken things away from it to create my own version.”
Through Bee and Bear Bakery Alice bakes and posts out brownies, muffins and, in the lead up to the festive season, Christmas puddings from her home.
She set the business up in May 2016 after having her children.
“I didn’t want to do the commute to London anymore,” she reveals.
“I was never seeing my children awake and I wanted to do something for myself.
“I always liked cooking and food so when I had my first child I made muffins and sold them at markets but when I had two it became more difficult to keep them entertained.”
Alice remembered receiving a box of baked goods in the post from a friend and looked into how she could do it herself.
Since the launch she says that the muffins have become less popular but the brownies have really taken off with people preferring the chocolatey treat with 95 per cent of what she sends out being brownies.
Flavours include cherry and almond, and ginger and Alice tries to add to the list as often as she can.
“My kids try them but I can’t always trust their palate as they just say that is nice,” she laughs.
“So a lot of the mums at school get brownies left on their children’s coat pegs asking for their honest opinion.
“I love the raspberry and dark chocolate ones as our wedding cake was chocolate with raspberries and a raspberry coulis so I have always liked that flavour combination.
“People like strawberries and cream which was just meant for the summer, the chocolate orange, rose and pistachio but with customers it changes all the time.
“I like to use natural flavourings and if I have to buy a flavour like for my champagne ones I make sure they are as natural as possible.”
One of the most popular brownies are the lactation ones, which are ideal for breastfeeding mothers.
“It has brewer’s yeast and flaxmeal in and are topped with dark chocolate, toasted almonds and toasted sesame seeds which all help with milk production,” she explains.
“People buy them as gifts or for themselves I get a lot of repeat customers with those ones.
“I just wish I knew about them when I was breastfeeding.”
Many of the brownies that Alice makes are dairy and gluten free and there are plans to launch a vegan variety as well.
“Brownies are easier to adapt into gluten free and vegan,” she reveals.
“With cupcakes and muffins the taste and consistency is effected I think when they are gluten free but I don’t think it is the same with the brownies.”
With three children aged five, three and one Alice wakes up at 5am to start work for a couple of hours, revealing that she is more productive in the morning.
“I can’t do anything really after 8.30pm,” she smiles.
And it was her children that were the inspiration for the name.
“Bee after my eldest and my middle one we nicknamed bear,” she begins.
“So I registered the company on the Monday and then found out I was pregnant with my third on the Wednesday but it was too late to change the name of the company then.”
To post the cakes Alice uses Royal Mail and if the cakes are ordered before 5am she can usually get them out pretty quickly that day.
As well as the gifting side of the business she also bakes for corporate orders.
“I had a huge order last Christmas for a bank in London,” reveals Alice.
“The CEO ordered 600 chocolate brownies and 240 muffins to say thank you to his staff. I worked through the night and then drove them to their offices in Knightsbridge to deliver them the next day. Most corporate orders are smaller than that though.
“I also do parties. I’ve done brownie platters for a few parties recently. I also did a pink themed 21st birthday platter in the summer - the client wanted half rose and pistachio and half pink shimmer.”
While flowers are always a welcome gift sometimes you can beat a delicious brownie in the post.
To see the full range visit beeandbearbakery.co.uk