History in the Baking
by Karen Shaw
Buns and cakes and all things sweet, Lauren and Rachel Finch have it smothered in sugar and chocolate and enough sweet stuff to give Wonka a run for his money, and now they’ve put it all in a book.
I’ve just finished flicking (apologies, licking) through the pages of Finch Bakery. Launched in August, the book erupts with eye-popping, sugar-glopping loveliness – think Willy Wonka meets Mad Hatter… it’s the new baking bible for those for who like to have their cake and eat it. Packed with 75 fool proof recipes from cupcakes to scones and cookies to cake balls, it’s essential for any cake enthusiast or enthusiastic cake eater.
The two lovely ladies behind this venture are twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch who, since launching their baking empire nine years ago from their parents’ kitchen table are renowned for their showstopper cakes and bakes, amassing 152,000 followers on Instagram and 79,000 on Facebook. Their shop, The Finch Bakery, is a small, fun-loving cake shop in Great Harwood, Lancashire where they create cakes for sale in store and online. After attempting their first bake aged 21, the name Finch Bakery was “just a bit of a joke” admits Lauren, “although sometimes people come into the shop and ask for sandwiches, so on second thoughts we should have called it Finch Cakery!”
Lauren has a degree in Marketing Management and Rachel, one in English Language and Journalism, after university they both veered off into various office jobs, and after returning from travelling around Thailand and Australia began baking as a hobby, from their parent’s kitchen table…
“It was never in our heart and soul at the beginning,” says Rachel, “we never had any expectations and I think that’s why we’ve succeeded. We’re not trained, we’re self-taught, we’ve never been on a baking course, we’ve just followed You-Tube videos. I think if people try too hard it can put too much pressure on and it can often go the wrong way. We just thought: we like baking cakes, let’s just go for it!”
As a seventies’ child, Mr Kipling’s boxed delights such as Battenburg Cake and Angel Slices were treats for any special occasion. I wondered if the Finch sisters ‘French fancied’ joining Mr Kipling on the supermarket shelves. “We really don’t want to go down that route. I’ve seen enough episodes off Dragon’s Den, to know they just massively undercut you. We want to stay an independent business,” says Lauren.
The lasses transition from baking to books was one they hadn’t previously ever considered. “We were approached by a publisher, the talent acquisition manager had been sent our brownies by her sister, she followed us on Instagram and thought our recipes would make a great book and it went from there,” says Lauren, “It’s written for the hobby baker rather than the professional baker, we wanted it to be relatively simple.”
With such a massive online following, a baking range, a shop and a book, I wondered what future plans they may have the on the simmer. Would they every consider franchising?
“No,” is Lauren’s immediate response, “we’d never consider it, we like to be in control of things. We’re more interested in opening more shops in the north, ideally somewhere like Manchester or Preston, maybe next year. We’ve done everything business-wise very slowly; we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.
“We were closed for 10 weeks during lockdown,” says Rachel, “when we returned, the bakery doors were still closed to the public and we were losing revenue by not having the shop open.”
Prior to lockdown, queues of sweet-toothed customers could regularly be seen lining up for their best-selling cakes and bakes. But the pandemic put pay to that. However, this dynamic duo turned the heat up on their online home delivery service. “At the time we were just making double chocolate chip brownies and maybe a couple more flavours, which meant we had extra time to create and launch new products,” says Lauren, and “we were selling out of thousands upon thousands of brownie trays, cupcakes and cake jars every day within minutes of release!”
The summer of 2020 saw more people than ever roll up their sleeves and reach for a rolling pin, the nation was practically gagging on the surplus of banana bread. The sisters online following of budding bakers gave them a five-fold increase in sales on their home baking accessories range. So, if you feel inspired to bake or prefer to have a cheeky ‘cakeaway’ Lauren and Rachel have all angles covered.
It’s been one heck of a year for Lauren and Rachel, they’ve certainly been busy in the kitchen and by the looks of it, in the bedroom as well! “Lauren is five weeks behind me, she basically got jealous,” laughs Rachel, who’s also mum to three month old Alba, and Lauren, mum to almost two year old Kit, but we did want to have our second child close together.
“Here I am at 28 weeks pregnant working harder than ever, when I should be slowing down! Laughs Lauren, “how has this happened?”
“We’ve obviously both got very understanding partners,” answers Rachel (Lauren tells her to stop rolling her eyes!)
It’s certainly a family affair at Finch’s, not only do the two sisters work alongside each other they also have their brother and parents Leanne & Stuart who prove to be a valuable support, along with their team of 40 local staff. The company’s ethos is to ‘change the perspective of young people in local business.’ “We have all ages, some of our employees have a lot of experience, where others have very little or none at all. We train them up, and in turn they all contribute to new ideas.”
Although both girls have a ‘bun in the oven’, it surprises me that neither of them have ‘muffin tops’ especially when surrounded by sweet treats. “It’s everything in moderation,” says Rachel, “we’re the taste testers as well, we used to binge on it, but now we’ll just have a couple of cubes of brownies a day, but we are on our feet 12 hours a day!”
Now, I love a good muffin, and wondered what flavours they had. “We don’t bake muffins,” replies Lauren, “although you’ve got us thinking, maybe it’s something we’ll introduce…”
The phone goes quiet when I suggest if they’d consider serving Christmas cake with Wensleydale cheese.
“What? Together?” they squeal.
(For the benefit of Lancastrians unfamiliar with this Yorkshire custom, it’s a perfect marriage… a slice of Christmas cake accompanied with a chunk of Wensleydale cheese).
“It’s traditional Yorkshire yuletide fare,” I answer in a defensive tone.
“Er no, that sounds wrong,” they reply in unison.
Ok, we may not agree on everything, but one thing’s for sure these Lancashire lasses are dough joke… trust me – you ain’t seen muffin yet!
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