Queenies Cupcakery of Coalbrookdale, Shropshire
PUBLISHED: 16:07 22 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:44 28 February 2013
Baking a batch of 2,000 cupcakes in a home kitchen in time for Ludlow Food Festival proved to Claire and Kaye Shaw that their business was rising to the occasion. Now they've opened their own bakery
Cupcakes have been experiencing something of a renaissance. Customers are hungry for these bite-sized retro treats for all manner of occasions, their re-emergence coinciding with the revival in traditional tea parties.
In the recent economic downturn, cupcakes represented an affordable little luxury and theres no denying there is something undeniably sophisticated and chic about these bijou, baked beauties. But its not just the ladies who love them.
What bowls me over is how much men love our cupcakes. They are very feminine and glittery yet at every wedding meeting weve done its the men who have asked for the glitter, which really makes me smile, says Claire Shaw of Shropshire-based Queenies Cupcakery.
The 35-year-old, and her niece, Kaye, 25, launched the business last year, jumping on the resurgence in popularity of the dainty delicacies, while combining their shared passion for all things vintage.
Beginning life in Claires home kitchen in Telford, they now bake their cupcakes fresh each morning at their bakery at Merrythought Village, Coalbrookdale.
What began as a conversation around the Sunday lunch table last July, soon spiralled into a fledgling business.
It was a complete life change for me, explains Claire, who was an assistant manager for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit for Devon and Cornwall probation service, before relocating back to Telford with her three-year-old daughter, Harriet, to be near family. Kaye had worked for a business in Sheffield making cupcakes for a year and seen what a big storm they were making up there. We couldnt find any other providers in this area so decided to give it a whirl.
They tested the waters at the Bridgnorth Food Festival at the end of August where they sold hundreds of cakes and from then on there was little time to think of much other than baking.
Id always loved cooking and baking but ironically my father always said I couldnt make cakes; my pastry was fantastic but my sponge was really heavy. Wed played around with a lot of recipes and adapted them to make them as organic as we could, only using organic and locally sourced produce and did lots of tasting sessions with family and friends. Now my father cant get enough of my cupcakes, so he had to eat his words, laughs Claire.
Because there are two of us it works out really well and we can balance the work and the baking, adds Kaye, who still lives in Sheffield, spending three to four days a week in Shropshire. It has grown so quickly. It feels like we have been doing it forever but its still in months really.
Life is certainly a lot easier since they moved into their unit at Merrythought, with Claire recounting the experience of having to bake 2,000 cupcakes for the Ludlow Food Festival in her domestic oven at home. We were baking for 18 hours a day. I cant believe we did it now. We never thought we would have a unit so soon, one minute we were icing cakes and the next painting walls. Weve had to turn our hands to all sorts of things including laying flooring, but its been fun.
Making each element of the cakes, including the decorations, by hand, it is a labour intensive process but the creative aspect is the part they both relish. Kaye has for years made her own vintage handbags and clothing, while I make homeware items like cushions, so the cupcakes were a way of running a creative business without a huge initial outlay, explains Claire.
There have been occasions where we were have both been cleaning the floor at 5 oclock in the morning or baking cupcakes into the early hours and said what are we doing, we are both trained professionals why are we doing this? But it is very enjoyable and not once has it felt like work.
We are both perfectionists and we make the cupcakes and put them in the box and tie them up with ribbon and theres a great satisfaction with having made them from beginning to end.
Claire and Kaye are enjoying bringing back: The good old days when the ladies baked and it was all very feminine with china teacups and dainty cake stands.
As well as organising vintage tea parties, they sell and hire out items for events, scouring local charity shops and vintage fairs for stock.
So would their businesses namesake approve? The name fits with our ethos of going back to something traditional and British, concludes Claire.
I am a real royalist and when I was little I used to write a letter to HRH The Queen every day, although I dont think my mum ever posted them. And Im sure Prince Charles would like our cupcakes as they are organic and sourced locally...
Queenies Cupcakery, Merrythought Village, Dale End, Coalbrookdale, Telford
Tel: 01952 590046 / mob: 07809 423086 www.queeniescupcakery.co.uk
Claire and Kaye cooked up this Easter recipe for Shropshire Life
Queenies Chocolate Simnel Cakes
100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon mixed spice
50g ground almonds
100g dried fruit and peel (optional)
120ml whole milk
Almond paste or marzipan (home-made orshop bought)
For the frosting
125g good quality cream cheese
300g icing sugar
50g good quality cocoa
Marzipan shaped into eggs (in pastelcolours if desired) or chocolate eggs to decorate
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat. Slowly add the flour and baking powder, then add the milk taking care not to over mix. Stir in the ground almonds, then the dried fruit (dust with flour before hand).
Spoon the finished mixture into cases (approximately half full) placed in a baking tin. Put a small, sausage-shaped piece of marzipan into the centre of each cake prior to cooking. Bake in the top of the oven for approx 14 minutes or until you get a good bounce back when lightly pressed. Leave to cool on a rack.
For the topping
Mix together the butter and cream cheese, add the icing sugar and cocoa (adding more for desired taste and texture).
Once mixed, pipe around the outer edge of each cake making a nest in which to place the little eggs.
Serve on a beautiful cake stand or plate, not forgetting the doily, and with a well deserved cup of tea.