“Sinful Delight”! Such an unfortunate term used to describe every delectable piece of sugary pleasure ever palated by humankind!
What if I were to tell a different story, one that swept away most of your guilts and grievances? And, most importantly, what if the tale wasn’t a work of fiction?
I savoured an opportunity to interview Devana Zsofia and Ely Pendragon– joint owners of “Sweet Tooth“, a hidden gem located in Buxton, a serene town embracing the peak of Derbyshire.
This cosy bakery is every fitness freak and dietarily-restricted, dessert lover’s paradise!
Here is a sneak-peek into the operational insights of the market town’s latest buzz! Don’t forget to visit!
1) How and when did it all start and what was the vision behind it?
In summer 2020, we tried a vegan, Victoria Sponge Cake from a local café. Besides the cake being delicious, we were also just happy that there was a vegan option available for us. We discussed at the time how it would be great if we could bake our own cakes because there are always very few cake options for us in the local supermarkets and cafes that cater for both vegan and gluten free. Although we discussed the idea of us baking our own, it wasn’t until February, 2021 that we finally invested in a cake mixer and some baking equipment to give our first vegan and gluten free Victoria Sponge Cake a try.
After many trials and errors, we finally managed to perfect our cake recipe that gave us a fluffy, soft sponge that you would never know was vegan or gluten free! Feeling excited at our personal success, we then made many more cakes that we shared with friends and family who commented that they were really tasty, with no compromise on taste or texture and were good enough to sell.
One evening, Devana said ‘Lets just do it, and see how it goes’. So a Facebook page was set up, posting all the photos of our lovely cakes we had made. We began by offering free samples to people in exchange for feedback. With consistent positive reviews, we realised we were actually rather good at what we were doing and so our commitment to Sweet Tooth began from there with full investment to make it a home-baking business.
2) What impact did the pandemic have on operations?
The business was actually born from being in the midst of the pandemic, having the extra time at home that we had to fill, so we utilised some of that time by baking. The last few months gave us the opportunity to experiment with baking, exploring the business idea and bringing it into fruition. One thing we do know is that, despite being in a pandemic period, everyone still loves cake and wants cake!
3) When a therapist and an artist join hands to start a cosy home-bakery, I expect the experience to be nothing short of spiritual. How has the journey helped you grow individually and as a couple?
The experience I would describe more so as being creative. We are both very creative people and we each use that creativity within our own individual areas of work. However, baking together has given us both the opportunity to use that creativity in a joint process. We have discovered that we work exceptionally well together and have a very harmonious flow between us, with each and every cake and bake that we do! From start to finish, it’s all simply easy and enjoyable!
We have both grown as individuals throughout this baking journey as we have learnt so many new skills along the way, whilst also challenging ourselves to try more adventurous cakes and recipes. We continue to surprise ourselves with what we can do!
4) Tell us about your first baking experience and when did you fall in love with it?
As a young boy, Ely loved baking with his grandma and getting to indulge in lots of chocolate cake! She showed him how to bake and cook and he has continued to use those skills ever since. He enjoys the practical and creative aspect of baking. Devana, on the other hand, remembers baking as a young girl as most children often do when helping the grown ups, yet has always preferred cooking to baking. That recently changed when her inspiration to start baking came about from feeling disappointed with not being able to enjoy cake like she used to, before she became vegan and gluten free. We both take great pleasure in the creative processes involved in our cake baking, from exploring an idea to the successful finished cake!
5) Why vegan and gluten-free?
We are both vegan and gluten free individuals, so naturally anything we make would reflect our own values and ethics. We actually discovered upon launching our business that there was a much larger number of people, just in our small town alone, that had a vegan and/or gluten free diet for reasons of either health, environmental factors, ethical or animal rights. Most of our customer base comprises those with dietary restrictions due to being coeliac or having dairy intolerance. We can cater for all of those without having a cross contamination risk. So our customers feel very safe with us.
6) What sets “Sweet Tooth” apart from other home-bakeries or even commercial ones?
Most other home bakers or commercial ones tend to offer just a couple of options for vegan or gluten free, if offering any option at all. We very rarely find something that is BOTH vegan and gluten free, so often have to go without if we choose to eat out somewhere. Sweet Tooth has taken care of this issue for those who have this requirement in our local community and for local cafes to always be able to have something on their menu that is suitable.
What makes us stand out from others, is our ethics that we honour which allow the gluten free and vegan community to feel reassured by us and our practices. We are also often complimented by our customers for us both being a quirky unique couple, with our attitudes and personalities shining through in what we do!
7) What are some of your specialities or best-sellers?
Our “Coffee Cake” seems to be a really popular one amongst our customers! We also do our very own “Chocolate-Deluxe”, which is real chocolate indulgence. We try to make cakes that you don’t see much elsewhere, so our cherry and marzipan cake is frequently asked for. We also do a Sweet Tooth special called a “Scarlet Rose Cake”. It’s a sweet vanilla and subtle chocolate red coloured cake, decorated with pink and white roses. Our customers always compliment us on how decorative our cakes look and often they buy them on the visual aspect alone. Its even better when they say they taste just as great as they look!
8) Describe your best baking experience…
Our best baking experience, yet, has to be one of our customers requesting for us to make a Lego themed birthday cake for her grandson, who is vegan! Neither of us had any experience of doing fondant type cakes and it meant a new challenge for us both. It was a little daunting however we felt we were at a point of needing to level up on our skills, since we were starting to get enquiries and requests for wedding cakes too. We don’t want to be turning potential customers away, so we knew we had to venture into the unknown and see what we could do. It only took us two trial cakes of the Lego themed one to feel confident enough with our quality and skill! We were really proud of ourselves and pleasantly surprised with the actual final birthday cake! It meant a lot to us knowing that her grandson could enjoy a great cake instead of a basic supermarket one. We were told that he had never been able to have a brilliant cake like other children, due to it needing to be vegan and there being few, none or just very plain cakes available in the local stores. It certainly made us very happy and put a great smile on the birthday boy’s face!
9) How would you handle a potential event of customer dissatisfaction?
We have fortunately not yet received any dissatisfactory feedback from customers, which makes us very happy! We don’t feel that we give our customers the opportunity to have a negative experience with us because of the way we deal with each and every individual.
We offer a service to our customers that we ourselves would expect when ordering a custom made cake. There are actually quite a few specifics and details to consider when making a cake for someone and everyone’s tastes, preferences and ideas can vary and are also personal. We always make sure our cakes are of 100% quality. If we’re not happy with them, we don’t expect our customers to be. We work very hard to gather as much information as possible to make sure we are making a cake that is perfect for the customer! That process will sometimes include making sample cakes to offer them so they can be sure of exactly what they will be getting. Operating in this way leaves very little room for customer dissatisfaction. Our customers have left us wonderful feedback stating how we go ‘above and beyond’ in the service we offer and it’s true: we do! To us, this isn’t just about baking a cake; it’s about creating an experience for someone!
10) Have you ever considered entering
“The Great British Bake Off”?
This is a straightforward and very easy “No.” from both of us. We are not competitive with others in that kind of way. Our only competition is with ourselves and we are always striving to meet new challenges, enhance our skills and achieve more of our baking goals as we progress along the way.
11) Where do you see “Sweet Tooth”, 5 years from now?
We would be delighted if by then we had a small bakery somewhere in the beautiful area of The Peak District where we live. We would love to be providing people with cakes that are just as good as any others, if not better, that are vegan and gluten free! More and more people are switching to a plant based diet or choosing/ requiring gluten free. We feel really good about being able to offer these people something that they say they have been missing out on. There are also many people who believe that being vegan or gluten free means you can’t enjoy cakes and treats anymore. We’re here to prove that needn’t be the case!
12) Do you plan to expand?
Since becoming established as a vegan and gluten free cake business, a fair few of our customers have asked if we do food options too. At the moment we don’t, however, with the demand being there already, we are exploring this idea! We already have many great recipes at hand from the foods we eat on a day-to-day basis, so we have a great start to begin with. It’s more of a question of time management, as we both have our own other businesses that we are committed to as well. With some good organisation though, we do hope we will be able to expand most definitely by the end of next year!
As I salivate my way through a brief rendezvous, here’s wishing the couple windfall success in all future endeavours!