Business is booming for a Derbyshire town’s famous export which has remained a dominant force in a world of food fads.
Julie Hurst, manager of The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop in the town centre said: “I would say Bakewell Pudding has grown in popularity over the past three years. The turnover has gone up and up and we have employed extra people in the bakery.
“At this time of year, we make two thousand to three thousand puddings a week. In August, when Bakewell Show is on, we make up to eleven thousand.”
“Whatever your diet, when you come into the shop, it is that time to let go and have a handmade, homemade, special treat.
“We tried muesli bars but they didn’t work! People are coming to us for a naughty but nice treat, for lashings of chocolate and cream.”
Developing new lines is a feature that the business prides itself on. Julie said: “Every weekend the girls have a free hand to bring to the table what they want. We try the products in the shop and if they sell well they go to wholesale.”
Owner Nick Beagrie decided to expand the wholesale side of the business three years ago, moving the bakery from the back of the shop to the Riverside Industrial Park in Bakewell.
Baking takes place around the clock with cakes and desserts crafted during the day by a team of six, led by Norman Sheldon who has been making Bakewell Pudding for over 20 years. Four bakers work on the night shift making bread.
The shop and restaurant is a lure for celebrity customers. Joan Rivers called in for lunch, The Hairy Bikers, Ade Edmondson, David Dickinson, Tony Robinson visited while making television programmes and actors from Coronation Street and Emmerdale have popped in for puddings.
While Julie is happy to share tales about how the business has developed, it’s more than her job’s worth to divulge the secret ingredient which goes into Bakewell Pudding.
“I get asked that question as many times as I get asked ‘what is the difference between Bakewell pudding and Bakewell tart,” she said.
So what is the difference? “The pudding has puff pastry and is more moist than the tart,” said Julie. “The tart is iced with flaked almonds on top and is a lot sweeter.
“Mr Kipling has done us a lot of favours, although our tart is not like Mr Kipling’s.”
Like the tart, Bakewell Pudding has its variations. Julie said: “My gran would make one which would taste different to the one that we sell.”
How the pudding was first created over 250 years ago is steeped in controversy and is as much a mystery as its secret ingredient.
The story which The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop is sticking to is that the pudding was born by accident in the Rutland Arms around 1860 when visiting noblemen had ordered strawberry tart. Instead of spreading the mixture into the pastry, the cook spread it on top of the jam.
The pudding was so successful that a Mrs Wilson, wife of a candle-maker, bought the recipe for £5 and started a business of her own in their cottage.
That cottage later became The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.
Shop manager Julie added: “I am not disputing that this is the original pudding but it is a good story and has the history to go with it.”
In her new book, A Slice of Britain, which went on sale this week, Carolne Taggart said that food historian Ivan Day had found a recipe dating back to 1835 and that bakewellonline’s account put the invention in the 1850s.
Caroline also uncovered a story about Will Hudson, landlord of the Castle giving a copy of the original recipe to his baker friend George Bloomer. The business of Bloomers is still thriving in town and selling an Original Bakewell Pudding.
A Slice of Britain by Caroline Taggart is on sale at £14.99, published by AA Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7495-7509-3