IT was desperation at trying to find a gluten-free birthday cake for her father-in-law’s 70th that led Susan Connelly to start baking her own.
Now the mum-of-two, from Hambleton, has turned what used to be a hobby into a full-time business, which she has named Heavenly Bakes.
Not only that, but her mature cheddar and onion gluten-free quiche has scooped a top award in the North West Fine Foods competition.
It was a big boost for the 52-year-old, who has been working hard to develop her recipes and produce – which she sells at food fairs and local farmers’ markets, as well as taking orders from regular customers.
She said: “I was delighted my quiche won an award, especially as there were 370 entries. And I was really pleased to see a gluten-free product winning, as it helps raise awareness.
“When I go to food fairs, people are surprised the whole range of products I have on offer are all gluten-free – they’re used to just having a little corner.
“In the supermarket, generally, what people can buy is more expensive and quite processed. I use all local produce. My products are fresh and they can also be frozen too.
“I have a variety of savouries, which I started just before Christmas, quiches, pies – such as leek and potato – that’s alongside all the sweets, various cakes, such as carrot cake, tea breads, cookies, and a new addition I just brought in, strawberry short-cakes with cream – this has been flying off the shelves.”
Susan – who was in the catering business for 20 years, working as a school cook, and at various cafes, restaurants and pubs – gave up her full-time job as a children’s-wear buyer to focus on her baking business.
She said: “After looking for a gluten-free cake for my father-in-law, who had just been diagnosed with Coeliac disease, I baked it myself. Once he was diagnosed and his diet changed, it made such a difference.
“Nobody could tell the difference with the cake. That’s my aim – it’s as close as possible to the regular version. My husband Paul is my chief tester and nothing goes out without his seal of approval.
“I am a perfectionist myself, so will keep tweaking things until I am happy. It’s not as easy as just replacing the gluten, you have to work at it.
“Now I don’t keep wheat flour in the house. I have got used to eating without gluten and it’s lighter.
“It’s amazing how many foods gluten is in. These days, I check the packs of everything. “It’s used as an enhancer and to thicken foods, and a lot of people these days have an intolerance of it. I even get some people who aren’t intolerant buying my products, because they prefer not eating gluten.”
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