The Cake Shop in Woodbridge is ‘Britain’s Best Bakery’

The team at The Cake Shop Bakery who are competing on ITV's Britain's Best Bakery. Left to right, An

The team at The Cake Shop Bakery who are competing on ITV's Britain's Best Bakery. Left to right, Andy, Peter, Sera Felton, David, Sophie, Lindsay Wright.

The Cake Shop in Woodbridge baked its way to victory on the final of the ITV series Britain’s Best Bakery on Friday, February 14. Claire Holmes went behind the scenes to find out what makes the family business a worthy winner of this prestigious title

It’s 4am on a cold February morning and the streets of Woodbridge are deserted. The Thoroughfare is dark, empty and eerily quiet except for the sound of my footsteps echoing on the pavement.

But, as I step inside The Cake Shop Bakery I’m greeted by a hive of activity. The lights are all on, music is playing, machines are whirling and hot loaves are coming out of the oven faster than my sleep-clogged brain can take in.

This well-loved bakery is a mainstay in Woodbridge, having been established in the town in 1946. It’s now been passed down three generations of the Wright family and is currently in the capable hands of David Wright (who took over the running of the business from his father last year) and his four sisters, Lindsay, Sera, Sophie and Andrea.

Yesterday saw the bakery win the title of ‘Britain’s Best Bakery’ on the final of an ITV series which featured 60 businesses from across the UK all vying for the accolade.

The bakers competed under the watchful eyes of cake maker Mich Turner MBE and chef Peter Sidwell and had to complete various baking challenges thrown their way. Tests included putting up their signature bake, producing hundreds of canapés for Henley festival goers, serving afternoon tea to a number of Chelsea pensioners and creating a beautiful wedding cake.

Brother and sister team David and Lindsay baked up a storm on the programme, with the judges giving the pair great feedback on their experimental techniques and flair for wonderful flavour combinations.

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“I always thought we might have had a chance, but we never went into it to win it,” David says modestly. “All we wanted to do was showcase what we have here”

David may be humble about their win, but the truth is that a lot of hard work goes into making sure the bakery enjoys the success that it does.

When I arrive at The Cake Shop, David has already been there for about two and a half hours and the baking of that day’s products is well underway.

There are about seven people working at this time in the morning - a few upstairs producing rolls, bagels, muffins and sweet treats, and four downstairs creating the bakery’s signature loaves.

The dough for Suffolk trenchers, farmhouse whites, pain au levains, Adnams sourdough and more are carefully kneaded, proved, shaped and cooked in front of me, before being left to cool in huge crates.

The mass of products the team is working on is really startling - there are literally hundreds and hundreds of loaves and rolls being stacked up in the bakery as the morning progresses. And the glorious smell of warm bread is overwhelming.

David’s father Peter is one of the bakers working. Despite being nearly 70 years old, he still plays an active role in the business. And David reveals that he is one of his biggest sources of inspiration, saying one of the key things he’s learnt from the experienced baker is the importance of never feeling that you know everything there is to know about your craft.

“He’s 69 now and if you ask him if he knows everything about baking he will say ‘I don’t know anything about baking’,” David explains. “He’s learning more now than he has ever done. If you want to be good at something, the first thing you have to realise is you’re never going to be perfect at it but you still have to be prepared to work at it as hard as you can. It’s like chasing a rainbow.”

While the younger Wrights are keen to keep the tradition of the business in check, they’re also enthusiastic about bringing in innovative ideas.

In the past year, David and his sisters have developed new products to sell in the bakery, overseen a considerable refurbishment of the shop and opened a café next door called The Firestation.

Such developments have only been made possible because of the close working relationship that the family enjoys.

“We work really well together here and I think that’s really important,” David explains. “It helps that we have the same element of pride in what we do.”

The siblings are all a creative bunch - between them they have two degrees in fine art, a degree in drama and a degree in English Literature as well as experience in artistic endeavours such as jewellery making and directing theatre shows.

David and Lindsay joined the business around September 2012, while Andrea is the latest recruit - having only come on board as shop manager in the last few months.

So what bought them all back to the bakery?

“Every single member of our family is into food,” David says. “I think quite a lot of it came from growing up at home, because we were given such freedom to use the kitchen. Mum was always cooking and we have grown up with it. We have all just got that passion for food.”

This passion is clear in the products that come out of the bakery.

“I think the reason we’re different is the care we take in everything,” David says.

“it’s really easy to think that small things don’t matter but when you add them up they really do.”

Everything sold at The Cake Shop is carefully constructed and crafted to taste and look beautiful and the bakers here can almost be compared to alchemists - taking the simplest of ingredients and making something wonderful of them.

A delivery arrives while we’re baking, bringing flour from Marriages in Essex.

Local ingredients like this are key to David’s vision and he also sources milk from Marybelle Dairy in Halesworth, eggs from Havensfield in Hoxne, meat from Revetts in Wickham Market, fish from Pinney’s of Orford and oil from Hillfarm in Heveningham to name but a few.

“We have great relationships with our local suppliers,” David says. “Suffolk has some amazing producers so the products you’re using are better than if they were bought elsewhere.

“it’s nice for people to know that you could be supporting five local producers just by buying one sandwich.”

Of course, this sort of support works in tandem, and both David and his father are quick to point out how the local community have supported them throughout the years.

“This is a real community bakery. We have always supported community groups and they have always supported us,” David says. “We’re one of the oldest independent businesses here and we’re really central too. I really do feel like we’re the heart beat of the town.”

David has lots of plans for the future and is looking forward to what the next few years will bring.

He hints at the fact he’d like to open a bakery school and talks about developing The Firestation next door.

While aspects such as general maintenance often get in the way (David remembers a broken light bulb he has to replace while we’re talking), he says he’s really enjoying the challenges of running the business.

But what about the early mornings?

David laughs - “I have to set about five alarms!” he admits. “You do get used to it but sometimes it feels like the whole world operates on a different time scale.”

The baking competition

For both Lindsay and David, being part of Britain’s Best Bakery was a great experience, but Lindsay admits that when her brother first suggested it, she was quite nervous about being on TV.

“It was one of those leaps of faith,” she laughs. “But it was so lovely when we there. The crew were amazing, they made us feel so relaxed and the whole camera nonsense wasn’t an issue.”

Lindsay’s special root cake really wowed the judges in the first round of the competition and she says she’s been inundated with requests for the recipe since the programme aired.

She adds that she particularly enjoyed the final wedding cake challenge, where the siblings baked and decorated an amazing four tier cake. And, if you pop into The Cake Shop today you will be able to try cupcakes made from the flavours of this winning bake.

Lindsay says that finding out they had won was really overwhelming.

“It was amazing, but kind of strange as well,” she explains. “The other two bakeries were amazing – they blew me away, they were so skilful.

“It’s quite humbling to have actually won.”

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