City whizz-kids continue to surprise us. The latest is Natalie Allen, now 33, who has wanted to make cakes since she was 16. ‘I’ve always had the passion to bake like my grandmother,’ she says, ‘but my parents wouldn’t let me.’ Instead she worked in the City, ending up as a project manager. Then, two years ago, she married Richard Allen, an insurance underwriter, who told her to ‘go and live the dream’. With support from Richard and her father, Sweet Things moved from kitchen table to business premises, and today employs five staff.
This year, Natalie won five golds in the Great Taste Awards for her luxury flapjacks, ultimate carrot cake and wheat-free clementine, chocolate and apple cakes. Her gluten-free chocolate cake is made almost like a chocolate mousse, with no flour at all. ‘I just love seeing people’s faces when they try it. They’re expecting something dry; this is like chocolate fondant and keeps really moist.’ Her new gluten-free chocolate cupcakes and birthday cake encourage desperate parents to send couriers to pick up goodies for their children’s birthdays.
Sweet Things’ products are made without additives, and, where possible, with local ingredients, from Natalie’s own recipes. The company is based in West Hampstead, ‘which is great, because it’s full of yummy mummies and ladies who lunch people who don’t want to get involved in cooking’.
You can buy the cakes via Selfridges and, in London, by courier, but the flapjacks and brownies can be sent by mail order nationwide (020?7722 2107; www.sweetthings.biz). If you’re outside London and desperate, just ring Natalie and see if she can courier cakes to you. As are most small business owners, she’s extremely helpful.