Fruit cakes and puddings using the
same ingredients and methods that you
would use in your own home – if only
you had the time – have brought
success for a company that started out
in a farmhouse kitchen. Wendy Owen
met the women who got the recipe
right for business
ANN Hustwit and Hilary Jenkins, are both former home economics teachers and met when they were working at a school in Staindrop, Co Durham.
Ann and her husband, Frank, have a 93ha (230-acre) arable and beef farm at Mordon, Sedgefield, while Hilarys husband, Jeffrey, who is a teacher, looks after a 20ha (50-acre) smallholding in Butterknowle.
When they left work to set up the business a decade ago, the two women baked cakes at home using family recipes handed down through the generations, selling at craft fairs and agricultural shows.
As Jenkins and Hustwit Farmhouse Fruit Cakes grew, they rented new premises in Bishop Auckland and installed two huge ovens to cope with demand.
Now the cakes and puddings are sold to delicatessens, independent greengrocers and hamper companies all over the country. For one hamper company alone, 6000 cakes and puddings were made last year.
Farmers markets also provide a useful outlet between Christmas and Easter. Recently, a buyer from Paris spotted the stall and arrangements are being made to export the cakes abroad.
Both women work full time and employ five part-time workers. They make several different types of fruit cake, including a heavy celebration cake and a fruit loaf which is low in sugar and fat. Wherever possible, British ingredients are used but as Mrs Hustwit says, "You cant make a good fruit cake without giving it a drink." She refuses to divulge the name of the secret liqueur used in the celebration cake but will admit to putting a drop of rum in the rich fruit cake.
"Our cakes are really for a luxury market, costing from about £2 upwards," she says. "That is a little more expensive than anything you can buy in the supermarket but we only use the best ingredients and we dont cut corners. Each cake is made in its own tin, then wrapped in cellophane and left to mature for six to eight weeks before it is sold."
As well as fruit cakes, they produce a de-luxe mincemeat and a large number of Victorian Christmas puddings, which are made from June onwards using a recipe passed down by Hilarys great great-grandmother.
Inquiries: Visit the website www.jenkinsandhustwit.com or telephone 01388 605005 (24-hour answering service).