Inside the Sheffield Fancie bakery
Chocolate Fancie cupcakes
The other day I had the pleasure of an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Sheffield’s favourite cupcake company, Fancie.
Fancie is only a young business. In just two years it has quickly become one of the city’s most recognisable and loved names in food.
Prior to Fancie, there wasn’t much in the way of gourmet cupcakes in Sheffield. They have created a market for their product and now bake over 4,000 cupcakes a week in their modest Sheffield 7 base.
A Sharrow vale road shop opened in April last year and an outlet in the Winter garden followed earlier in 2010. Two more stores are due to open this year, the first in Sheffield university’s refurbished student’s union just in time for fresher’s week.
So what is the Fancie bakery like? It you’re expecting it to be lavishly decked in the trademark pink then you’re wrong. The only clue from the outside that we’d arrived at the right place was the small http://www.fancie.co.uk in the window.
Inside there is a small office, the main preparation area and a store cupboard.
We meet the proprietor Amanda who ushers us in and starts to show us round. We’d arrived at 9:30am but the five or six people busily attending to various stages of the cupcake-making process have been working since five that morning.
The Fancie bakery
The Fancie team look as if they are nearing the end of the cooking process and the fruits of their labour are indeed on show.
Trays of cupcakes
Adjacent to these trays is a personalised order which is half way through being prepared. These special orders account for about 15% of the business, the rest being standard cupcakes sales.
Personalised cupcake order
We’re then left to explore the rest of the bakery and see how the Fancie cupcakes are made. Although the process is what you would expect, seeing the craft behind something you know well is still interesting.
First of all, the sponge mix is created and then pumped into the waiting bun cases.
Chocolate bun mix
There are plenty of flavours on offer, and each batch is labelled before it is baked in the oven.
Pumping and labelling the flavoured sponge mix
Filled bun cases
A good cook always tests their recipes as they go along.
A cheeky test of the baked sponge
The cupcake filling is added: for example jam for the Victoria cupcakes or peanut butter for Snickerlicious, Fancie’s biggest seller.
The sponge filling is added
The icing is then mixed and generously pumped onto the cupcakes to create the thick Fancie topping.
Pumping the icing
None of the icing is wasted. When all the lighter colours have been applied to cupcakes, the spare icing is mixed together and combined with cocoa to create the chocolate icing.
The chocolate icing is made from unused light-coloured icing
The toppings are then put on. Judging by the contents of the store cupboard, they won’t be running out of coloured sprinkles soon.
Fancie store cupboard
The finished cupcakes are then stored in crates until the delivery van arrives to take them to outlets in Sheffield and Leeds.
No prizes for guessing the whereabouts of the two missing cupcakes...
The hard work wasn’t quite finished there though…there was first the washing up to do.
After looking round we washed down our cupcakes with a cup of tea and had a chat with Amanda in the office.
I asked her about the background to Fancie and her setting up here. She was born in Cornwall and worked as a pastry chef in the Lake district before moving to Sheffield. An alarming fact was that the choice of city to move to was completely random; she literally stuck a pin in the map. So it would have been possible for another town or city to be the home of Fancie, which seems hard to imagine now.
However, Amanda’s passion for Sheffield is clearly evident and she would be the first to say that being based here is a big part of what makes Fancie the company it is.
The fast growth of her business and the numerous outlets that sell her cupcakes show that Amanda has ambitions for Fancie. But the PR trips to London to raise the company’s profile are not what motivates her and her dream isn’t to see Fancie cupcakes in every supermarket in the land.
Instead she is happy to build the company up so it doesn’t become another supplier both driven and bullied by the big supermarkets. The people enjoying her cupcakes are happy to pay for them knowing that they are made fresh, locally and by an independent producer, and she is in no hurry to ramp things up on an industrial scale.
Being considered a treat product obviously hasn’t done Fancie any harm in the current recession. And the occasional special flavours are giving people excuses to keep coming back for more: I can personally vouch for the goodness of the butterscotch one.
The success of the business hasn’t gone unnoticed, with at least two other gourmet cupcake companies springing up in Sheffield.
For now though Fancie is still the number one, and remains one of Sheffield’s culinary treasures.
Amanda in the Fancie office