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Talking Cakes with Fran Jesson, owner of Sugarberry Cake Studio

16 September 20 interview: Eve Smallman
photos: Lucy Parker

Weaving through the avenues of Sneinton Market, you’ll find an eclectic range of shops that will stimulate your senses for one reason or another. There’s Art of Football, with its multicoloured loud and proud exterior, Blend’s toastie bread, which invites you in with delicious smells from across the street… and Sugarberry Cake Studio: adorned with flowers, glossed with minty pastel, and with tasty goods baked to perfection. Formerly Oozee Boozee Bakes, the studio has rebranded to showcase it can do more than tipply treats. Our Food Editor Eve Smallman chats to owner Fran Jesson to find out more…

Sunshine beams through Sneinton Market as it buzzes with punters window shopping and coffee stopping, and when Fran spots me she gives me a big smiley wave. We perch on one of the benches opposite Sugarberry. It’s way too hot to be sitting on the intricate iron chairs outside her bakery today, but I have no doubt that local bloggers, influencers, or the likes of me that like a gorgeous photo for the ‘gram, will be on it very soon. Fran laughs: “When I got the keys to the shop one of the big aims was to make it very Instagrammable and photogenic!”

She hasn’t always had her shop – it was only five years ago that she started Oozee Boozee Bakes, whipping up batches of sweet treats in her kitchen on weekends. But she had big hopes for her business and wanted to make her passion project a full-time gig. “My whole mind was bursting with ideas and creativity for it, and I just couldn’t let it go,” she tells me. And what better place than the hub of innovation down the road from her? “I'm sure I'm not the only person who has come around to the Market and wished they could have their dream shop here.” After a stint working at Blend – while supplying them with her cakes, naturally – and keeping her ears to the ground, she finally opened up her own. “Sneinton Market has a wonderful community element to it, and I’m surrounded by other like-minded businesses who are creative in different ways. It's just nice to be surrounded by that energy.” 

While Oozee Boozee Bakes gave her a unique selling point at the start of her business, the confidence of having her own shop enabled Fran to stand out with her bakes alone. She was also regularly doing none-boozy bakes, so the transition on that end was smooth like buttercream. In January, she decided to undergo the re-brand, completing the finishing touches during lockdown. “Lockdown was very stressful for everybody, but it did start a revival of people wanting to support independents. When people couldn’t physically go to places they really appreciated having that – and who doesn’t want a friendly face giving them treats?”

Fran also started up surprise deliveries for people who wanted to gift their hardworking friends with treats. “I’d be delivering to those on the front line, care workers, people like that. It was really nice to see these gestures of kindness, and to be a part of this little chain. Seeing peoples’ face brighten up was just wonderful,” she tells me, smiling. “Lockdown has allowed me to really reevaluate the business, what I want to do with it, and get the rebrand down to a tee.”

Sneinton Market has a wonderful community element to it, and I’m surrounded by other like-minded businesses who are creative in different ways. It's just nice to be surrounded by that energy

The shop exterior has mostly stayed the same, but the new name has taken a step away from the bottle. “Baking with booze has become a lot more popular since I started, so it’s not that crazy, and I decided I’d like a name that really shows the scope that we do.” She went for ‘Cake Studio’ as opposed to being a ‘Cakery’ to give it a more elegant feel too. “We also do wholesale, so a lot of work with cafes and restaurants, and that name works really nicely in terms of advertising.” 

Fran also has plans to do wellness bakery workshops in the future, and the name Oozee Boozee didn’t quite sit well with this – after all, using drinking as a coping mechanism tends to end badly. She says: “They will focus on the therapeutic benefits of baking and cake decorating, and how peaceful it can be. From personal experience, that's what I find from baking.” Something in this resonates with me – I’ve always turned to baking, cooking and eating to focus my mind away from my anxiety. She continues: “It's not about being super technical or being really intricate, the workshops will focus on painting using food colouring, watercolours based on sugar paste, and even make some really beautiful stuff from buttercream. I have done a couple of workshops with residential centres, people who perhaps live in difficult situations like single parents or people with financial difficulties, and it's just about having the eye for it.”

If you’re reading this and fancying a slice of something sweet – why should you head down to Sneinton Market to visit Sugarberry Cake Studio? “I wouldn't have got here either five years ago if I wasn’t a good baker. I've had lots of lovely compliments from all over like Nottingham and further afield saying my bakes are the fluffiest and my buttercream is so light. People also come to the shop because they like me, and I love to see and talk to my customers,” she says. “As women, we’re taught to bat away compliments, but I think embracing them and having confidence in what you do is so important. I don't think I’d have this community vibe between me, the market tenants, wholesalers and customers if people didn't love my product, but also didn't love the business and the person behind it, as that is a package.”

After chatting about her favourite thing to bake – children’s party cakes and watercolour cakes – she locks up her shop and I walk away feeling as light and bouncy as one of her sponges. The sugar-sweet energy that goes into what she bakes and communicates is clearly her unique selling point, and I’m really excited to see how well she’s going to do as Sugarberry Cake Studio. 

@sugarberrystudio

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