The Exploding Bakery was started by old school friends Tom & Oli, who were unsatisfied with their lot in life and decided that, when you have no money, the best way to get rich was to start a tiny bakery and cafe with a niche market for traybakes made with ground nut flours, butter and polenta and sell coffees that no one wanted because it wasn’t a giant cup of hot milk. They were genius dreamers.
We started the bakery in Exeter with a clapped out old oven and a questionable second hand coffee machine that pulled some wildly inconsistent shots of Monmouth Coffee. The idea was to make cakes, supplying local cafes and delis while serving coffee that complemented them all in the same space. We set about our plan in a rather haphazard manner, taking cues for recipes from various sources and crash courses in coffee making.
We were standing proudly if a little unsteadily on our own two feet and making enough money to pay a couple of staff members. This gave us the impetus to go ahead and get a second rickety old deck oven to up the production a little. With a motley crew of about 10, we managed to remove the shop front and insert this ridiculous oven that was the size of a small house. Nicknamed Biggie, this beast still sits in the café today like a shrine to the past. With aspirations of becoming above average, we upgraded the coffee machine and honed our latte art skills. Our twelve seats were beginning to get some action.
2013 & 2014
These years passed much the same as the year before, we made more cakes, devised more sweet recipes and made more coffee, the times were a little hectic but fun. We got better at both baking and baristaring and opened a small production bakery in London to help grow our customer base a little. Our tiny cafe in Exeter was slowly being taken over by cakes in boxes ready for shipment and customers queuing out the door for the hot ones we put out on the counter.
We had reached the tipping point in both cafe and the production bakery. Cakes piled everywhere, a sea of cardboard boxes, bags of flour and torrents of staff adeptly pirouetting their way through the whirring mixing bowls to deliver coffees to overcrowded tables in the cafe. We started to look enviously at the shop next door, full of all the lovely breathing space we needed. Success was strangulating and suffocation had set in.
Blue in the face, we finally tipped. As we gasped for breath the distinction between cafe and bakery was no longer visible, the blur of cakes, boxes and coffees had become one hulking organism of synchronised staff, bakers and baristas dancing in a cloud of icing sugar and steam, even the regular customers became part of the living creature that was fit burst if just one person missed a beat. Boxes would tumble, coffees would spill, worlds would collide and we would all fall down in a sweet, sticky, single origin mess. We knew we had to do something, and not just because environmental health said we were too busy to trade from such a small space. For our sanity we clawed our way out from the rubble and signed the lease on the shop next door, smashing through the wall like it was a Mr Kipling’s French Fancy. We began making a new space, a new life where we could rebuild the serenity we once had. Tables with actual room between them, customers could once again sit at a polite and more English distance from each other. The baristas could make coffees without elbowing each other in the face, and we could begin to make plans for a utopia where everyone could eat cake and drink coffee without feeling like they were on the tube at rush hour.