Rising to the challenge is something Laura Gardiner knows all about as Huntly’s very own home baking queen.
From decadent cheesecakes and moreish millionaires brownies to tasty cranberry and bacon sausage rolls, Laura’s reputation for mouthwatering sweet and savoury treats precedes her as the proud owner of The Larder Huntly.
With more than 26,000 followers on Facebook and legions of cake fans hailing from across the north and north-east, Laura’s small but mighty larder, delicatessen and sandwich bar is certainly punching above it’s weight.
“I was really excited when I took over The Larder six years ago,” said Laura, 36, from Buckie.
“The previous owner Eileen had been running it for about 10 years before I took it over so I basically hit the ground running.
“I always just think that if you don’t try it, you’ll never know.”
Leap of faith
It was after being made redundant from her offshore hospitality job that Laura took a leap of faith to take over the already established The Larder Huntly.
Six years on and the tiny takeaway is more popular than ever as Laura’s sensational baking skills keep people coming back for more.
“The brownies are the most popular cakes especially the millionaires ones,” said Laura.
“I like to make my brownies bigger than anywhere else as if you’re going to have a piece you might as well have a proper piece.”
Another sweet success has been her “to die for” cheesecakes.
“The cheesecakes are always popular,” said Laura.
“The most popular flavour is the condensed milk, tablet and strawberry one and we also have a Biscoff and caramel one too.”
“I also made carrot cake muffins recently and they sold out within 15 minutes.”
Customers also can’t get enough of her cake slices and melt-in-the-mouth tablet.
“The cake slices are always popular,” said Laura.
“I make chocolate, vanilla, Caramac and milky bar slices – they’re always huge slices because why not.”
Strawberry tart lovers won’t be disappointed either.
“The strawberry tarts are made with proper strawberry jam piled high with cream,” said Laura.
With everything from sausage rolls and sandwiches to quiches and Scotch eggs, Laura also prides herself on her savoury selection.
“We’ve got a counter with fresh sandwiches and we’ve always got a hot dish on, like lasagna,” said Laura.
“We also do sausage rolls with cranberry and bacon and we’ve also got carmelised onion and mustard which is a bit different.”
Afternoon tea and picnic boxes
Also in-demand is Laura’s takeaway afternoon tea and picnic boxes.
“They came about through Covid as we started delivering to people’s homes, so with the afternoon tea it includes sandwiches quiche, scotch eggs, strawberry tarts and scones,” said Laura.
“The picnic boxes are really popular in summer time especially when people go up the hills.”
Seeing the delight on her customers faces is the best part of the job for Laura.
“The customers are great,” said Laura.
“They always bring their dogs in as well which is lovely.
“A lot of people come out from Aberdeen to get our cakes.”
Women in business
Making everything by hand is a huge task but one made a lot easier thanks to Laura’s fantastic team of staff.
“The girls – Abby Pirie, Shirley Smith, Lynette Chapman, Gail Stewart – all help to make the pies and sausage rolls which is great,” said Laura.
“I’m lucky to have such a great team.”
As a woman in business, Laura says it feels empowering.
“It does feel empowering,” said Laura.
“Sometimes you forget that the business is yours but then you step back and think that yes it is actually yours and it’s a nice feeling.”
The Great British Bake Off
Despite how well her business is doing, Laura remains modest when asked if she would apply for the TV programme The Great British Bake Off.
“I couldn’t go on Bake Off because I’m so untidy,” said Laura.
“I did think about it but I don’t know if I’d be good enough when you see the people that’s on there.”
Looking to the future, Laura simply just wants to keep bringing joy to people through her baking.
“I’m quite happy where we are just now,” said Laura.
“I think if I opened up another venue I would lose focus.”
18 hour days
With an 18-hour working day that begins at 6am and lasts until 7pm, Laura cherishes the little time she takes off to relax.
“I go out with the dogs to relax,” she said.
“I never really get the chance to switch off though as I’m always thinking.”
As well as cakes, Laura also serves up coffee but is keen to support fellow local businesses.
“I often send people along to The Bank Cafe and Restaurant as they serve coffee,” said Laura.
Open from Monday to Friday, people are invited to pop in for a sweet or savoury pick me up. The afternoon tea boxes and picnic boxes can be ordered up to 24 hours before.
A round of questions with Laura Gardiner
If you were a cake, what would you be and why?
Victoria sponge, plain and simple.
What is your favourite baking gadget?
Not so much a gadget but I’d be lost without my stand mixers.
What’s the secret to avoiding a soggy bottom?
I’ve yet to discover a good secret to the perfect bottom every time, I’ve learned to embrace a soggy bottom and not stress about it.
What’s the most difficult cake to make and why?
Macarons… they just never work out, I gave up with them a wee while ago.
Best food and drink pairing?
Cocktails and cake, maybe not the best pairing but a winning combination.
If you were going on Bake Off, what would you do as your signature bake?
My signature bake would be our most popular Matilda Bruce Bogtrotter chocolate cake.
You have to make a cake to represent Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire. What would it be?
Double chocolate whisky cake with a whisky ganache.
You have to serve your favourite superhero or celebrity a cake. Who is it and what do you serve?
Maybe not very original but Mary Berry, she seems so sweet. I’d make her a carrot cake, it’s fool proof.
Have you had any baking disasters?
There’s been a fair few baking disasters, the main one when my butter overflowed in the pan and set the hob on fire during a really busy lunch spell.
For more information about The Larder Huntly, check out their Facebook page
or the Instagram page @the_larder_huntly