After working in childcare for nearly two decades, Karen Dalgarno decided to take the plunge and set up her baking business a few years ago.
Launching Caramel Cakeaway in 2018, Karen has recently rebranded and her sweet business is now called The Wee Brown Mouse Bakery.
While the business got a new name, Karen’s ethos remains the same. The talented baker, who works from her Aberdeen home, is passionate about using fresh local produce to be able to offer a wide selection of high-quality bakes to her loyal customers.
We caught up with Karen to find out more about The Wee Brown Mouse Bakery and her popular bakes.
What motivated you to set up your baking business?
It was primarily my love of baking. I had toyed with the idea of running a bakery business for many years, but it wasn’t until early 2018 that I decided to take the plunge with the support of my family.
Did you work in the food and drink industry before setting up The Wee Brown Mouse Bakery?
I had worked in childcare for many years and the time felt right for a change. The business was launched in October 2018 as Caramel Cakeaway once I had branding organised and had the required registration in place. I rebranded in December last year and the business became The Wee Brown Mouse Bakery.
Do you now focus on your bakery business full-time?
Before the business launched, I worked as a manager at a local nursery for nearly 20 years. In the later years, I changed my hours to part-time to build the business and I eventually left last September to focus solely on the business. I work from my home in Summerhill.
That’s great. When did you discover your love for baking?
The love for baking has always been in my family. I remember baking from a young age with my mum, granny, and great granny, using family recipes which have been passed down through the generations. I find baking therapeutic, it doesn’t feel like work when it’s something you love.
Is there something you’d like everyone to know about The Wee Brown Mouse Bakery?
I’d like locals to know that I bake all the products myself from my home-based kitchen. Everything is freshly baked from scratch using high-quality ingredients. I bake to order for custom orders and in larger batches for farmers’ markets.
What kind of bakes are you best known for?
I specialise in traybakes including brownies, blondies, and different flavours of millionaire’s shortbread, cookie cakes, tablet, cheesecakes and fondue treat boxes. I also offer gluten and diary-free options. Some of my most popular bakes are brownies, brownie bombs and brownie goopots.
Do you use Belgian chocolate in all your bakes?
My chocolate-based products always contain high-quality Belgian chocolate as a foundation to which I add the customer’s favourite chocolates and sweets. The quality of the ingredients has an impact on the taste of the bakes and this has been highlighted in very positive feedback from customers.
What can you tell our readers about your popular cookie cakes and cheesecakes?
My cookie cakes are freshly made to order in a range of different sizes. My customers have said how they like that they can personalise the cookie to their taste. I offer cheesecakes of different flavours, types and build your own treat boxes. I also make chocolate cakes, Victoria sponges, and chocolate smash treats. Cakes can be ordered fully or partially iced in buttercream with simple decorations or fully loaded with sweets and chocolate.
Do you work with any north-east producers? Is supporting other local businesses important to you?
I have recently started buying eggs from Brian at Cove Honey Bees and when in season, I use locally grown strawberries and raspberries for my strawberry tarts and homemade glaze. I buy my berries from The Mixing Bowl Aberdeen, Castleton Farm or Charleton Fruit Farm (in Montrose). I have milk delivered from Kerr’s Family Dairy in Dundee.
You mentioned that you attended farmers’ markets prior to coronavirus…
I am a regular stallholder at Dyce and Stonehaven farmers’ markets which have been back up running since January. I am still waiting for the Belmont Street market to return. I have also attended the new Peterhead market and Affa Fine markets at both the beach and Crathes. I really enjoy the markets as it is a chance to chat to customers and network with other stallholders.
How did coronavirus affect The Wee Brown Mouse Bakery?
I have been incredibly lucky during the pandemic that I was able to continue and in fact, my business thrived. To adapt, I began offering a free delivery service within the city and for a small charge to Newmachar, Portlethen and Westhill. Each week, I offered a selection of six bakes for customers to choose from, which was very popular. I also offered themed sharing treat boxes such as strawberries and cream, build your own cheesecakes and Biscoff sharing boxes. My partner and my youngest daughter would do the deliveries for me, each taking one side of the city so I could continue baking.
Do you employ any staff or do your friends and family help you out on busy days?
I don’t employ any staff at the moment and yes, on busy days I am fortunate enough to have my family to help me with deliveries or at markets.
Would you say you have a loyal following?
I am extremely fortunate to have many loyal customers who attend the markets weekly or who order regularly to collect from my home address.
And where do you see your business in a few years’ time?
Over the next few years, I want to continue growing the business and my long-term goal is to have a bakery shop in Aberdeen that will become the go-to shop for high-quality bakes.
Visit www.weebrownmousebakery.co.uk for more information and to place an order