When Lord Alan Sugar chose his next business partner on the latest series of The Apprentice, it was a venture into an industry that seemed quite unexpected for the ruthless business mogul: baking.
But, as the show’s winner Alana Spencer pointed out, it would be a waste to have a name like Sugar and not have a bit of a sweet tooth.
The 24-year-old from Wales, who bagged the £250,000 investment and 50/50 partnership with Lord Sugar with her luxury cake business Ridiculously Rich by Alana, has a current range of six cakes.
They’ve been whittled down from the wider variety she used to sell at markets to the ones that have proved most popular with customers.
And it’s not hard to see why. Reporter Jessica Pitocchi got to taste the range and this is what she thought:
Salted caramel slice
What a way to update an old classic like the Millionaire’s Shortbread. The sprinkling of salt on the caramel just lifts and changes the flavour and makes this treat bang on trend, too.
Peanut butter fudge cake
Definitely one for peanut butter fans. As someone who’s desperately trying to get more into the stuff, I really liked it but a small square was enough.
But for some of the die-hard peanut butter fans I work with, the thick wedge of smooth creamy peanut butter and fudge was what appealed to them, as some other brands can scrimp out on the additional flavours added to products.
Sticky toffee flapjack
I find flapjacks generally a bit meh and unexciting, but this slice was quite literally dripping in syrup and was so sweet and tasty. And it contains granola so it’s kinda like breakfast, right?
Belgian chocolate rocky road
Apart from looking amazing, this classic is made with dark chocolate instead of the normal milk. I thought this worked really well, as the bitterness balanced out the sweetness from the marshmallows perfectly.
Creme Brulee brownie
This was the product that grabbed me the most for being such an unusual combination.
But the crunchiness of the butterscotch with the gooeyness of the brownie worked so well and is definitely one for someone who loves a bit of texture with their bite.
Gooey chocolate brownie
Confession: brownies are my all-time fave. Being made with a rich dark chocolate gave this a more decadent taste than usual and although I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it, I did. With ease.
Oh and FYI, these boxes make you really popular in the office.
Now when it comes to our attitudes to food, the UK is in a bit of a weird place right now. We’re in the midst of a baking craze with popular TV shows and lots of inspiration on Instagram – but the clean eating hype is still very much omnipresent, again, on both TV and social media.
But while Alana acknowledges the obvious need to eat well, she doesn’t think it’s affected her business or her customers because “people still want to treat themselves” and her products are very much marketed as that: a treat.
“It’s better to know that something’s a treat and have it less often than think that something is okay but it’s actually still not amazing for you,” she said.
Also there’s the fact that simple baking can sometimes be more “clean” than some of the stuff marketed as good for you.
She added: “If you’re eating a treat that’s not got loads of chemicals pumped into it, that’s basically just like a cake you’d make in your kitchen at home once in a while, I think that’s better than eating something that’s full of – well, you don’t know what it’s full with but it says it’s ‘healthy’.”
Since appearing on the show, Alana, Lord Sugar and his team have come up with an interesting business model going forward.
It involves the hiring of brand ambassadors – in other words, self-employed people “who are into baking and want to start their own business but don’t really know where to start”.
They’ll be in charge of selling and distributing Alana’s products in different regions and to all the usual cake hot spots – think farmers’ markets, food festivals, cafes, delis, country shows.
It means that as the brand grows, Alana will actually be freed up in a creative sense. She’ll be able to spend time playing around with new flavours and combinations for her monthly specials and subscription boxes.
And if the existing range is anything to go by, there’ll be a LOT more tasty treats to come.
If you’re interested, you can check out more information about the brand ambassador role and Ridiculously Rich here.