We love a good pudding here at Deliveroo – who doesn't?! So when former Bake Off contestant Johnny Shepherd invited us to his very own cake cafe, we gladly accepted.
Perched in a hidden corner of historic St Albans, The Pudding Stop – Johnny's shop-and-bakery – is a real throwback to traditional British baking. Favouring desserts like treacle tarts and carrot cake over fad freak-shakes and ice-cream sandwiches, Johnny has built a baking empire, launching a 'Pudmobile' pudding truck and recipe book to boot.
We met Mr Pudding himself for a baking 101 over freshly-brewed coffee and a homemade Bakewell tart.
From Bake off to business
First things first! How did you get into baking?
Although I come from a family of bakers and my great grandfather owned an artisan bakery, I really hadn't baked a huge amount before Bake Off. I'd have people come over for dinner, cook them a great meal, and then I'd make a sticky toffee pudding. "Where did you get this from, it's amazing", they'd say, and I'll be like, "I made it".
I think that's something that's been lost – people having home-cooked puddings. It's very rare to find a good pudding on the high-street. Anyway, it got me thinking about bringing back real baking, and starting my own business.
What's the number one thing you learnt on GBBO then?
I learned just how difficult it is to actually make stuff. Everyone can have the same recipes and you can get 10 different variations of it. Still today with the sort of baking we do here, we have the same people making the same things, and for no apparent reason something goes wrong. And you're like, "What's going on?!". That's the fickle nature of baking.
What else can catch budding bakers out?
Sometimes you need exactly the right size of tin – often that can screw things over! Another thing that's really important is having the right ingredients.
So how The Pudding Stop come about?
I tested my homemade puddings at a local market to see if they would keep customers coming back again and again – they did. I then launched the Pudmobile, pitching up outside my local train station (St Albans) and serving treacle tarts and chocolate brownies to commuters after a long day at work. It made me confident there was a real appetite for proper puddings, and my shop and cafe, The Pudding Stop, was born.
The way we enjoy puddings has changed over the years. Why do you think that is?
We still love a pudding, but fewer people are eating homemade puds. One of the reasons it's changed is because of how family dynamic has shifted. With my grandparents, my grandfather would be at work all day, my grandmother was at home, and he'd come back to a meal and a cooked dessert. He did bake bread (he had his own bakery), but it was only my grandmother who ever baked cakes.
And now you've become known in St Albans as Mr Pudding! Which puddings take the longest to make then?
When you're making puddings from scratch, it really can take a while. Making the pastry, letting it chill – custard tarts, croissants, and sourdough, they all take three days to make.
With the Nata, we make the custard which needs to chill overnight, then there's the pastry, then baking them, then making sure they're fresh everyday. It's all about timing really.
Which of your desserts takes the most care and attention?
Anything that requires pastry – ensuring it's nice and short and rolled as thin as possible – but not too thin that the filling escapes!
So is sourcing the right ingredients important to you then?
We use really high-quality milk straight from a farm of jersey cows – it's unhomogenised milk, which means it's less treated. Our ingredients are actually quite natural, we try to use unrefined sugar and organic stuff. And our eggs are great quality too, really yellow.
Anything we don't feel like we can make ourselves, we really search for the best produce. And we need loads of jam, so we can't make it ourselves – we get it from Hackney-based Newton & Pott. And our ice cream is from The Ice Cream Union in Bermondsey.
Mr Pudding's Faves
What recipe are you most proud of?
It's got to be our salted caramel and peanut butter brownies, our most popular pudding. Some people can eat them in 30 seconds.
Favourite pudding for autumn?
It's got to be our steamed plum pudding – soft sponge, really nice plum compote. One of the things I love about puddings is that you can adapt them for the seasons with different fruits.
You offer wines and beers as well. What pudding and drink combinations work well together?
It's quite normal for us to put Guinness in our cakes – drinks like stout and pale ale go really well with treacle tarts and chocolate puds. And while wine doesn't always work with chocolate, we have a red pudding wine that works a treat.
Where do you go for puddings on a day off?
Any restaurant that has its own pastry chef. It's pretty obvious if you have them or you don't. One of my favourites places to go is St John in Farringdon. They've been going for over 20 years, no frills, no fads, and they put traditional puddings on the menu – think jelly and ice cream. They don't get too interested in what's going on around them, they do it their way.
The Pudding Stop is available exclusively on Deliveroo in St Albans. Cookbook 'Puddings' by Johnny Shepherd is available now.