Walking down Brockley Road feels like leaving inner city Lewisham for the greener suburbs. At the southern end of the road, past Brockley Cemetery, is Crofton Park. There, mums pushing buggies, kids on roller skates going to school and an ever growing number of small independent businesses help to create a friendly environment that attracts young families and arty professionals.
It is on this road, almost next door to the legendary Rivoli Ballroom that Stacie Maile, 29, sells her selection of homemade cupcakes to local gourmands.
“I think people like the shop because it feels quite homely and comfortable,” says Maile, presiding over a counter so full of edible treats it makes it difficult to look anywhere else. “Hopefully, they also come because they like the cakes.”
The local sense of community is crucial for independent businesses to prosper. Maile has experienced it firsthand. She recalls being sick and tweeting that she was missing cake ingredients. “Someone went and bought them and dropped them to my house. It’s these nice things that people do that make it worth it.”
Now, it is Maile’s turn to give something back to the locals… via cakes. On Saturday February 9, the first ever Brockley bake-off will take place in Pat-a-Cakes. Born from the minds of Maile and Nicky Cook, from the boutique next door, The White Room, the event is an original way “to try and involve the community.”
To take part, just tweet your name and what you want to make at @patacake_stacie (or pop into the shop) and bake a cake that doesn’t have to be refrigerated. It will be sold in the shop on the day and a jury of local business owners will select the winner who will get £20 to spend in Pat-a-Cakes. All the money from the bake-off sales will be donated to Diabetes UK. Stacie said: ”I know that people think that it is contradictory, but there are personal reasons for this choice.” She said, however, that she did not want to discuss them further.
Pat-a-Cakes started as a stall in Brick Lane, but Maile had more ambitious dreams. “I kind of always wanted my own business, but I didn’t have anything specific in mind. I worked as an accountant, but I’m rubbish with numbers. I wanted something different. Then I started doing lots of cakes for friends, and birthdays, and everyone was like: ‘You should get a shop.’ So I did.”
She picked the area for its proximity to Hilly Fields, where she has been living for almost six years, and set up shop just over a year ago. Ladywell was her original choice, but Maile says she’s glad she picked Crofton Park. “People around here really care about the area. I’ve lived in other parts of London, and it wasn’t anything like that. It’s really nice.”
And the future of Pat-a-Cakes is very much focused on serving the local community, suggests Maile, without giving away too much of her secret projects. “Our garden is going to be ready as soon as the weather is nice, and I want to use it as much as possible. We want to do a mural with local children and a street artist, have tea parties and possibly a creative festival week-end in the summer… But that’s all I can say for now.”
One thing is certain, Pat-a-Cakes is not just a cupcake shop. With its welcoming sofas, its gallery of local artists’ works on the walls and its plans for the future, it is evident Maile’s sweet and salty dream – her favourite cupcake is chocolate and peanut butter – has found its place at the heart of the community.