baked goods at Luminary Bakery Camden

Baking Change at Luminary Bakery, Chalk Farm

A supportive community helps women rise out of difficult situations, all via the medium of cakes

TW // this article mentions domestic abuse

Mini lemon and blueberry cakes starred with cornflower petals, warm pillowy cinnamon swirls, gooey brownie slabs and regal moons of Victoria sponge are just some of the treasures encrusting the windows of Luminary Bakery on Chalk Farm Road. Follow your nose, and you’ll find yourself inside a joyfully light café, with stars hanging from the ceilings and comforting smells wafting up from the kitchen. 

In the UK, 29% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Between April and June 2020, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a 65% increase in calls, compared with the first three months of the year. Meanwhile, 1 million women in the UK are unemployed. These stats made an impression on the team at Luminary Bakery and that’s how baking positive change for women took shape.

What does this have to do with cake? From its bakery, Luminary provides training, employment and community to women across London who have experienced gender-based violence and live with ‘multiple-disadvantages’. Over two years, women on the programme learn how to bake to a professional standard and receive employability training, guidance from a support worker, and access to therapy. Once they graduate, they can apply for paid work in the Stoke Newington and Camden bakeries.

Respect, love, encouragement

“Baking teaches transferable skills such as creativity, following instructions, time management and teamwork,” says Annie, the Café Manager. “There is also a massive sense of pride that comes with creating something wonderful that you can share with others.” 

For one graduate, Libby*, delivering her final bake pitch was one of her proudest moments. “We had to present a business idea in front of the other trainees and staff. It was really daunting but the sense of accomplishment I felt afterwards made it all worth it”, she says.

For many of the women taking part in the Luminary programme, the experience is the first time they’ve felt supported. “Sisterhood and community are in abundance here. You always feel included and are around women you can relate to. I hadn’t had that in the past and it was truly a blessing. It still is”, Libby shares. One of the main things Libby has learnt is that “it’s never too late. There is always a way out, there are support systems that offer respect and love and encouragement.” Luminary Bakery is known for more than delicious coffee, they’re baking positive change for women.

baking up positive change for women

Getting out of an abusive situation can often be just the beginning of a long journey, as Libby recognises. “People can treat you badly and it can affect your life for years after. It’s important to remember that how you’re treated by others doesn’t and shouldn’t determine who you are as a person or how you behave. There are so many amazing people out there and so many beautiful communities that will love and respect you.”

What are Annie and Libby’s favourite cakes? For Annie it’s the orange, cardamom and pistachio cake: “pistachio buttercream, orange sponge and just the right amount of cardamom.” Libby enjoys baking carrot cake cupcakes: “I love making the little carrots that you put on top.” Her favourite thing to eat are the salted caramel brownies.

Hope for the future

After sampling one of the mini cakes, I can confirm that the talent in the kitchen at Luminary is undeniable. The uniquely healing environment in which these recipes are baked adds a special ingredient. As Libby says, “seeing so many women around me find themselves after having lost their ability to see what they’re capable of brings me so much hope for the future.”

If you haven’t already, drop into the bakery in Camden to try the new sandwich range, all made using Luminary’s focaccia. The Luminary Mini Cakes are delicious too and can be ordered online in a box of six or purchased individually in the café. The bakery also makes cakes for any special occasion, as well as letterbox brownies and a range of other treats. Feel free to ask how they’re baking positive change for women when you visit.

Find out more at luminarybakery.com.

If you or a loved one have experienced domestic violence, get in touch with your local authority or call the National Domestic Helpline.

You can read more about Camden-based businesses via Camdenist.

*Names have been changed.

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