Baking weather at St Albans Farmers’ Market
- Credit: Archant
The Farmers’ Market was packed on Sunday, with hundreds of people out enjoying the fabulous weather. The stalls were busy even first thing, and I am sure had a sell-out day.
Just outside the Town Hall, near the Earthworks stall, you may have discovered Crumbs n’ All, run by Sonia McDonnell. Sonia makes and sells her delicious cakes at the St Albans and Harpenden Farmer’s Markets, and has been in business for three years.
Perfect for the weather, Sonia’s cooking is inspired by Jamaica and the Caribbean as although born and bred in St Albans, her family is from Jamaica and her parents live there. A regular visitor, Sonia loves the street markets in Jamaica, and brings that love of fresh ingredients and home-made cooking to her business.
Many of Sonia’s recipes are inspired by Caribbean ingredients; I tried the Rum Fruit Cake, which is made with rum, brandy and red wine! It is very light in texture, yet has a rich depth of flavour – imagine a very grown-up, indulgent version of Jamaica Ginger Cake.
Each slice costs £2.75 which reflects the quality of the ingredients that go into it. Sonia uses this cake as the basis for many of the celebration cakes she makes; when we spoke Sonia was making two birthday cakes and an anniversary cake for this week alone.
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I can completely understand why many regulars return to the stall at each market for this cake alone!
I’d also really recommend the Sweet Potato and Polenta cake, which is gluten-free and egg-free. Based on a traditional Jamaican recipe, Sonia sweetens the cake with coconut milk, and it is flavoured with nutmeg and other sweet spices (£2 a slice). I know many of our readers look out for interesting gluten-free foods, so I suggest you try this; Sonia always has samples out on the stall so you can try before you buy.
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Sonia bakes a range of cakes for each market, including banana, carrot, pumpkin, coconut and lime, sunshine citrus, ginger, and chocolate and orange. Prices for a generous slice range from £1.50 to £2.75. Chilli and chocolate brownies are a favourite at every fair, and pack quite a kick as they are made with fresh Scotch bonnet chillies. The mango and almond tart is a gentler, summery option!
Every cake and tart is made with natural ingredients, with fresh ginger or orange, for example. Sonia explained to me that her mother had always cooked from scratch, and expected her daughters and sons to do so too. There were six children, so everyone had to muck-in and get the jobs done, and that included plenty of cooking.
Sonia has passed this on to her own two children; her son Grant is now a chef, and her daughter Antonia came up with the name for the business during a family brainstorming meeting, and often helps out at the stall.
The marzipan used for the celebration cakes is also home-made, as are the range of chutneys Sonia sells on the stall. Chilli jams range in heat, and the summer berry chutney sounds fab – should be good with cheeses and cooked meats for a summer lunch. Apparently they are also tasty scooped up with rice cakes for a snack.
Sonia never uses animal or hydrogenated fats, artificial flavours or flavours, and she only uses free-range eggs.
Crumbs n’ All are regulars at other local outdoor events. We spotted them at Larks in the Parks this year in Fleetville, alongside Singhli – both perfect food options for the hot weather. Sonia has also been to the Oaklands Summer Fair, the Jubilee Street Party, and the International Food Festival at Welwyn Garden City. She also plans to return to the St Albans Food Festival in the Autumn on finale day.
If you would like to talk to Sonia about commissioning a celebration cake, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07508 558967. The website is www.crumbsnall.co.uk.