Reviving a Historic Baking Tradition

Baker offers his oven to his neighbors to bake their holiday cakes.

A woman decorating a festive cake with red berries.

(Rabusta /

Community ovens are a centuries old tradition that has been found in cultures around the world. There is actually documentation going back to the 12th century when people did not have ovens – or heat – in their homes, according to a blog on the Food52 website. The ovens were places where people congregated and swapped news and recipes while their food cooked.

The Brickyard Bakery
Fast forward to today where a Guisborough, UK business –  Brickyard Bakery –  has offered to bake the Christmas cakes of his customers and give them a warm place to stay while their dense fruit cakes that typically take four or more hours to bake are in the oven. With the rising cost of fuel, many people cannot afford to leave their ovens on that long, reported the BBC.

“We've introduced something from medieval times - a community oven - where people can make a cake and put it in a tin but, instead of popping it in the oven at home, it gets baked in my bakery's ovens,” owner Ed Hamilton-Trewhitt told the BBC. “This way it gives people the opportunity to add their secret ingredients and we'll take the expense of the cooking, as our ovens are on anyway.”

People made their own recipes at home and then Hamilton-Trewhitt picked them up in his van to bring to the bakery to bake in batches, according to CBC News.

“It kind of struck me that if one customer was getting upset about the energy costs of baking the Christmas cake, then there will be lots more out there,” he told CBC News. "In the grand scheme of things, it's costing me so little and it makes a massive difference.”

The response has been so positive, that Hamilton-Trewhitt has extended the original time-frame up to right before Christmas.

Taking care of the community
For months now, the UK has been grappling with a cost-of0living crisis that has left many people unable to pay their energy bills. In fact, more than 3 million low-income households will not be able to heat their homes this winter.

Back in September 2022l, Hamilton-Trewhitt decided to open up the cooking academy space above the bakery as a space for people to warm up because according to the business’s Facebook Page the cost-of-living was “weighing heavily” on the staff, according to the Yorkshire Post.

The social media post went on to say that the bakery produces a tremendous amount of heat and that the academy was kept very warm so anyone can come and stay for a few hours and have a cuppa tea and read the newspaper for a few hours.

The post was shared ore than 7,000 times in just a few days. One person wrote, "What an amazing gesture.” After all, that’s what being a good neighbor is all about.

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