3rd Prize (12-15 yrs) Story 2021 Competition

It’s Hard to be a Confectioner


James Taplin

Gordon’s School, Surrey.

What on the BLT19.co.uk website inspired you?

The articles in the Baker and Confectioner inspired me to write this piece as a confectioner in Victorian times. I wrote about what it would be like as a confectioner in competition with others, and the fame of being featured in a magazine. It explains how the magazine is laid out, and how it is set in Victorian time. The hardships of a confectioner’s life were essential in this piece, as I gathered that it is hard from the magazines. The magazines inspired me to write this piece.

Masthead of the Baker and Confectioner

It’s hard to be a confectioner. I have been training in this art for fifteen years now, and I am twenty-four years old. I started to make sweets when I was fourteen, because that was when my dad let me use the sweet machine. It has been in our family of sweet makers for generations, and it is starting to malfunction. It will still last me a while though.   I have been ridiculed for taking up the art of sweet making. It is such a random profession, but it fascinates me. I knew I would never be a wealthy man, but at least I am doing what I love. Seeing the smooth milk chocolate turn into stars or hearts, it truly amazes me how a block of cocoa butter and powder and a few other ingredients can make something as delicious as sweets. 

I inherited the shop from my father, and it is situated on a busy street in London. The only reason I have any customers is because of its great location. I have had many offers for the land because it is prime position for new shops, but I could not bear to sell it. Grandfather spent his whole life running this shop, and I will not waste his efforts. Although I do not get many customers all year round, I have a few regulars. When it reaches Christmas or Valentine’s day, then business picks up again. I try to make sure I have plenty of stock for those events, but I am always sold out. I usually save my money from those events until times gets rough, unlike other businesses. I have seen many shops have a surge of customers, then go bankrupt the next month because of the lack of smart decisions.  

Every morning, I pick up my copy of The Baker and Confectioner. It’s a weekly magazine and contains essential instructions and details about new products and recipes. I have used many of the recipes in my own work, but I chose the ones that not many other confectioners would do, as to make the recipe my own. There are snippets of information that are useful every now and again, so I always read them just in case.  

It is not always easy being a confectioner. It is hard work, churning, mixing, separating, adding, measuring, molding, and cooling, day and night. The only rest is when I sleep and when I open shop for the customers. I only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, as I can make the sweets the other days. Saturday is normally the busiest, when I must open to make extra profit. Shops don’t open on a Sunday so I can’t open then.  

One day I received a very strange customer. They came in on Monday, which is unusual as I don’t have many customers on Monday. He was a man, who looked in his late forties, and he said he was a journalist for the Baker and Confectioner. He told me he had heard of my shop and wanted to interview me. He wanted to know my recipes, to get some tips on how to survive in the competitive business of sweet shops, the usual advice included in the Baker and Confectioner. I answered his questions, and even let him try a few of the chocolates. He asked for a few recipes, but I could not bear to share my recipes with the whole of England, so I just told him a cake recipe that was in the Baker and Confectioner a few years ago. He seemed happy with it, so I do not feel bad. On his way out, he bought a box of Rose chocolate hearts for his wife. It was a strange encounter, but an interesting one.  

The next day, I was excited to look at the weekly magazine. I was there, right on the front cover of it. I was amazed. I was famous. I had heard that interviews were common, but I had never seen one on the front cover before. I hastily read the article about me. I had received praise about my shop and me. It stated a few things that I had not said and were probably gathered from my customers and friends. It noted how old the shop was, and what machine I was using. I had meant to keep that secret, but it’s a bit late now.  

I had many more customers after I have been in the magazine. I have become famous in the confectionary world, and I am a lot richer because of it. I am happy I got to be famous, but I know it will not last long. It is fine, I am just a simple confectioner, no more no less.