A staff programme focussed on encouraging new product ideas at Two Magpies Bakery helped bring about a salted caramel & almond brownie, which was recently crowned Britain’s Best Cake 2024.

Despite its humble appearance, the sweet treat showcased exceptional flavours and varied textures to see it garner the nod from judges ahead of more than 130 other entries at the inaugural edition of the competition run by British Baker. The event, which took place at the Birmingham NEC in late April, was sponsored by Dawn Foods, Kluman & Balter, Sonneveld, and Walker Humphrey.

Owner and CEO Steve Magnall - Two Magpies Bakery

Source: Two Magpies Bakery

Owner and CEO Steve Magnall

Evidently, the East Anglian bakery chain places a lot of faith in its staff with owner and CEO Steve Magnall noting that the inspiration for the brownie came from “the team itself”, which is regularly tasked with freshening shop displays.

“Because the team is involved, they will want their product to be the best and make sure it happens,” Magnall told British Baker.

“We have a mixture of patisserie students, full time patisserie chefs, and staff that are new to pastry. We train them all in our products but encourage new ideas. As I say, it’s all about the team,” he added.

Holding out for a hero

The owner revealed an innovative approach to new product development at Two Magpies Bakery which sees a staff programme called ‘the sixths’ run every two months. The range is split into three categories for this: hero, seasonal, and new.

Products with hero status are never taken off sale at bakery counters. These range from savoury items such as sausage rolls, vegan rolls, empanadas, cheese straws, and sourdough, to sweet treats including brownies, carrot cake, friands (similar to muffins), amaretti biscuits, and Bakewell slices.

Salted caramel & almond brownie drizzled with caramel sauce - Two Magpies Bakery

Source: Two Magpies Bakery

Salted caramel & almond brownie drizzled with caramel sauce

Some of the flavours of these products are seasonal, however, and having inclusions like fruits updated when they are in season or on trend.

Magnall said that the chain always carries two brownies at any one time, with one being the Madagascan brownie (he describes them as an “everlasting pleasure”) and the other being seasonal. “We have had banana chip, peanut, caramel, blondie, you name it. All of them sell well,” he expressed.

The salted caramel & almond brownie, which features dark single origin chocolate from Madagascar, is said to be simple enough to bake but requires care not to burn the almonds. According to Magnall, it was created a while ago but has now been rushed to shop shelves after customers began asking for it following coverage of its victory in Britain’s Best Cake 2024.

The brownies can also be purchased as a letterbox gift for home delivery via the Two Magpies Bakery website, which has a new section on the home page celebrating the award.

Expansion plans

Two Magpies recently opened its tenth shop in the Suffolk town of Framlingham near Ipswich, after adding two new sites to its retail estate last year.

Housed in an old Barclays Bank, the new 3,000 sq ft bakery and café is the group’s largest with space for 54 covers. It will serve the chain’s full range of freshly baked pastries, sourdough and cakes, as well as breakfast and lunch menus, seven days a week.

Its other shops are located in Norwich, Blakeney, Holt, Woodbridge, Aldeburgh, and Darsham, with three small-format outlets (aka ‘Mini Magpies’) in Beccles, Southwold, and Wells-next-the-Sea.

After lengthy delays, the business finally began production at its new 11,000 sq ft central bakery in Walpole last year, which included a £80,000 investment. Two Magpies had previously stated the site had potential to treble its capacity and support growth of its estate up to 30 shops, increasing turnover to £25m.

“We have spent a considerable amount on our Walpole central bakery,” commented Magnall. “This is now a time to consolidate as the summer is coming and that’s a particularly busy time. But after that, watch this space.”