Rita Carey was always the life and soul of every party.
Along with her husband Fred, she loved family get-togethers and always celebrated in her own special way.
Whenever her daughter, Jane Endean, threw a summer barbecue or party, Rita would do her bit by whizzing up a batch of her special chocolate crunch cake.
She’d delight her daughter’s friends by passing it round the guests – in fact Rita became so well-known for this particular treat that others were desperate to get their hands on the recipe.
So when Rita passed away from breast cancer at the age of 70, Jane was pleased to find her mum’s famed crunch cake instructions tucked away inside her old recipe book.
And now Jane, from Southsea, is paying tribute to her mum in the best way she knows how. Along with husband Dave, she runs My Mum’s Cakes from her kitchen in Marion Road. Together they’re hoping to set up a booming business using many of Rita’s recipes as their inspiration.
‘I was extremely close to my mum and dad,’ explains Jane. ‘After mum passed away I found a recipe of hers that she always used to make and that everyone had loved.
‘When I was a kid she had a book of recipes that she’d written down. It was a scruffy old book but I found it and there was the recipe. I think she’d got it from a 1972 Woman’s Own or something.
‘So I made a batch and it was a bit of therapy. Ever since I was a kid I’d made cakes with my mum.’
She adds: ‘We used to have these big barbecues and parties every year. My mum and dad were very sociable and our friends became their friends.
‘Everyone would come and mum would bring out this chocolate crunch and it became a bit of a joke because everyone loved it, but she wouldn’t give the recipe out to anyone.’
Sadly Rita passed away in 2004 after a ninth-month battle against cancer. She was diagnosed at the same age as her own mum had been told she had the disease but never complained about being ill.
‘She’d had a mammogram and it was all okay but six months later she found a lump,’ says Jane. ‘It was horrendously aggressive and she died nine months later. It was a horrible time. She was an amazing person and never moaned. She was stronger than the rest of us.
‘I lost my dad three years before that and we’d had some big changes in our lives. We’d moved to Worcester to buy a shop and we’d been there six months when mum got diagnosed.’
Always a keen baker, Jane found that making cakes her mum had made helped her feel closer while she grieved. And after passing out the chocolate crunch cake among family and friends, it made sense to start making it to sell in her convenience store.
‘I got it out for the customers and it went down so well. In the end we were selling up to 15,000 cakes a year from our shop and from there we got into the idea of doing something for charity.
‘Because my mum died from breast cancer, we thought about donating to a breast cancer charity and eventually chose Breakthrough Breast Cancer. We now donate 10 per cent of the sale from each cake to them.’
As Jane got better at baking she began to try out more of her mum’s recipes and she’s now added to the goodies she creates, using many of Rita’s instructions for traditional cakes and puddings she always made.
And what started out as a small sideline has now turned into their main line of work. After selling the shop and relocating to the south coast, Dave and Jane are putting all their energy into their cake business.
At the weekend they manned a stall at the Gunwharf Quays Closer to Food event, sharing the bill with established brands and celebrity chefs such as Jean-Christophe Novelli.
‘We just started out by selling the cakes in our shop and sold a lot,’ says Jane. ‘We knew we didn’t want to stay in the shop forever and we needed to do something else. The name came to us one evening. We were just chatting about it and said “What about My Mum’s Cakes?”.
‘We thought we would give it a whirl. When we ended up moving here it was hard to start again, but we’ve been going to a lot of events and food festivals.’
The Breakthrough Breast Cancer link means they’ve also become a focus for others who’ve been diagnosed with the disease and many come up to talk to Jane about her mum and her own struggle: ‘We get a lot of people who are recovering from breast cancer who come and chat to us.
‘The thing with breast cancer is that most people know someone who has been affected by it. It’s awful that my mum didn’t survive it but that’s life. Some people do and some people don’t. But I think this has helped me.
‘I was devastated when she died. Doing this and seeing how much we’ve raised has spurred me on so it is helping me.
‘I can’t say I’ve got over losing my mum, I miss her every day. But I suppose it’s now a few years on and when I make a cake I think of my mum and I think of her in a happy way.
‘It’s nice to raise money to support the charity because although my mum didn’t survive, she had brilliant treatment.’
Jane and Dave’s two daughters Laura, 23, and Amy, 21, think the business is a great idea and they also get help from other family members who live in the area.
Jane adds ‘We just want it to be successful, we don’t want to be the next Mr Kipling. We’re happy like this, we just want the business to grow and it’s nice to keep mum’s recipes going.
‘I do get a bit of a buzz from it. Selling something that I’ve made is great and it’s good to have that family link.
‘We see friends who we’ve not seen for years and they say “I remember your mum making chocolate crunch”.’
· Log on to mymumscakes.com for more information.