A love of rum can come from many places. For some people, it’s discovering it at a bar, for others it’s tied to family heritage. In Elaine Remy’s case, her rum connection came from her parents and it’s helped her launch a successful cake business.
The founder of UK-based brand Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes, Elaine specialises in creating beautiful rum cakes in honour of her mum. The recipient of several awards, Elaine has already caused quite a stir with her rummy treats.
The Rum Ration got in touch with her to learn more about the story of her cakes, the links between rum and the region of Cumbria and her plans for the future.
The Rum Ration: Good to chat to you Elaine and I think the story behind Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes is extremely resonate. Can you explain how it’s linked to your parents and Jamaican heritage?
Elaine Remy: I created Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes as a tribute to my mum, Vie, who passed away in 2018. When she was alive, she made the most scRUMptious fruit cakes which she would lace with strong, Jamaican rum. (Ironically, mum was tee-total and didn’t eat the cakes she made!) I decided to turn my loss into a legacy by reproducing my mum’s cake based on her traditional recipe and adding a little flavour of my own…
The Rum Ration: There are several links between the region of Cumbria where you’re based and the Caribbean. How did these links stand out to you when you first moved to the area?
Elaine Remy: When I moved to Cumbria in January 2019, I had absolutely no idea that there were such strong ties between my new home county and my heritage in the Caribbean. I found that out by chance, just by putting “rum” and “Cumbria” into a search engine.
The first on the list was The Rum Story in Whitehaven which consequently became the first company I collaborated with to get Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes up and running.
I later met Greg Stephenson, Director of Gundog PR, who told me that “Jamaica and Cumbria have a shared heritage which links them indelibly, even to this day, with references across the island to these deep-seated connections: Westmoreland, Kendal, Carlisle Bay and Cumberland.”
The Rum Ration: What types of rum do you use with your rum cakes and how do the flavours differ?
Elaine Remy: I’ve created three types of cake, all brimming full of juicy fruits, moist and bold; Rummy cakes are made with a 35% spiced gold rum, Rummier cakes are made with a 40% dark rum (one is a dark spiced rum) and the cakes that resemble most the cake my mum used to make are the Rummiest cakes, which are made with a 63% overproof white rum. All the cakes melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more.
The Rum Ration: In 2020, you launched a crowdsourcing campaign to help finance a van for the business. How did the campaign get set up and what benefits have come out of it since it was launched?
Elaine Remy: I was fortunate enough to have been accepted on the NatWest Back Her Business Scheme when it was running. This was an initiative to support female entrepreneurs in launching their companies.
NatWest collaborated with Crowdfunder and matched up to £5000 of funds raised by at least 100 backers. Thanks to contributions from as little as £1 from over 130 supporters, I managed to raise over £6000. I obtained the maximum funding of £5000, which enabled me to purchase a delivery van and brand it.
The Rum Ration: What other Cumbria based businesses have you partnered with to promote Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes to a wider audience?
Elaine Remy: Matson Ground Holiday Cottages who also own the lovely Birkdale House in Windermere are my sponsors. Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes are included as part of the welcome pack, which they offer to their guests.
The Rum Story also stocks “Decadent” which is made with their rum: Jefferson’s 1785 Extra Fine Dark Rum.
Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes are also available at Farrer’s in Kendal, which is one of the UK’s oldest coffee roasters. They have a charming shop which is full of quality products, so it’s a privilege to be listed there.
The Rum Ration: What techniques have you used to help bring your cakes to people in lockdown?
Elaine Remy: I sold my first cakes a couple of weeks before the first lockdown, so I was obliged to develop a strong, online strategy to make the business work during the pandemic, as every event I’d signed up to was cancelled and outlets were closed.
www.viesjamaicanrumcakes.co.uk became my number one route to market and social media was the way I spread the word about it.
When an order is placed from someone in the Windermere, Kendal (LA9) or Ambleside areas, or someone from these areas wins the monthly birthday prize draw (live on facebook.com/viesjamaicanrumcakes every 27th of the month at 6pm), I personally deliver their cakes in my van free of charge. It’s really nice to spend some time talking to people who support Vie’s and get to know them.
At the end of 2020, I was able to go back down south to my hometown (Ash Vale near Aldershot) and family members and friends of my mum were able to pick up the cakes they’d ordered from my dad’s place in time for Christmas. It was great to see people I hadn’t seen for ages. I plan to do this several times a year.
The Rum Ration: If you could share a bottle of rum with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Elaine Remy: I would love to share a bottle of rum with Levi Roots. I think that I could learn a lot from him by having a chat about his entrepreneurial journey.
The Rum Ration: From a therapeutic exercise to expressing creativity, baking can mean different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
Elaine Remy: Believe it or not, I actually don’t bake that much. However, when I do, it always takes me back to the times I used to spend in the kitchen with my mum and they were many!
I can still smell the cakes and have images of cake tins of all different shapes and sizes, buttered greaseproof paper to line them and cooling racks for when they came out of the oven. Of course, when I was young, I used to have the privilege of licking the bowl and wooden spoon. I think my mum’s other claim to fame could have been her apple crumble.
Today, baking is more of a fun, experimental exercise for me.
The Rum Ration: Where would you like to see Vie’s Rum Cakes in five-years’ time?
Elaine Remy: I would love to build a team that could take Vie’s Jamaican Rum Cakes to high-end establishments all over the UK and also have an exclusive outlet somewhere in the Lake District with all things rum, including a space for learning about the history of rum.
The Rum Ration: What would your best advice be for anyone who wants to start up their own cake business?
Find a couple of manufacturers that can produce your products to your standards as this will enable you to scale up quickly and free you from having to obtain all the health and safety and food hygiene certificates yourself.