Jenny Engvall - Fika Bakery Ltd. Jenny is foraging for mushrooms in a forest.

Jenny Engvall

We meet Jenny Engvall, the founder of Fika Bakery Ltd., Brighton & Hove’s newest wholesale and retail bakery. Fika Bakery specialises in creating artisan Swedish baked goods, supplying cafes across the city and several villages in Sussex. Their offerings include traditional cinnamon buns, cardamom buns, and vanilla buns, bringing a taste of Sweden to the local community.

Why did you start Fika Bakery?

We realised that the UK was starting to fall in love with all things Scandinavian – including cinnamon buns – but the cinnamon buns being sold in most cafes were either an English cinnamon swirl covered in sickly icing, or a bready American-style cinnamon bun. While our children were little I’d been making Swedish gateau-style cakes and people kept asking about Swedish buns.

We started selling them at Brighton’s Open Market on London Road, and were approached by a number of cafes all looking for wholesale. And so the adventure began…

What is unique about your business here in Brighton?

There’s some amazing wholesale bakeries in Sussex and we’ve enjoyed eating their products for years. Swedish patisserie is different, just as British bakeries are different to French, so we’re bringing new flavours and techniques to Sussex.

Because we are still relatively small, and we test our products at weekly markets, we can be nimble and adapt to what our customers want – something different, and something with high-end ingredients.

Tell us about your favourite products, and which are your best sellers?

The classic cinnamon bun is our biggest seller, closely followed by our cardamon bun. We can see that’s gaining a big following as other local bakeries are now producing their version.

We do the usual croissants and pain au chocolat of course and we produce a lot of these, but our key difference is we use old fashioned recipes with high amounts of butter so they taste indulgent.

We’re just at the end of rhubarb season now and our rhubarb and vanilla bun was a big favourite.

What is your career history?

I started working in some of the best bakeries in Stockholm when I was 16. My grandad was a baker and gave me 100-year-old recipe book. When I was 18, I moved to London to create afternoon teas at The Ritz, then moved to The Compleat Angler in Marlow. When I had children I set up a from-home cake delivery service in Brighton with Swedish fresh cream cakes. 

When you meet businesses for the first time, what do you talk about?

Making cinnamon buns famous in England. ‘Fika’ (translation: coffee and cake with friends) is a big deal in Sweden and the cinnamon bun is as important to Scandinavia as croissants are to France. We like meeting unique cafes and venues that want something a little different – either Swedish products, or something with great ingredients: lots of butter, specially sourced cardamom, high-quality sea salt instead of cooking salt, vanilla pods instead of essence. Having worked in restaurants myself, I know how important it is to source great ingredients.

When we find businesses that share our passion, it just makes business easy.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I’m sure it won’t be a surprise… but finding the right kind of staff that is a fit for us has been tricky. Not everyone wants to be a night baker. Some people have promising baking skills, but not so good personal skills. At the same time, we’ve found some amazing people now. Vitor is so passionate about getting our croissants perfect and is now learning some patisserie skills. Louisa, our operations assistant, handles one of the delivery routes, helps at markets, organises aspects of the bakery, and visits existing and new customers for feedback – she’s a star. And our head baker Pawel has navigated the challenges of a small team with a high output and shows a huge amount of dedication.

One year since starting Fika Bakery, we now have a great core team to build from.

What plans do you have?

We have started delivering to some venues in London, we’ve been exploring distributors, and we’re looking at how we can supply more cafes, hotels, restaurants and venues in Sussex. We’ve also created a premium brioche bun and a lovely flatbread (like a Swedish focaccia), to help our customers create beautiful burgers and sandwiches. Next, we’re looking at some distinctive Scandinavian breads, and looking at innovation in our core range of pastries.

There’s a lot to do, so if anyone reading this wants to come and help, we’re always looking for fellow lovers of artisan food.

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