Former lawyer and cafe owner Caroline Blake forged a new career as a cookery writer and author during the pandemic lockdown

Author Caroline BlakeAuthor Caroline Blake
Author Caroline Blake
Lancashire lawyer turned cafe owner Caroline Blake has embarked on her third career - as a writer of cook books and novels.

Enterprising Caroline put her lockdown time during the pandemic to productive use. Rather than give in to despondency when the St Annes cafe she ran with her husband had to close its doors she started to share her recipes online.

Little did she know that act of generosity would lead to her achieving a longstanding ambition - to become a published author.

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Caroline, 55,and her husband Darrell, whose home is in Garstang, had been running the West Coast Cafe located at the YMCA gym at St Annes. But when the building closed during the Covid pandemic they could not even do takeaways.

Caroline's new novel Just Breathe will be published on March 14Caroline's new novel Just Breathe will be published on March 14
Caroline's new novel Just Breathe will be published on March 14

She said: "I was always a keen baker. I started baking with my nan when I was tiny. I've always loved it. That's what I did in the cafe. My husband is good with people and was out front .I was in the kitchen doing cakes and selling them online. When lockdown came everyone was baking, so I started to share a recipe every day, just different recipes from what I had and what I had baked in the cafe. I shared them on Facebook and that's when my followers grew by the thousands - by the end of the year I had 9,500 followers."

Caroline realised she needed to create a book when people started to ask was there any way of getting her recipes together in a publication.

She commissioned a local photographer whose studio was close to where the couple then lived in Chorley to take photos of her cakes.

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She recalled: "I made 50 odd cakes. It took me a week, baking for hours and hours."

Part of the cover of Caroline Bakes Cakes For KidsPart of the cover of Caroline Bakes Cakes For Kids
Part of the cover of Caroline Bakes Cakes For Kids

Her first book was Caroline Bakes Cakes for Kids, the second Caroline Bakes Cakes. Both cost £12 from her website.

She said the books contain "little tips and tricks I've learned over the years."

Keen to share that learning the book for children is intended to help build their baking confidence and develop their skill set by advising youngsters of their progress. She said "It's like teaching them how to bake. In each chapter I start with something really easy - as the sponge cake chapter goes on the cakes get more difficult. At the end of each chapter there's what you've learned ... how to whip cream without curdling it, you've learned how to do a ganache. At the end of the book there's three pages - a big list of everything they've learned if they've cooked everything."

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Caroline said people have commented online about how the books helped them and others posted photos of their completed bakes.In turn Caroline said she told them: "You've really helped me...... If I hadn't had that to do I would have been sitting rocking in a corner and crying. It gave me something to do and it was lovely."

Caroline's young adult novel Forget Me NotCaroline's young adult novel Forget Me Not
Caroline's young adult novel Forget Me Not

She has also shared recipes for soups made in the cafe and savoury quiches she makes at home as part of a series of mini e-books costing 99p ,which also include a book of cheesecakes.

After completing her cookery books she turned her attention to fiction. Mother of two Caroline started with a children's book, Dogwood Lane, inspired by the local Wyre landcape which has been home for the past 18 months and by a young 10 year old friend and neighbour called Jenny, who loved the book and eagerly awaited each new chapter.

It was followed by Forget Me Not, a book for young adults which has its roots in a family tragedy - the death of Caroline's sister Joanne, 18, from an asthma attack. In the book one of the lead characters Sophia is not willing to discuss the tragic death of a sibling who died in a fall. Instead Sophia writes letters to her late sister which act like a diary, helping develop the story's narrative.

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Caroline said: "My sister died when I was 16. I did the same thing. I went out and I didn't want to talk about my sister when I was out. I just wanted to be normal."

Children's book Dogwood LaneChildren's book Dogwood Lane
Children's book Dogwood Lane

Caroline said she chose to deal with her grief at home. But there was still some way to go. She said: "The first letter from Sophia (in Forget Me Not) was actually my letter to my sister I wrote many years later. I went for counselling - it all comes out. The counsellor said just go home and write a letter to her. I did and gave it to her and that was the very first person who gave me an indication I could write. The counsellor said it flowed really well and it actually made her cry. I've kept that letter for years, then I thought it's the basis of a book. I was quite sad when I got to the end (of the book). I actually burst into tears."

She said it had felt as though she was contacting her sister again, even though this was a work of fiction.

Then just weeks ago came the completion of her third novel - a book for adults entitled Just Breathe. It concerns an unexpected friendship between two women, one in her thirties and one in her fifties who meet unexpectedly - one escaping the stresses of an uncaring work place, another a toxic relationship. Through their journeys they become friends. The book costs £6.99 or £1.99 on Kindle.

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Caroline has demonstrated the same grit and determination to become an author as she showed when she qualified as a solicitor as a young mum, studying part time for her exams over seven years while continuing to work.

She left the law behind when she and her husband, who worked in management for W.H. Smith, decided to step away from the stresses of corporate life. Until then Caroline's working llife had been the law - starting in criminal law and working for a number of different firms, finally dealing with fraudulent road accident claims.

Her sights are now set on her next book - preliminary notes have been written and chapters thought about.

Of the cafe closure and the whole experience of lockdown she said: "It's all worked out for the best, it's given me another career."

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*For more about Caroline see her website or here or her Facebook page Caroline’s Cakes and Books.

Caroline's books can be bought from her website and as paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon. Caroline Bakes Cakes for Kids is also available from Booths supermarket in Garstang and the Plackitt & Booth book store in Lytham.

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