Introducing Double Trouble
Posted by Terry Glover
I met Marta during the pandemic. The intensity of the time made friendships happen quickly, and she became part of my bubble; one of a crew of hospitality workers whose tenacity and ability to pivot fast under pressure ended up producing exciting results. At the time, many of us were laid off or furloughed on less than usual pay. Unable to do our usual physical service jobs, we had to think on our feet. We took the chance to study, diversify, create and cook in different ways. For Marta and her friend Lexa, this process of exploration and experimentation crystallized into Double Trouble – a baking business that the pair had discussed jokingly for years.
Established in 2022, Double Trouble is off to a shining start. The pair are creating beautiful bakes: tahini swirl and halva brownies, gluten free orange almond polenta cake and almond butter chocolate cookies, to name a few. Curious to know more about their process, I shot Lexa and Marta a few questions.
Terry: How did both of you end up in London? That’s definitely something I want to know – how we foreigners from sunny lands have ended up making our lives here.
Marta: I’m originally from Italy. I was able to come over and start working as a crossfit coach.
Lexa: I’m originally from New Jersey, USA. I got married to an Englishman I met while studying pastry in France, and moved over in 2018. We both miss the sun but our cakes can make the days seem a bit sunnier!
T: And how did you meet? How did you end up entering this working partnership?
L: Marta was my coach at my local gym. I started training with her and then when lockdown started we continued communication. We had joked for years about opening a baking business together, and at some point those jokes started to look like a real possibility.
T: How do you keep your partnership real? Are there any essential guidelines to your working collaboration?
L: Marta and I come from different backgrounds and training. We have been able to learn a lot about each other, ourselves and the world from starting our partnership. Our goal in starting our business was to work hard at something that was not also tearing us down at the same time. We are able to achieve this by accepting each other, and our own abilities and human flaws. We are good at exchanging work loads depending on our interests, strengths and abilities.
T: What are your food stories? What have been some big ‘aha!’ moments for both of you?
M: I started a baking business from home in lockdown. As a way to make myself happy and use my time, I started selling vegan and gluten free items by mail order. My business was called Marta and the Muffins. People loved my sweets so much they started asking, or begging, for me to make custom cakes. I dove straight in! After keeping the cake business on the side of my coaching job, I decided that cakes were the answer to a happy life. And that was when Lexa entered the picture.
L: I found food after a frustration with life after uni. I quit my first desk job out of school after six months to volunteer on a farm. The woman who ran the farm guided me to find my goals, and through a mix of selling food at farmers’ markets, catering large farm parties and learning to cook fresh from the farm, I figured that the goal must have to do with food and hospitality. After researching pastry schools, I discovered that going to pastry school was much cheaper in Paris than any major city in the USA (how romantic). And the rest is herstory! I never looked back; pastry has always been the answer.
M: For me, a big ‘aha!’ moment was when lockdown started to lift and I started doing a pop-up at my local gym. Interacting with the customers and seeing how my products were gaining popularity and bringing people joy really locked in the idea of ‘this is what I need to do’.
L: Before making the jump to Double Trouble, I was working in a position I was technically under-qualified for. After originally getting a junior position based on eagerness and a try-hard attitude, my senior chef abruptly quit and I took his position. After working in that position for some time I gained a world of confidence and understood it was my chance to make something for myself.
T: How is your style evolving? Do you have a vision or a five year plan?
L: Because our business is so young we are constantly evolving. We have been saying ‘YES YES YES!’ to every opportunity. It’s a sort of ‘see what sticks’ business plan that has worked surprisingly well. We are constantly workshopping new ideas, finding our favorite baking styles and learning how to satisfy London taste buds. We grew up in different countries and with different experiences, which gives us a lot to discover and workshop. As we have been saying ‘YES!’ to everything, we will eventually need to simplify the business down to what is serving us the best. One goal would be to run a cake shop and continue doing wholesale and custom cakes from there.
T: What’s your favourite and proudest baked good?
M: I can make a mean tiramisu, and I’m a tough critic! A tiramisu-inspired celebration cake that got shining reviews was a proud moment. Working in a product-customer relationship is very rewarding because you get to see the happiness your cake provided them.
L: Marta’s also absolutely amazing at making a unicorn cake; the quaff mane comes out beautifully every time! Personally, I have found a real interest in cake decoration. The process of sketching out ideas and figuring out how to make a design feature work is rewarding. My proudest moment in Double Trouble would have to be a cake that was topped with a hand-designed cobra that stood on the top and wrapped around the side. I can also make a mean canelé, but that’s too much oven time for the cafe so I won’t entice you!
T: And finally – what’s your favourite kitchen tool?
M: I love the kitchen to be full of bright colors and pleasing decorations. We have shelves of multi colored sprinkles, and rainbow spatulas! Like any good baker, I love a reliable oven. There are just some things you should be able to trust.
L: I love a timer. We have two in the kitchen, plus one on both of our ovens. It’s easier to focus 100% on the task at hand when you know you will be reminded about the important things.
We’ll be serving the Double Trouble Turmeric Sugar Cookie at the Cake Shop as our Spring Favorite and listing them as a recommended supplier for celebration cakes for times when we are too busy or when their unique style is what you looking for...