North London’s canal boat community have combined forces to host The London Floating Market. I visited baker Ali Rawlings on barge ‘Captain Barbossa’ to try some cakes from her travelling business the Floating Cake shop.
Ali has a Roving Trader’s Licence which means she can only stay 2 weeks in each place. In London:
“Moorings are massively expensive and very hard to come by. I don’t see the point in being in one place, you might as well be in a flat. Moving around is the whole point. We have to do 20 miles a year or they restrict you the following year. Enforcement Officers on the towpath enforce the regulations asking: ‘Have you moved enough’?”
Ali was in the music industry before she started Rawlings Cakes:
“About 8 years ago, I stopped partying and started baking. My real passion is punk. I was around in the punk days. I worked for MCA record company , then radio- Kiss FM, then management. I used to manage Jim Jones, Thee hypnotics, Black Moses, The Priscillas. Now I’m into country.”
When did you discover you were gluten-free? How did you get interested in baking?
“I was getting really bloated, swelling up. I’m not coeliac though. I started baking gluten-free stuff cos I couldn’t find anything decent. I started to bake for friends then got myself a market stall in Chatsworth rd in Hackney called ‘Rawlings Cakes’.
I moved onto the boat in 2011. It was the first time I ever had a boat, but it was something I’d always wanted to do. I got it really cheap but it needed a lot of work. I decided to have a hatch cut out which meant I had the premises already there. One problem with the market stall was that it hardly broke even. Ingredients were high quality, organic, gluten-free.
The cakes are also vegan because it was tough to get the EHO to pass the boat if the ingredients needed refrigeration so no eggs and dairy. So they are vegan by default. Accidentally!
I’m not vegan just vegetarian. I don’t like the idea of being described as vegan. If you do that you alienate 95% of the population. I give people tasters and they realise it does taste like normal cake.
I never use eggs, I replace them with flax seed. My waffles are eggless.”
“I do it all on a Rayburn in the winter. I also have an LPG oven for the summer.
My baking routine, I’m up really early, 6 am, I start baking one thing after another. Open the hatch at about midday, trade until it gets dark. then start again the next morning.
When The Floating Market is going, I wear ears plugs at night, because people are partying. (Laughs)
I was born in London then I moved back to London at 14, I lived in Islington for 40 years. I consider myself to be a north Londoner, if anywhere was home. But I was brought up 3 different cities by time I was 11. That’s why I’m a nomad now. No roots.”
She describes life on the boat:
“What I like is that there is a community, where people look out for each other. So many things that can go wrong, you want your neighbours to help. I’ve made some great friends on the boats.
I get ingredients from Mike and Emma on The Onion Barge (who are based in Southhall), They do deliveries. I also get stuff from John the Poacher who hangs about with them. I get my deliveries of gas and coal from boats. I try and keep everything within the boating community.”
But isn’t it tough?
“You can’t be lazy. there’s stuff you have to do. If you are cold and you can’t be bothered to light a fire, you are going to stay cold.”
The London Floating Market includes:
- @Rawlingscakes: also serves hot spiced apple juice and waffles with toppings.
- @TheBookBarge (when at Kings Cross)
- @thevillagebutty: which has performances, comedy nights and a bar.
11th March (Mother’s Day) at Walthamstow Marshes opposite Springfield Park
28th March to 8th April (Easter) at the Angel near The Narrow Boat Pub. St Peters street.
Get in touch:
Instagram: @floating_cake_ shop
GF Vegan Banana Walnut Loaf
4tsp ground flax seed
180ml hot water
350g rice flour
3tbsp baking powder
1tsp xanthan gum
1/2tsp sea salt
250g vegan margarine (or butter)
4 ripe bananas
3tbsp icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Handful of walnuts
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Mix the flax seed with the hot water and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Combine the rice flour with the baking powder, the xanthem gum and the salt in one bowl.
In another bowl or stand mixer, beat the margarine, sugar and bananas together until smooth.
Stir in the flax seed mixture.
Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture until blended.
Pour into a lined or greased loaf pan.
Bake for one hour or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle this over the cake. Add walnuts to the top.