The Chocolate Cellar in the Wirral serving up Easter delights
PUBLISHED: 17:24 18 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:15 05 April 2013
We discover what's cooking this Easter with a Wirral chocolatier enjoying the sweet life
When you tuck into a chocolate egg this Easter Sunday spare a thought for Bala Croman.
Bala, who runs The Chocolate Cellar, has spent the last two months living and breathing Easter eggs. In the run-up to the Easter break, she will have done nothing apart from spending her time elbow deep in gallons of chocolate at her home in Bidston. In fact, she makes so many goodies at this time of year that her sons, Rohan, eight, and Arun, five, are convinced she supplies the Easter Bunny.
I go through about 100 kilos of chocolate for Easter and Mothers Day and I will make hundreds of eggs, said the Wirral chocolatier. Its definitely the busiest time of year for me and I dont do much sleeping.
Of course, Rohan and Arun love it. The Easteralways say the Easter Bunny gets their chocolate from me which really makes me laugh.
Bala, 46, was born in Kenya before moving to London with her family when she was nine. She fell in love with the Wirral and moved here 14 years ago. It was after watching the film of Joanna Harriss novel, Chocolat, and reading Real Chocolate, by Rococo founder Chantal Coady book, that she had the idea to become a chocolatier.
She was still working for an electricity company when she began creating luxury chocolates for friends and farmers markets. When her Danish pecan nut and cinnamon recipe and lemon and cumin chocolates received Gold Awards from the Great Taste Awards in 2006 and 2007, she took the plunge and launched The Chocolate Cellar.
She said: Chocolat made me fall in love with the idea of chocolate making. I went to France to try real chocolate and I became obsessed with it. I had never really enjoyed it until then. Now, when people say they dont like chocolate, I think they just havent found the right.
I was selling at Wirral Farmers Market and people kept asking me where my shop was. Well, I didnt have one but it made me realise that people really loved my chocolates.
She began in her kitchen, but soon converted her cellar into a production unit, hence the name of the business. She then opened her own shop in Birkenhead before moving onto Hanover Street in Liverpool where she ran a caf, shop and workshops. But last year she made the difficult decision to close and took production back home, giving her more time to dedicate to the art of making chocolate. She now uses her former dining room which she fondly calls the chocolate room - which has been converted into an industrial space.
Bala uses Belgian chocolate to make everything from luxury truffles and chocolate bars to milk sticks to make hot chocolate and chocolate-dipped pretzels. She creates everything from traditional concoctions like chilli and chocolate and high cocoa content dark chocolate bars to more unusual combinations of raspberry and pink peppercorn, garam masala blends and salt and pepper chocolate.
She uses soft fruits from Claremont Farm in Bebington, where she also holds workshops, as well as cream from nearby Mortons Dairies and eggs from the chickens she keeps in her back garden. She sells her chocolate in local shops, online and at farmers markets across Wirral and Liverpool and holds workshops and courses as well as parties for special occasions. She also supplies local businesses, including chocolate shot glasses she makes for Bar Bodega in Liverpool.
Bala has also launched the Ministry of Desserts with Cupcake Revolution and Alright Petal florists, both in Wallasey and West Kirbys Rivington Photography. Together, they create packages of chocolates, cakes, flowers and photo sessions and they are currently in the process of organising a 50s-inspired wedding fair with a traditional tea dance to be held in May.
She said: This has been really exciting for us and we really hope we are doing something different. To be able to work with other like-minded businesses, rather than working against each other is fantastic.
I love experimenting with flavours and Id love to do more of that. I feel so lucky to spend my days doing something that I love. Its incredible.