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Fitzbillies Trumpington Street
Fitzbillies Trumpington Street...
...has been a part of Cambridge since 1920 and is still serving its famous, traditional Chelsea buns!
Our main branch on Trumpington Street includes the original cake shop, a 70 seater waiter service café and a separate coffee bar.
It serves a full brunch menu 7 days a week until 4pm, fantastic coffee and a traditional English Afternoon Tea.
We don't take bookings (with the exception of large groups for our Traditional Afternoon Tea) so please just come along and we'll give you the next available table.
51-52 Trumpington St
Monday - Friday
8am - 5.30pm
Fitzbillies Bridge Street
Fitzbillies Bridge Street...
...is a little sister to the original on Trumpington Street.
It serves coffee, cakes and simple food including fantastic bacon rolls and a great selection of sandwiches and salads from the counter.
However, if you are looking for a full cooked meal, Celebration Afternoon Tea and waiter service, please head over to the main branch on Trumpington Street where all of these delights await!
36 Bridge St
The latest chapter in the long story of Fitzbillies began in February 2011 when Alison Wright, sitting at her desk in a London Marketing company, read a ‘tweet’ from Stephen Fry…
...and indeed the bakery, had gone into bankruptcy… after 90 years as a beloved Cambridge institution.
Fitzbillies began life in 1920 when Ernest and Arthur Mason, returned to Cambridge from the First World War. They were the sons of local baker ‘Ticker’ Mason, who had a shop further up Trumpington St and they used their demob money to set up a bakery of their own. It was they who had the shop front designed in the Art Nouveau style and their initials are still visible in worn-out gold letters at the bottom of the window.
Fitzbillies quickly became the cake-shop of choice of university and town. It produced a range of cakes, however by the time of the Second World War it was the Chelsea Buns that had become, by far the most popular. In the Observer Guide to British Cookery, Jane Grigson wrote,
‘When the war was over, everyone thought food queues would be over, too. In fact, everything continued as greyly as before, and the most anxious queues I had ever joined were outside Fitzbillies in Cambridge. No undergraduate tea party was complete without their Chelsea buns, syrupy, well spiced, licentious and exceptional during the years of ersatz cakes and shortages. I still think they are the best Chelsea buns I have ever eaten.’
The Masons ran the business successfully until 1958 when they sold it to Garth & Annette Day. The current Head Baker, Gill Abbs, started work for Mr & Mrs Day in the 1970s, learning the original recipes from them. This was, perhaps, the peak of popularity for high street cakeshops and the pinnacle of Fitzbillies’ glory, with queues round the block for Chelsea buns, sausage rolls fresh from the oven, and orders for college parties and spectacular wedding cakes.
By the 1980s bakeries faced new sources of competition from supermarkets and fast food outlets and the business, which by then had been sold by the Days to new owners, went bankrupt for the first time. The building was gutted by a terrible fire in 1998 but was rebuilt and the bakery reopened and continued trading until 2011 when it went bankrupt for the second time.
Which brings us back to the beginning of our latest chapter
Alison had grown up in Cambridge where her father was a fellow of St Catharine’s College, just across the road, from the shop. Her Saturday morning treat was to go and choose a cake from Fitzbillies. Her 21st birthday cake had been a croquembouche from the bakery.
Her family eventually moved on from Cambridge and Alison built a career, married Tim Hayward, the Financial Times and Radio 4 food writer and broadcaster and they had a daughter, Liberty.
But alongside her marketing career, Alison had developed a serious passion for baking. She made multi-tier wedding cakes for friends, extraordinary birthday cakes for Liberty and her friends and left the competition for dead at every office bake-off. In spare moments she lovingly hand-made dozens of fruit tarts for her local deli, Melrose & Morgan in Primrose Hill and enrolled at the San Francisco Baking Institute to improve her skills.
So, when she saw that Fitzbillies, her childhood love, was in need of rescue, nothing stood in her way. She called on the help of her husband Tim and his contacts in the food world to put together a business plan to reopen the much-loved bakery. To preserve all the very best of it’s history and charm, while rebuilding a business that could thrive into the 21st century.
After a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style ‘pitch’ to landlords Pembroke College, Alison bought Fitzbillies out of receivership. The family moved to Cambridge and after 3 months of refurbishment they reopened the doors on 19 August to an eager queue of Chelsea bun aficionados, evidently thrilled to see their beloved town bakery brought back from the brink.
Since then Fitzbillies has gone from strength to strength. The traditional cake shop on Trumpington St has been joined by a café/restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch and afternoon tea and a coffee shop. And in 2016 a second, smaller branch opened at the other end of the town centre, in Bridge St. The famous Chelsea buns can be ordered online for posting to all corners of the world.
Alison and Tim continue to manage the business maintaining the tradition and quality, while developing new ideas to appeal to all Fitzbillies customers; town, gown and visitors alike.