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EastEnders actress Balvinder Sopal opens The Queen of Bakes in Gillingham

A mum whose business almost collapsed during lockdown has now opened her own luxury afternoon tearoom with the help of a soap star.

Actress Balvinder Sopal, who plays Suki in EastEnders, cut the ribbon at Louise Malone's new venture The Queen of Bakes in Canterbury Street, Gillingham on Sunday.

Louise Malone with actress Balvinder Sopal
Louise Malone with actress Balvinder Sopal

Louise has been running Cakes and Buffets Inspired by Lou for three years but struggled during lockdown because her celebratory cakes and party buffets were no longer in demand. She also found it very difficult to source ingredients.

But instead of letting it beat her, she adapted her offerings and started selling afternoon tea boxes people could enjoy at home and treat boxes for children.

She said: "In the first lockdown I struggled to get ingredients. I had to give people their money back. I was down to just £20 in my bank account."

Louise took two weeks off to re-boot the business and even had help from her loyal customers to get hold of the ingredients she needed.

During lockdown she made just over 1,000 afternoon tea boxes.

She said: "I had to be flexible and go with the times."

Louise makes luxury cakes
Louise makes luxury cakes

Louise even found time to bake hundreds of cupcakes for staff at Medway Maritime Hospital.

Opening her own tearoom has been a dream come true for Louise, who went to catering college in Maidstone.

EastEnders actress Balvinder, who has also appeared in Emmerdale and Coronation Street, was a special guest. She and her sister are both customers of Louise's.

Louise said: "I have managed to achieve my dream before my 40th birthday next year. We have got a great location, it is a great community.

"I have an open kitchen so people can see me bake cakes or scones and ask questions.

The tea room is a dream come true for Louise
The tea room is a dream come true for Louise

"We are right next to St Mark's Church and they want to use the kitchen in the evenings to teach children to bake."

The business is most definitely a family affair with Louise's mum, husband and children all involved. Husband Gary has even given up his own job to be part of the new venture.

The Queen of Bakes is open for bookings between 11.30am and 4pm. For more information search The Queen of Bakes on Facebook or visit thequeenofbakes.shop/

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