Proof of the Pudding Ladies – after 10 years in the park

Pudding ladies Claire Batterby(left) and Dianne Wilkinson celebrating 10 years since opening Millhouses Park Cafe
Pudding ladies Claire Batterby(left) and Dianne Wilkinson celebrating 10 years since opening Millhouses Park Cafe

it all started with a job lot of cake tins and a converted Sheffield garage. Then came the leap of faith into Millhouses Park Café.

Ten years on, the Pudding Ladies are one of the city’s success stories – and a local institution, to boot.

And they plan to celebrate their anniversary in fitting style on Saturday with a party in the park.

“It’s a fun family day to thank customers for all their support over the years,” says Claire Batterby, one half of the duo.

“We feel really blessed,” says her business partner, Dianne Wilkinson. “This is a great place to be.”

The two women have known each other all their lives – they went to dance classes together as children. Dianne did a catering and hospitality degree, eventually working for Wards Brewery, and Claire went into sales but was a passionate cook in her spare time.

Fate took a hand when Dianne was made redundant in 2000. Looking for a new challenge, they invested £50 of her pay-out on cake tins, converted her garage into a commercial kitchen and the Pudding Ladies was born.

The business proved an immediate success, supplying delicious cakes and desserts to restaurants, cafés and pubs around the area.

They quickly outgrew the garage – “The carport was full of freezers and fridges and my house looked like a bun shop!” – when the park café came on the market.

Claire and Dianne took the plunge, spent three weeks refurbishing the place and it has been a popular local venue ever since, serving refreshments and snacks during the day and opening for Saturday bistro nights once a month.

The business expanded when they took on the Rivelin Park Café in 2006. And number three hasn’t been rulen out.

“We’ve had Millhouses for ten years and aged about 20! But it’s absolutely flown by – and we still thoroughly enjoy it, especially the customers,” says Claire.

One of their favourites is Ray, who has been in almost every morning since they first opened.

“He sits on the same table with the Daily Mail and has the same cooked full English breakfast.

“It’s not just about being a café, it’s about being part of the local community. That’s why we want to celebrate.”

Saturday’s fun day will include a charity balloon burst in aid of St Lukes and Bluebell Wood hospices and the Friends of Millhouses Park.

Another highlight will be a picture board filled with customers’ old photos of the park over the years.

And a suitably mouth-watering prize is up for grabs: the best photo will win a cream tea for two every week for a year.