In 2014 came The Hardihood, a young business creating cakes free from gluten, dairy, wheat, soya and refined sugar, helmed by two women: Leah Garwood-Gowers and Daisy Payne. Power women take note. A concise vision and strong strategy will you get you far, as long as you enjoy what you do and what you do can enrich others’ lives by feeling good.

Not only NOT compromising on good taste, beautiful presentation is at the heart of The Hardihood’s business structure, with these favourables going hand in hand. With their motto ‘Less Vegan, More Vogue’, Leah and Daisy know exactly what they’re doing with these hand-made goods, and it’s exactly what we all want. The Hardihood emerged at a time when city-dwellers finally saw the importance of accompanying a hectic lifestyle with healthy eating also. Healthy living in general was always a choice for some, but for many it was always to the compromise of good taste and aesthetics (which of course also influence the way we experience food). A pleasure to consume, without any ounce of guilt, The Hardihood are almost revolutionary. Sure, you’ll find gluten-free cakes now in most chains and gentrified areas of big cities, but what The Hardihood are setting a new standard.

We first worked with The Hardihood team for our issue 10 launch at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in 2015 and now, and almost a year on, Leah and Daisy have grown their business to even greater heights. Not only have publications Vogue, Grazia and Marie Claire UK been knocking on their door to include them in print, The Hardihood ladies are now working on their very own book. Two of most fabulous women you’ll ever meet, with the know-how and knowledge of contemporary culture, the food industry and industries in general to match, they are the definition of a ‘power woman’. Champ speaks to Leah and Daisy about their Hardihood philosophy and lifestyle, innovative recipes and upcoming book launch.


The Hardihood founders, Daisy Payne (left) and Leah Garwood-Gowers (right)

Tell us more about your philosophy ‘Less Vegan, More Vogue’.

When we founded The Hardihood in 2014 one of the things we were adamant about was that our cakes would always be abundant and aesthetically inspired. We were keen to move away from the negative connotations that accompany healthy desserts, we believe that making more nutritious decisions about what you put into your body should be celebrated, that you shouldn’t have to compromise on flavour or decadence in order to eat nutritiously.

Can you tell us more about the definition of ‘raw’.

Raw basically refers to a type of cuisine where food isn’t heated past a certain temperature. The idea is that food maintains its nutritional integrity, as it’s not depleted from the heat of cooking it remains nutrient rich. It’s actually by chance that our cakes ended up being raw, we were interested in using the ingredients in their most natural form and it just so happened that this was the most unaltered way to do it!

Do you work with seasonal ingredients? Tell us more about the ingredients that you use.

A lot of the base ingredients we use stay the same, we use plenty of nuts, dates and coconut oil but when we’re adding fresh fruit we like to use what we find at farmers markets, Ridley Road market is also great for fruit and we like to source berries and edible flowers too.

The Hardihood cake designs are more than beautiful, reminding us of Matisse with their natural swirls. Are there any artists or designers in particular that inspire your work?

It’s quite funny, when we first began we never really thought about what our inspirations were visually, we just created what we thought looked cool, we try to keep the cakes vibrant yet minimal. We love the work of Jack Tworkov, Willem de Koonig, James Nares, Pierre Soulages and Gotz and I suppose sometimes this can come be seen in the cakes. The marbling, the brush strokes and the colours on plain backgrounds, sometimes you can join the dots!


 The Hardihood at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, London

Running the business together, how and when did you both meet?

We met almost 10 years ago, we spotted each other over the table at a cheesy West End dinner party – we were both having an equally bad time and that was the beginning of a hilarious friendship. We took the bus home to Hackney together and we’ve been great friends ever since.

You have just moved to your new studio in Shoreditch, London. Why did you choose this location?

We actually didn’t chose the location, we just got really, really lucky! We were looking all over East London for our first studio, we were prepared to go as far out as it took to get a decent space, it just so happens that we hit the jackpot with Shoreditch High Street. We know how lucky we are, we even have a garden, it’s unheard of. We’re loyal to the East really, we’ve always lived here and it’s the corner of London that feels like home. Being able to walk to work isn’t bad either!

Not only have you catered the Ala Champ Issue 10 launch at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, but for clients in both London and Paris. Can you tell us more about these collaborations and events?

We’ve collaborated with some brilliant brands and its likely instagram we have to thank for that; its a great platform for exhibiting your brands identity in a heartbeat. We’ve worked with Selfridges, Uniqlo, Couverture & The Garbstore, Nudie jeans, Marina London and Charlie May to name a few. In Paris we cater the Woman show as well as delivering to showrooms, we drive over with all of our cakes and take up camp in someone else’s kitchen for the week. It’s hard work but the memories are fabulous.

What are your plans for The Hardihood in 2016?

We’re about to upscale production in a big way, we outgrew our kitchen almost immediately so now we’re in the process of moving parts of the business elsewhere, it’s exciting! We just got back from the research trip of a lifetime, we went to California and fell in love, they’re so ahead of the game when it comes to food. They’re big into healing foods and modern alchemy, there’s something quite magical about the way they approach wellness, it was inspiring.

You have just had a book deal announced. When can we expect The Hardihood book on our shelves and what will be in it? Who is publishing it and how did the conversation to publish a book begin?

Raw Cake will be out in February 2017 on Pan Macmillan’s Bluebird imprint, it’ll be a beautifully shot recipe book and we’re in the thick of writing it at the moment! It’s actually quite miraculous how it came about, we were introduced to Catheryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at WME and she asked us to put a book proposal together. We were actually quite reluctant at first as we didn’t want to give away our secrets but she got us to see things differently and now we can’t wait to share our recipes and The Hardihood philosophy.

Can you tell us about your daily routine in London? How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle for the body and mind?

We both walk to and from work now that its summer, it’s about 45 minutes and a great time to catch up on podcasts, audiobooks and music. It’s actually really cool to not have to take public transport as well, it’s one of the things we loved most about LA so we tried to find a way to continue it back in London. We take care of our minds by trying to get out into nature whenever we can, the Heath is a blessing that not enough people take advantage of, it’s expansive and it always feels great to get out there with Leah’s dog, Bob. We’re big fans of Jody Shields LifeTonic sessions once a month for a good mental reset as well as trying to hit the yoga mat whenever possible. Sometimes though it’s the simple things that are the best, making sure you see your friends enough and laugh often. Recently we’ve been taking evening strolls to a local restaurant that stays open late and serves nettle tea, we call them moon walk.

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Images © Ala Champ Magazine