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Cake Boat

The cake boat

Emily Barker serves up a slice of life on the canals as the owner of the Coddiwomple Cake Boat

I’ve been a continuous cruiser for 20 years, the last 16 of which I’ve single-handed aboard my 1971 ex-Swanline hire-boat. I first opened the hatch to serve coffee and cakes on the towpath in May 2022.

Find the Coddiwomple Cake Boat on the Midlands waterways.
Find the Coddiwomple Cake Boat on the Midlands waterways.

On the menu you can find homemade cakes and fudge, hot and cold drinks, hot dogs, ice creams in the summer and homemade soup in the winter. I also make dog biscuits for customers who bring along their canine friends.

The classic cake flavours, like Victoria sponge, coffee & walnut and orange & lemon, are really popular, as are my vegan carrot cake and blackcurrant & almond crumble cake. I added hot dogs to the menu last summer as I kept being asked for savoury dishes, and I’ll be stocking wax-wrapped cheese truckles and crackers this year. I’m always experimenting with new cake flavours too. 

There are many challenges to owning a floating café, from maintaining a good power supply for running the two fridges to getting stock when I’ve not got access to a road vehicle. Walking back from the shops while carrying supplies is definitely a good workout. 

Travelling between markets and festivals, cleaning to a five-star standard, baking cakes (I only have 12V electrics so everything is made by hand) and serving customers can be tough on your own. There’s always some boat maintenance to keep on top of as well. 

Seeing all of my lovely customers chatting together on the towpath makes it all worthwhile though. I often see people on their own start up conversations with others, which is nice. The canal is a unique environment and I enjoy being able to give visitors a calming experience by the waterside. 

Emily trades at floating markets and canalside festivals.
Emily trades at floating markets and canalside festivals.

I tend to stay on the waterways of the Midlands, and have built up quite a following between Long Eaton and Great Haywood. In January 2023 I joined the Roving Canal Traders Association so I could participate in its floating markets. I’ve also booked into the Middlewich Folk & Boat and Gnosall C-Fest events this summer. I eventually plan to travel further. 

Find out where the Coddiwomple Cake Boat will be trading on social media: instagram.com/thecoddiwomplecakeboat and facebook.com/TheCoddiwompleCakeBoat.


This is an abridged version of the article that appeared in "On The Cut" in Waterways World April 2024