When Rhonda Dass, 45, was laid off from her job at the Ministry of National Security in 2015, inspired by her mother who was diabetic and a gluten intolerant friend, she turned her hobby and passion for baking into a new source of income.
The signature product from her food business, Little Jack Cakes and Treats, are delicious sugar-free and gluten-free honey fruit cakes which are not just diabetic-friendly but also a wholesome alternative for the health-conscious.
“When the Ministry of National Security closed its national mentorship programme, everybody was left without a job,” Dass recalled.
“I decided to register two companies. I was doing my Masters for the job and I was stuck with my MBA loan, so I decided to sell cakes. People gradually found out about them through word of mouth, on Facebook and Whatsapp and demand picks up at Christmas and Carnival.
“When I was 16, a Pentecostal family moved next door to us in Pointe-a-Pierre. Their grandmother, Sister Gertrude Ross inspired me. She used to bake fruit cakes and before she passed away in her 90s, she taught me her secret recipe. I never sold them, I blessed people with them.”
The former math teacher said her mother who was diabetic, loved fruit cake, but couldn’t eat it because of its high sugar content. She decided to tweak Ross’ recipe to suit her mother.
She said a good substitute for sugar was honey. Dass said the honey balanced and enhanced the flavour of the fruits, prunes, currants, golden raisins and sultanas. Through trial and error, she brought the product to what it is today.
Dass said she is really proud of her cakes because of the positive feedback and compliments from people who can’t believe they contained no sugar. One of them is artiste Sheldon Blackman.
The cakes are rich, baked at a very lot temperature because they contain mainly pure fruits, almond, gluten-free flour and molasses.
Her range of healthy bakeds goods also includes cheesecakes, cookies, non-alcoholic cakes and pizza.
The name of her company, Little Jack Cakes and Treats, came frrom an elderly woman who remarked that the cake was so fruity it reminded her of the plum cake in the nursery rhyme Little Jack Horner.
Samples of Little Jack fruit cake were a big hit during the Everything Market 2019, which was held at the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain. Among those offering positive reviews was Chef Sylvern, of Cravenz in the Nicholas Towers Food Court, who said he had traveled all over the world and never tasted fruit cake like that.
Wayne Blackman, a diabetic, said he can eat three pieces of her cake and his blood sugar will not spike because of the honey.
Dass’ customer, cousin and friend, Ophelia Olivaccé-Marie, from Dominica, said the cakes cheered up many when tragedy struck the islabd with Hurricane Maria.
Patricia Constantine said she doesn’t like fruit cakes and usually finds them heavy, boozy and sometimes dry but as a newly diagnosed diabetic, she is open to trying anything sugar-free. She said she was pleasantly surprised that the cake was moist, light and delicious and is now hooked.