CAKE THAT: Maria says her tasty treats are dairy-free and can be eaten by anybody
HARD-WORKING Maria Majekodunmi Michael is a young woman on a unique mission - to become the first black-owned UK vegan cake business.
Her handcrafted range of 100 percent dairy, sugar, egg, nut and additive-free vegan cakes have not only landed her membership with the prestigious British Sugarcraft Guild, but also won her waves of support from satisfied customers.
But for the 31-year-old biochemistry graduate from Croydon, the business started off as a mere idea, stemming from a personal issue very close to home.
“Part of the reason I started Maria Michael Cakes was because my son started developing multiple allergies to most of the things he was eating, particularly eggs and dairy”, Maria explained.
“It was upsetting because I didn’t want him to miss out on birthday cakes and things like that, so after really sitting down and researching alternative ingredients I came up with the dairy-free cakes”.
The businesswoman and mother-of-two, currently studying for an MA in Food sciences at London Metropolitan University, said the experience was a blessing, because it also forced her to pick up healthier eating habits.
“It’s basically changed the way I eat. I’m not following a strictly vegan diet, but I’m definitely more conscious of the things I put in my body.
“And with the degree I’m doing, it’s exposing me to the amount of diary used in foods. Companies have really programmed people to accept dairy as the only way.
“What we don’t realise that as black people, we are slightly intolerant to diary. Since cutting it out, I don’t get half of the skin problems I used to.”
Research supports the idea that eating habits contribute to a number of medical problems that plague the African and Caribbean community.
According to Diabetes UK, over 300,000 people of Black or South Asian descent have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes nationwide, but many of these cases are virtually non-existent within the vegan and vegetarian community.
One of the UK’s most famous black vegans, Benjamin Zephaniah, feels it is lack of knowledge about the variety of healthy eating habits that have caused many black Britons to shun a meat-free diet.
“I used to be a very sickly child, but as soon as I took control of my diet, that changed completely”, The Vegan Society patron told The Voice.
“One of the reasons I think why black people have not really got down to dealing with a lot of issues with health and veganism is because we have so many other priorities, and I can understand that.
“But, to me, nothing is more urgent than our own diet. We need to take better care of our bodies.
“Why are so many of our elders having blood pressure problems? Perhaps that generation didn’t have the correct knowledge, but we do now, so we really have no excuse.”
It is this lack of knowledge regarding vegan living which led Maria to discover a gap in the market for a commercially-appealing, affordable, and healthy dessert range.
Speaking of her beautifully-crafted cakes, she said: “My cakes are cholesterol free which is good for black people. Generally, we tend to be more susceptible to high blood pressure.
“In fact, the majority of my customers are black and most of the time they don’t even realize they’re eating a vegan cake. When they find out they surprised.
“I replace the eggs with vegetable oil, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar, and the diary with extra virgin oil or canola oil.”
Flavours range from vanilla sponges cakes, carrot cakes, red velvet cakes, chocolate cakes to rum cakes, coconut cakes and fruit cakes.
“You name it, I do it”, she said.
“I’ve been doing this for a year now and things are going well. Ultimately, I want to have a vegan cake range in the supermarkets. The sky’s the limit.”