A traditional dense, rich-textured and delicious tasting fruitcake may take months, sometimes years to make because of the time taken to soak aromatic spices and dried macerated fruits in wine or rum that go into the highly-anticipated and sought after delicacy around Christmas time.
For people who have never been able to make a proper fruitcake from scratch, are short on time, novice bakers, or need a delicious dessert for a last-minute celebration, a niece and uncle entrepreneurial duo from Arima, Samara and Sterling Brathwaite, have just made fruitcake making easy by bringing to market an ‘instant’ fruitcake mix called ‘Caribbean Fruit Cake Mix’.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian, Sterling Brathwaite said, “Samara’s background is a baker, she graduated from the T&T Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI). I’m a secondary school business teacher. We always talked about how we can expand her business.
“I told her one way to do that is to either hire more bakers or get people to bake for themselves; so we decided on the latter.
“I came to her with the idea, we started work on how we can create a product that is very much traditional in nature, make it easy so that anyone who never baked before can just follow a few simple steps and have a really delightful fruitcake.”
Samara, who just turned 21 on November 25, said all the consumer needs to do is to add water, eggs and oil to the fruitcake mix and bake.
She revealed that some of the contents were fragrant spices, the fruits were soaked in cherry brandy and customers can also soak the cake further after baking.
Samara emphasised that it was a fruitcake and not a black cake mix, noting the cake will come out in a caramel colour as opposed to the darker hue of a black cake.
She said from the get-go of the launch of their product in mid-November, sales have been hectic and very good, with word spreading via social media, primarily WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
They do deliveries and Samara said the furthest they have had to make a drop was to South Park and Tobago.
Sterling said the fruitcake mix pouches were ideal for a grab and go and can be taken virtually anywhere and baked from the home kitchen to an outdoor oven.
He said Trinidadians who were living in the Diaspora and wanted a taste of home can now have a friend carry it for them, as the mix is lightweight, portable and convenient.
He added that they were buoyed by the encouraging feedback from the people who tried their product, noting many of the positive reviews came from people who never baked before and had never baked a fruitcake.
Sterling revealed what came as a surprise to them was that many differently-abled, seniors, injured or infirm people, who had a range of issues from a stroke, inability to stand too long or loss of handgrip strength, were able to mix the batter and expressed their gratitude to them for making a product as simple and easy to make as theirs.
He stated that he and Samara worked on the product for a year and a half and their friends made available a test kitchen for them, tested their fruitcake samples and offered their marketing strategies.
Sterling said they also enrolled in CARIRI’s business incubator Idea Advisory Service (IAS) programme for product and process development, mainly in the area of food technology and readying their product for the market.
He opined that people can enjoy their fruitcake year-round and not just for the Christmas season because of how simple their product was to prepare and can customise it to their liking with extra fruits, nuts and soak in alcohol.
Sterling insisted that they remained very much artisan in their work, adding the COVID-19 lockdowns had provided the impetus they needed to innovate.
He elaborated that Samara was self-employed and the venture allowed her to expand and explore her joy of baking alongside his joy of entrepreneurship, noting they were both born in November and had the same kind of spirit.
Samara added that hopefully in the future, they will come up with more cake mixes with Caribbean flavours and tastes that are unique to the market.
Sterling said they were now working on getting their product onto supermarket shelves.
He said they have also so far featured their product at Mode Alive’s pop-up market in Valsayn and the Village of Mandalay in Arima.
• For more information on the product contact Sterling Brathwaite on WhatsApp: 346-3857, Facebook and Samara: Instagram @Ohmygoodies_tt