Georgina Fernandez is no stranger to the food and beverage industry. She has been running a catering business, offering a variety of items in regional and traditional Indian cuisines for the past 10 years since quitting her job in advertising. However, dessert only came into the picture four years ago as her husband, John Peter, had dietary restrictions due to a health condition.
“He had a heart attack, caused by an accumulation of sugar in his blood. He is not diabetic, but they call it ‘incident diabetes’,” she divulges. “He was advised to take diabetic medication for a while and then decided to go on a completely sugar-free diet. Until today — it’s been nearly four years now — he doesn’t consume [refined] sugar at all.
“I thought about what I could do for him because he was really craving desserts. That’s when I hit upon this idea, knowing I could make vegan, gluten-, sugar- and dairy-free cakes.”
Fernandez became engrossed in cookbooks, blogs and websites while conducting extensive research. From the knowledge gathered, she came up with her own recipes. It took her four months to create perfect and fit-for-sale cakes.
Five Two Foods — the name was inspired by a story in the Bible — began selling cakes in 2019 and now offers 18 flavours to choose from. Crowd-pleasers include Mango, Drango Frandago, Earl Grey Blueberry, Chocolate and the first cake Fernandez made for her husband, Lemon Ginger Chia.
It did not take long for Five Two Foods to garner attention and interest online. Although Fernandez started by selling three flavours to test the market, she experimented with and expanded choices, recognising the huge opportunity as orders began to flood her Facebook account as soon as she posted photos on the platform.
“Talking to people, I realised a lot of them cannot enjoy dessert at all because of diabetes, which is a huge concern in this country — even the government has been talking about it. There are not many dessert choices for them and it’s so sad because even during festive seasons, whether it’s Christmas or Hari Raya, they have no option but to just watch others eat the sweet course. They can’t even have a small piece of it.”
Customers are elated to come across the brand as they have been searching for such businesses that can cater to their loved ones who are diabetic or have to be on a gluten- or dairy-free diet.
“They told me it was especially hard to find desserts for their parents and [our cakes were] always a sweet surprise for them during special occasions such as birthdays or Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.”
As Fernandez works alone on the business, it is advisable to place an order three days in advance. She only makes the cakes once a reservation is made. The ingredients used are mainly fruits and nuts. Imported nuts such as cashew and almond, and other ingredients like flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed are sourced from a local supplier. She also uses pure date syrup, approved by the Diabetes Association, and a 100% natural sweetener made using monk fruit.
The time she takes to make one no-bake cake, from preparation to decoration, is about one hour. Then, she freezes it to ensure the shape is maintained. The cake is delivered to the customer in solid form in a Styrofoam ice box, much like the ones used by Baskin-Robbins. Specific instructions to defrost, serve and eat, as well as to refreeze leftovers, are attached.
“You can refreeze leftovers for up to three months. You don’t have to finish everything in one go like a normal cake.”
During the research and development process, the initial problem for Fernandez was stabilising and achieving the right texture for the cake, given our hot and humid weather.
“It was challenging to find packaging that would be able to hold the cake in its frozen form and [enable us to] send it to customers,” she recalls.
Searching for quality ingredients such as nuts at reasonable rates was also time-consuming in the beginning.
“At the end of the day, we cannot pass down the price too much to the customers. If it’s too expensive, they’re not going to buy it. So, maintaining that balance between quality and pricing was tough at first until we found suppliers who could work with us.”
There is a common perception that healthy foods tend to be boring in presentation and decoration. Five Two Foods addresses this by offering attractive cakes, using fruits and herbs as main ingredients to design them.
“Cakes in bakeries are beautiful but entirely made of sugar. I wanted to do something that is eye-catching so it can even be a wedding cake, but without sugar. So, fruits make the most beautiful decoration. I also use herbs and edible flowers. Everything on the cake is edible.”
The 48-year-old is looking forward to expanding Five Two Foods’ range of products to include other desserts such as ice cream, puddings and brownies.
“I might even want to stop catering and focus entirely on this business because I see a huge potential for it,” Fernandez says. “I hope we can have a small outlet of our own in a shopping complex someday.”
This article first appeared on Oct 31, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.