FORT VALLEY, Ga. — A Fort Valley bakery now has as storefront, but what they sell might not be the type of baked goods you're used to.
"We're not just your regular bakery," said owner Hamidah Sharif. "We're actually a 100% sugar-free bakery."
Sweet Valley Bakery and Farmstead originally opened about a year and a half ago, but they only took mail orders for cakes and pies online.
Now, Sharif has a physical location for the bakery at 728 Aldridge Road, where people can pick up sugar-free treats in person.
"This May, in the middle of a pandemic, I decided to open our physical location here in Fort Valley," Sharif said.
Sweet Valley sells a bunch of sugar-free delights from cookies and cakes like lemon pound cake and brown butter pecan cake to traditional pies like sweet potato, peach, strawberry, blueberry, pecan buttermilk, apple and more.
They also sell make-your-own Keto and gluten-free soul food mixes. People can buy a cornbread, hot sauce or sweet potato pie mix to make themselves at home.
Sharif says the four-layer red velvet butter cake, strawberry shortcake, and the cinnamon rolls are the must-try items at Sweet Valley.
"Just sort of help round them out, round out their dieting, keep them sustained with what it is that they're doing," Sharif said.
Six months ago, Sharif started offering sugar-free alternatives of traditional sweets in her online bakery. She found that more people were buying those options.
"It was at that time that I decided that it would be more beneficial to the Fort Valley community to offer a bakery where people can come and get all the food that they love, all the desserts that they love, but in a way that would help improve their health," Sharif said.
She says she's happy to provide sugar-free options to people in the community, especially since some people are struggling with illnesses like diabetes or trying to be more health conscious.
"They feel so empowered that they can actually have a slice of cake and not feel guilty, like they're cheating themselves or cheating what they're doing," she said. "And for me, that is so rewarding."
A public health professor at Fort Valley State University, the baker of 30 years has spent 20 years promoting healthy lifestyles to families. She has a doctorate degree in public health from Columbia University in New York.
Sharif says she worked with a food manufacturer to develop her own sweetener blend. It's a natural sweetener made of erythritol and monkfruit. She says it doesn't have an unpleasant aftertaste.
"We landed a real rock star," she said. "It tastes like sugar, bakes like sugar, it browns like sugar."
It's called Mommas Shuga All Natural Granular Sweetener. The bakery ships it all over the country and Sharif says it's the best-selling item in the store.
"It is our number one product," she said.
Sharif says due to the pandemic, the bakery has limited hours. Sweet Valley is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. They hope to expand their hours for the holiday season
"Opening a business in the middle of a pandemic is not for the lighthearted, but it's been wonderful," she said.
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