Sugar-free cakes? Surely that’s missing the point of the glory of sweet and indulgent baked goods? Not for Chamiah Goulbourne of SweetVibes, who’s not only created a range of sweets free from refined sugars, but has also managed to make them vegan and, most importantly, bleddy delicious.
After graduating from university with a degree in English Literature and Journalism, Chamiah changed direction and took on various care jobs until she found they just weren’t satisfying her any more. A brief four-month stint teaching in Austria later, she returned to another care job, but quickly decided enough was enough and quit. With nothing else lined up, she decided to take the plunge straight into baking, something she’d always loved. Within a few weeks, SweetVibes emerged onto the scene.
The plan was to start slowly, but people were already hungry for these vegan treats, and soon after Chamiah posted her baking photos on Instagram, local Bingham cafe Folks and Fables got in touch to ask to stock the SweetVibes range. It’s not hard to see why their fancy was caught; Chamiah’s Instagram is brimming with baked delights just begging to be tried, as well as snaps of fresh, local produce she uses in her cakes. Her first stall at the monthly vegan market in Sneinton followed, and now she regularly sells out of her goods.
When asked how she decided to become vegan, Chamiah says it was “kind of a long string of events.” The cost of food in Austria, particularly meat, prompted her to eat differently, and she found that she didn’t miss meat after she returned to the UK. From that point, it seemed as though everything was leading her to veganism.
She began to experience what seemed like allergic reactions when she ate non-vegan foods: “My face would be like this big balloon in the morning,” Chamiah laughs. When she was younger, she’d been advised to cut refined sugars and dairy from her diet during allergic flare-ups, so she made the changes, and the next logical step was veganism. She’d already begun to research the impact of eating meat on the environment and animal welfare, finding that the problem with animal products is “the negative impact it has on your karmic energy,” she says. “I just didn’t want to support that industry anymore.”
At the moment, Chamiah works out of her mother’s kitchen, but with more and more hungry customers demanding baked treats, she’d like to find a larger space to fill with her cakes. Eventually, the plan is to expand into pop-ups around the city, and to possibly create a static location.
The core belief of the SweetVibes brand is conscious eating; food should nurture the body and mind. Chamiah points to how addictive refined sugars can be, and how they give an artificial high that quickly fades. Instead, Chamiah uses naturally occurring sugars such as maple and agave syrup, as well as her “secret” ingredient: dates. If you’re not a fan of the fruit by itself, rest assured you’d never guess they were there but, sweet and sticky, they add lushness wherever they’re included.
Nurturing the spirit is also an important part of the SweetVibes attitude, so Chamiah hopes to offer classes and workshops in Buddhism and Reiki as well as an array of sweet goodies, and create a co-op where body, mind and spirit are well fed.
Chatting about cakes is hungry work, so when Chamiah generously handed over a box of goodies for me to try, I was full of thanks (and later, cake). Filled with a variety of flavours, the box looked extremely tempting, and the contents barely lasted an evening after family descended on them. Two cake doughnuts – raspberry and almond, and peanut butter and chocolate – were grabbed and shared immediately. A similar fate met the decadent banoffee slice, which is extra smooth and creamy with a bit of a kick.
As someone who often longs for a Jaffa Cake, I was thrilled by the SweetVibes Jaffa-inspired brownie. Dark, rich chocolate fudginess overlaid with a sweet orange jelly makes for the perfect match, and definitely lives up to the promise of Jaffa goodness. The highlight, though, is the apple crumble cake; something others obviously agree with me on, as it’s one of SweetVibes’ most popular creations, and Chamiah’s personal favourite.
The gloriously fluffy sponge cake is studded throughout with juicy apple pieces that provide a hint of crunch, and it’s all topped with a mix of silky custard and custard crumbles. Do yoursen a favour, and fetch a couple of these beauties at the next vegan market in Sneinton. You’ll not regret it.