How Cynthia Stroud went from baking wedding cakes to feeding hungry families

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Cynthia Stroud, founder of Pretty Gorgeous Jams, won the inews Pivot for Purpose (Community) award at this year’s Lloyds Bank National Business Awards. She spoke to I from Canada, where she is in quarantine before filming the next series of the Great Chocolate Showdown.

You have a wedding cake business, but you put it on hold during the pandemic and started a jam business. Why jam?

Everything stopped and I said to myself: OK, what now? I didn’t want to get into making cakes to sell in supermarkets because in everything I do we don’t use preservatives, and the shelf life would have to be guaranteed. My son suggested jams and it went from there. The cakes I make are very alcoholic, I don’t really drink myself but I love the flavors of brandy cakes, champagne cakes, rum and that sort of thing. Jam is just a great carrier for alcoholic flavors, so instead of putting alcohol in cakes, I thought, let’s put it in jams.

It was also quite nostalgic because my grandparents made a traditional four o’clock tea, and it was hot chocolate and toast with butter and jam. My favorite flavor from the Pretty Gorgeous range is grapefruit and gin.

You have also created a charity, Jedidia, providing free food packages to families in need, funded by the proceeds of the jam business. Why did you feel you had to act?

I wanted to feed people, so I contacted the YMCA and asked if I could manage a soup kitchen. I would go there on a Friday and teach them how to cook, sit and eat with them. Then when the confinement started, I made them a food package because I couldn’t come in and cook with them. They were so grateful that I thought surely there were families around who needed it.

Cynthia Stroud, Founder of Pretty Gorgeous Jams (Photo: Jeremy Kohm)

I didn’t grow up with money so I know it’s tough. When I came to UK I had to make my money last, it was really important that I didn’t waste anything. Now that I have kids I’m more settled, but I know there are people out there who have kids and they’re in this position where anything wrong could mean going without meals.

What was the highlight of this year?

Receive handwritten thank you notes and phone calls from schools. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget seeing so many cars leave with packages inside going to people.

What does 2021 have in store for you?

We want to create a system where supermarket buyers can automatically buy some of these products with their store, and we can come and distribute them directly to schools. We believe our idea would help a supermarket increase its turnover and allow us to reach millions of families.


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