Jamaican American, Danielle Tubbs of Chicago, quit her day job to focus on growing her vegan cookie company, Tubby’s Taste, after being featured on Oprah Daily. Tubbs, whose heritage includes numerous bakers, both African American and Jamaican, has always been serious about making cookies, and now she is relying on her background as an inspiration for a unique line of cookies that reflect the flavors and memories of her childhood. For example, her chocolate chip cookie is inspired by her grandmother’s Christmas morning chocolate tea, and her oatmeal raisin cookie is based on her mother’s rum cake.
Tubbs grew up in Miami, Florida, in a traditional Jamaican home where her aunties made rum and black cakes. She comes “from a long line of Jamaican cake ladies,” she said, adding that baking is in her blood. During her childhood, she was always made to participate in the holiday cake-making operation. This is how she learned her family’s baking secrets, like maintaining secret bottles of rum to soak the fruits used in black cake.
She started Tubby’s Taste in 2014, targeting a niche market demand for Jamaican flavors, including mango, coconut lime, ginger, sweet molasses, grapefruit, pineapple, and hibiscus. Every flavor triggers a specific childhood memory for her as she does her baking in the commercial kitchen at the local food incubator at the Hatchery in Chicago’s Garfield Park. Tubby’s Taste – the name is based on her college nickname – began when her friends and family told her they wished she would make vegan cookies. She revamped her recipes and developed vegan options and began selling them online.
While she didn’t plan to focus on Jamaican flavors, she realized following her move to Chicago in 2012 that most of the flavors she was attracted by were those of her Jamaican home. Growing up with coconut trees, mangoes, and sugar cane by her house had a direct influence on her cookie recipes. She told her therapist that she would like to devote all her time to making cookies if she could figure out a way to be paid for doing so. Her therapist encouraged her to pursue that dream, and by her next therapist appointment two weeks later, Tubbs had registered a website domain name and applied for a limited liability company.
Tubbs is intent on disrupting the cookie business, which she feels is somewhat homogenous. She also believes that baking should not be underestimated in efforts to create more diversity and representation in a community. IF there were more options for bakeries, she would have known that more than the usual flavors could be explored. She wouldn’t have had to settle for the usual kind of cupcakes but could have the coconut, oatmeal, and cinnamon flavors reminiscent of the milkshakes she enjoyed as a child.
She added that it is for people to see someone like themselves doing something that inspires them. Then they realize that they can do it too and follow their dreams.
Photo – Tubby’s Taste