When it comes to buying a store-bought cake, you’re usually met with two refined sugar-laden choices: chocolate or vanilla. Organic Bytes, a better-for-you cake business that offers gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan cakes that are free of refined sugars and white flours, is setting out to change that. Founded by sisters and self-taught bakers Yasaman and Samira Haj-Shafiei, Organic Bytes’ confections rely on nutrient-dense organic ingredients like organic almond, coconut and oat flours and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and even sweet potato. Visually, each cake is an Instagram-worthy masterpiece: From edible flowers to elegant cashew frosting brushstrokes, the cakes are *almost* too pretty to eat.
Organic Bytes started as a pandemic side hustle. In 2020, Samira was on maternity leave from her job in chemical engineering, and Yasaman had downtime from her career in the business start-up world. Eventually, it turned into a full-time labour of love for the sisters. “We were eating wholesome foods in every aspect of our lives, but when it came to celebrations with our families, we were still just feeding our daughters refined sugars and white flour, and we didn’t want that,” explains Yasaman. “We thought: ‘Why do we have to sacrifice that part of our lives?’ And that’s how Organic Bytes started.”
Neither Yasaman nor Samira have any specific dietary restrictions and the goal of creating better-for-you cakes was never about dieting or calorie counting. Rather, it was about putting an emphasis on wholesome foods in every aspect of their lives, including celebrations worthy of a special dessert. Aspects of their Muslim background have also been seamlessly woven into their creations: “Dates are the sweetener we use in our daily lives: they’re a sacred food in Islam because it’s what the Prophet used to break his fast. It felt natural to include dates in our cakes.”
Yasaman and Samira recognize that in the past, the wellness food space has lacked diversity. “Being one of the only people who looked like me in the wellness industry has actually given me the courage to keep going with Organic Bytes, because if there’s representation it encourages other people who may look like me to pursue their passion,” says Yasaman. “I thought, if we can make this work and set an example for other women, we can help diversify the image that’s out there right now.”
Because the sisters rely on atypical ingredients like almond flour, arrowroot starch and flax meal, they had to develop new and sophisticated formulas for every single cake they offer. This is where Samira’s background in chemical engineering really came into play: “I was always doing testing hypotheses in laboratory experiments, and I actually look at the cakes we make as their own kinds of experiments, because the ingredients we work with are so completely different from traditional cakes that you don’t necessarily get the same results,” Samira explains.
While Samira focused on recipe development, Yasaman took charge of Organic Bytes’ brand strategy. She used her experience working with start-ups and the wellness industry to connect with women in Toronto and Calgary. Ultimately, this helped ensure their new company would meet the demands of the respective markets of each city. Like their cakes, their approach to e-commerce is a game-changer: “With a lot of traditional cake companies, you have to place an order a month in advance. With us, you can place your order two days in advance and it’ll arrive on your doorstep.”
It’s undeniable that the sister’s unconventional backgrounds have proven to be a recipe for success: their cakes have quickly become popular with influencers and families alike, with a wait-list for their creations and plans to expand the business into selling dry goods and cake mixes as well. Organic Bytes cakes are currently available to order in Toronto and Calgary, but the sister’s sites are set on more cities across Canada.
Looking for more cake inspo? See our Birthday Cake Recipes That Will Make Anyone a Dessert Person.