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Polk baking company satisfies sweet tooth without the guilt – The Ledger

Oct 8th, 2019

The Winter Haven couple sell products under the brand No Guilt Baking Co. catering to customers who desire breads and baked goods that are low in carbohydrates and contain no sugar or gluten.

LAKELAND For diabetics like Andy Markley, brownies are strictly forbidden unless they come out of his wifes kitchen.

Darla Markley supports her husbands sweet tooth with cookies, too, along with pancakes, cupcakes and scones.

Her culinary domain these days is a shared-use commercial kitchen on South Combee Road in Lakeland. She works alongside a cake baker, a cheesemonger and others who trade in pies and confections.

The Winter Haven couplesellproducts under the brand No Guilt Baking Co., catering to customers who desire breads and baked goods that are low in carbohydrates and contain no sugar or gluten. They sell their wares online at, and at area farmers markets, including the Downtown Farmers Curb Market in Lakeland.

A registered nurse, Darla Markley has perfected recipes over the past 20 years after being diagnosed with celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. There wasnt anything (commercially available) back then, so I learned how to cook gluten-free, she said.

A lot has happened in the two decades since. For one, the couple met and married at roughly the same time as Darla Markleys celiac diagnosis. Then she and her husband each developed serious health problems that theyve been able to manage through diet a diet that led to their current enterprise.

In 2009, Darla Markley developed transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that can lead to pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems, or bladder and bowel dysfunction.

She developed paralysis and was restricted to a wheelchair. It ended her nursing career.

I needed help dressing, tying shoes, using the toilet, she said. I was fully debilitated.

In 2017 Andy Markley developed type 2 diabetes, in which the body becomes resistant to insulin, causing the pancreas to work overtime to produce more insulin. When his doctors prescribed medical injections to control the disease, Markley, with consultation from his wife, went on the ketogenic diet.

The keto diet emphasizes fats found in eggs, meat, cheese, avocados, nuts and other sources. Sweets and starchy carbohydrates like white potatoes, rice, pasta and bread are no-nos.

While some medical experts remain skeptical of the benefits of keto, a number of studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes can keep the disease in check when adhering to the keto plan.

Andy Markley, 53, said he has found similar success by sticking with the low-carb, high-fat regimen. To give him some variety, his wife begandeveloping baked goodsdesigned to work in concert with the keto diet.

Theyre actually intended for people with diabetes; thats what got us started, said Darla Markley, also 53. Our products wont spike blood sugar, so theyre safe for people with type 1 diabetes as well, she said.

For Andy Markley, who works remotely for a software development company, his wifes brownies and other goodies satisfy his lust for sweets, safely. Her products are made with things like coconut flour, egg white protein and allulose, a simple sugar derived from figs, raisins and other natural foods that doesnt elevate blood glucose or insulin levels.

Heartened by her husband's improved health, Darla Markleyadoptedher husbands diet, hoping that it might alleviate her symptoms. I just started eating what he was eating, and I started feeling better, she said.

In a matter of months, she was able to get out of her wheelchair for good, needing only a walker, which she continues to rely on when tired. Her husband shed 60 pounds and today weighs in at 185 pounds.

I've lost about 80 pounds myself, Darla Markley said.

The transformation motivated her to develop a commercial line of baked goods and premixes that diabetics like her husband could eat. With help from Lakelands Catapult entrepreneurial center, she started developing a business plan. By October 2018 she was selling her wares at local farmers markets.

This woman is an extremely talented baker, said Jamie Fagans, owner of Cravory Cakes & Confections, which shares kitchen space with No Guilt Baking Co. Shes achieved a taste and texture thats extremely pleasing.

Markley offers up a sample of her basic cookie flavored with pecans. Theyre soft and cake-like, with a hint of vanilla and only slightly sweet.

We went from a cottage kitchen (at home) to a solvent business, she says, standing alongside a black KitchenAid mixer that matches her chefs jacket. Were not making tons of money, but things are going much better that we anticipated.

She and her husband hope to hire a part-timer soon to meet demand.

Said Darla Markley: The real proof of the pudding is that our (14) grandkids like our products.

Eric Pera can be reached at or 863-802-7528.

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Polk baking company satisfies sweet tooth without the guilt - The Ledger

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