Mmm… is for Marshmallow

Made the old-fashioned way, by hand and with infinite care, the upmarket gourmet range currently consists of Caribbean-inspired coconut, passion fruit and rum, as well as peppermint, rose water, and chocolate chip varieties.

marshmallow-makingDelectably fluffy, toothsome and sweet, marshmallows are getting a moreish makeover, courtesy of local confectioners Lydia and Mark Ray.

The couple’s mouthwatering mission “to put the more into s’mores,” has led the marshmallow-makers to craft mouthfuls of magic in their Cayman-produced, Bajan-inspired luxury brand Powder Monkey.

Forget smoky campfires. Eaten as a sweet treat, dunked into a mug of hot chocolate, or served as a dessert with a difference with fresh berries, these homemade gourmet treats make an indulgent change from stodgier, denser treats.

Tasty treats

Made the old-fashioned way, by hand and with infinite care, the upmarket gourmet range currently consists of Caribbean-inspired coconut, passion fruit and rum, as well as peppermint, rose water, and chocolate chip varieties.

Made in small batches of eight and packaged in air-tight bags to maintain peak freshness, Powder Monkey’s homemade marshmallows are sold at community events, outdoor markets and expos, and on the company’s online platforms.

With plenty of ideas for rolling out new flavors as the brand’s market reach spreads, they are looking to refine and expand their decadent treats. Avid globetrotters, Lydia and Mark’s trips are also sources of culinary inspiration.

The process

Speaking about the marshmallow-making process, Lydia explains a dedicated kitchen is where the gourmet edibles are made. The pillow-soft treats are made from a recipe containing gelatin, sugar, egg whites and flavoring.

history-of-marshmallow“Marshmallow-making is a sticky business that involves an unforgiving product… There isn’t room for error. If I make a mistake I have to start the batch over,” she says. “It isn’t a quick process, as the marshmallows need time to cure after they are mixed.”

As her former primary school pupils will confirm, Lydia is a perfectionist, who, having perfected the base recipe, is keen to add new flavor combinations to the brand’s gluten-free menu.  And although she jokingly refers to herself as the brand ambassador, she’s serious about putting Powder Monkey on the map and enhancing the brand’s identity.

During her time as a teacher, Lydia was constantly encouraging her students to “take risks and harness their creativity.” Last year she decided to practice what she preached.

Keen to try different flavor combinations for luxury adult tastes, and eagerly on the lookout for the next big thing, the company is already in talks with another business to expand its offerings in the consumables market.

“To achieve the trifecta of flavor, texture and taste is a tricky but rewarding challenge,” she says.

“Once that is decided, I move onto the testing stage, where I make a batch several times, making note of how each batch turns out for consistency.”

As Powder Monkey’s chief confectioner and accountant, the most enjoyable aspect of running the company, other than making the marshmallows, is in “mapping out the product,” Lydia says. This involves researching the popularity of the flavor, what demographic it’s most likely to appeal to and what other locally sourced flavors the variety could be balanced with.

Starting up

Set up 18 months ago, Lydia was encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive reception her handmade anniversary presents received from acquaintances. Now, by dint of hard work and a passion for perfection, Powder Monkey is doing reasonably well.

“I depend heavily on support from my family, especially my husband Mark, my sisters Annick and Georgi-Ann, my mother Adaline and father George,” Lydia says. “[As well], the many friends that have been helpful in testing, and giving advice.” She also credits several members of the local business community for lending their support and expertise.

The company was in its research and development stage for several months before beginning to self-promote via Facebook and Instagram.

“We literally spent hundreds of hours developing the recipes, testing, retesting, [before] finally getting to the point that we had several flavors we were proud to put our names to,” Lydia explains.

Despite experiencing the inevitable setbacks small business are prone to, Powder Monkey seems to reflect the current trend for luxury treats, and has seen sales increase in recent months, with rave reviews creating a buzz about their range via word-of-mouth.

To reduce overheads at this stage, the gourmet marshmallows are sold at local events, markets and expos, with bulk orders for parties, weddings and corporate gift-giving taken via email.

The future

Thinking to the year ahead, Lydia says the company is looking to incorporate seasonal flavors to their expanding brand.

“Our first priority is getting people to try the brand and helping them to rethink the way they see this familiar treat,” Lydia says. “Expansion will come later.”

Powder Monkey posts online the locations where its products are available, along with upcoming events it will be attending. The marshmallows are also available in select retail stores.

The cost of the marshmallows varies depending on the flavor and whether they contain alcohol, with the base price of $4.50 for a bag of eight.