Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Health-Conscious Bakery Delivers Low-Carb, Sugar-Free, and Gluten-Free Treats


You’ve got to love the name of this little bakery: the No Guilt Baking Company.

Owned and operated by Darla and Andrew Markley, the bake shop evolved through the Catapult Lakeland initiative. Three small businesses operate under the umbrella name/theme of “Counter Culture.” 


  •       No Guilt Baking Company, owned by Darla Markley and Andrew Markley
  • Salty Cow, owned by Daniel Shaw and Kyle Polvere
  •  Baked Lakeland, with chef Deborah Rossick

No Guilt Baking Company occupies a sliver of space in a cluster of businesses on East Gary Road. On either side, the other businesses are set up. They are supportive of each other. 

Catapult Lakeland was launched with this message:

“In 2013, leaders in Lakeland had a vision of what our community could become if they came together to support entrepreneurs. From traveling to learn from other cities to donating resources, they chased after this dream until it became a reality.”

These small business owners are doing just that.  And like most new business owners, they experienced some changes and alterations as they came along. 

“All three businesses started at Catapult, and we used the same kitchen, then became friends doing farmer markets,” she says. “After sharing kitchens for the first couple of years, we realized we needed a new kitchen — and decided to move together.”

 That’s when all three businesses headed to Gary Road. “We were offered retail space, and decided to do a joint venture: CounterCulture Lakeland.”

With the serious health issues they face, the Markleys  can be categorized as “overcomers.”


Health challenges

Darla Markley was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004. According to Mayo Clinic, the disease—sometimes called celiac sprue, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy—is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

For those with celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine. Over a period of time, the reaction damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents it from absorbing some nutrients — known as  malabsorption.

Then in 2009 Darla Markley learned she has transverse myelitis, which is an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. “The neurological disorder often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibers (myelin).

“Transverse myelitis interrupts the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body,” Mayo Clinic describes on its website. The result is pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems, or bladder and bowel dysfunction.”

She decided to leave nursing finally in 2013. “I could not keep up with duties,” she says. “I am still a licensed RN, but inactive.”

She began to research and learn about gluten-free foods. After working for many years as a  registered nurse, she realized she needed a new way to live.

Andrew Markley, a software developer of some 30-plus years, was laid off from his job in January — just as COVID-19 began to take hold of the nation. He had already faced his own diagnosis in 2017: Type 2 Diabetes. It is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar — glucose — an important source of body fuel.

Mayo Clinic  cites the following description of the disease: With type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into body cells — or does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.

It was clear the couple needed to prioritize nutrition. That would mean learning to prepare and consume sugar-free, gluten-free meals and snacks.

These considerations and life-altering changes eventually morphed into a decision to open a business where better options for their food plan could be offered. And then a bakery was born.

“I had to do something,” she says with a laugh. “I am 100 percent a carbohydrate junkie.”

She talks about the business while sitting next to a large bakery cooler that is fully stocked with such mouth-watering delights as apple cinnamon muffins, apricot almond strudel, tiramisu and peanut butter keto cheesecake.

And for those who crave the breads that have been missing from their plates, there are hamburger buns, dinner rolls and baked breads like the cinnamon swirl. The offerings have varying amounts in terms of grams of carbs and calories.

It’s a little overwhelming, trying to choose from such temptations as lasagna, Tuscan bagels, key lime fat bombs and pesto salad. 

“All of it freezes really well,” she offers up.

The bakery has dry mix bags as well. They are $19.50 and customers can select basic cookie, pie crust, brownie, pizza crust, pie crust, brown bread … well, you get the picture.

Prices vary from $8.95 for a mini loaf of tiramisu, or $12 for a dozen cookie dough fat bombs.

Carbohydrate counts are low — but not if a person gobbles up a dozen treats in one sitting. All offerings are best consumed in moderation

And it is a gluten-free paradise. There is something for everyone at No Guilt, as illustrated by a visit from a couple with children — each family member chose something “forbidden” and happily nibbled while perched on stools inside the shop.

Darla Markley had greeted the young family, and served up goodies of their choice from behind the food cooler. Behind her, an inside joke — rather, not so inside, graces the wall behind her.

“Counter Culture Lakeland, where there is No Guilt getting Baked with the Salty Cow.”

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