One glimpse into Mariana Cortez’s sweet emporium, and it’s no wonder why the locals can’t stay away. Nestled on a busy street in Wynwood, Bunnie Cakes is more than just a bakery- it’s a love story pioneered by one mom’s personal quest to create a dairy free alternative for her children. Never one to let rejection define her, Mariana never gave up. She followed her passion and her heart, and in 2009, Bunnie Cakes was born.
It’s almost impossible to have just one of their delectable cupcakes. These bite size treats that range in selection from guava to passion fruit, are an explosion of flavor in your mouth. And vegans rejoice! Bunnie Cakes offers gluten free versions of their sugary delicacies.
In my first foodie inspired Style Spotlight, Freshly Squeezed Fashionista goes straight to the sweet source to get the scoop on a neighborhood favorite.
FSF: I love the story behind the shop! Why did you decide to take this leap of faith?
BC: My oldest son Luke was 18 months and he was not talking. He had a speech delay and I started researching about diets that would help him develop his speech. I came across the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet. Luke had an allergy to dairy since birth, but I didn’t know much about anything gluten free. When I started searching for places to make the cake (gluten free and dairy free) for him, nobody at the time knew what I was talking about. I knew there was a necessity in having a local bakery/baker that could provide this. So I called my grandmother and she gave me some cake recipes that I transformed into vegan and/or gluten free recipes. I went online and looked for a domain and www.bunniecakes.comwas available (I don’t know how I came up with that name but I thought it sounded cute). I created my own website on my laptop and took a couple of pictures of the cupcakes I was baking. I had a full time job at the time, but during lunch hours I would go to restaurants with samples of my mini cupcakes to see if they were interested in selling them. I found a couple of restaurants that were interested. I used to bake at night after work until 2-3 in the morning. After a couple of months I decided to quit my job and I started full time out of my apartment. It was really scary because I had an 18 month old and a newborn and my husband, at the time, was unemployed. But I always believed in my product, eventually I had more than 10 restaurants to supply weekly. I used to bake, decorate, deliver, make the invoices, answer the phones and emails, and take care of my two sons. I got pregnant with my third child and I thought I was going to have to stop, but I never did. The same day that I delivered Amelie, my third child, I baked and decorated more than 200 cupcakes with my mom. Eventually production grew so much that I had to hire an assistant and another person to make the deliveries. Online, I met another amazing business owner that offered to share her warehouse and kitchen space with me. I moved to a warehouse in Little Haiti and from there we delivered to all our retailers. But I always knew that I had to have a storefront because it was difficult to find what I was creating, and I wanted to make it accessible to everyone. From that point, I started looking for investors, lenders, etc. It was such a long process but I was a pioneer in Miami for these pastries. The risk I was taking was so elevated and I was an eternal dreamer in everyone’s eyes. I had so many disappointments, and so many people turning me down, so many people telling me over and over again that “I was a dreamer and dreamers don’t get any loans.” I never gave up though. I got all the money I needed in loans to open my storefront, but it was so difficult. I filed for divorce because not even my husband understood or believed in me. The store was opened February of last year, and we have had amazing responses from everyone. I couldn’t be happier. Our projections were tripled in just one year.
|Bunnie Cakes’ tiniest pastry chefs.
FSF: And it’s such a great addition to the booming neighborhood of Wynwood. Why did you decide on this location?
BC:I live very close to Wynwood. I was driving around and saw a big “for rent” sign so called and they came and showed me the space. There was nothing inside and the neighborhood was still full of homeless people and prostitutes, but even though everybody thought I was crazy, I always believed in Wynwood as the place we wanted to start our business
FSF: Is baking a family affair? Is this something you do with your kids?
BC:They like to help in the kitchen. Sometimes they help at the store or I make them do certain things so they feel like they’re helping.
FSF: There’s an endless selection of yummy cupcakes and desserts- chocolate chip, dulce de leche, red velvet- how do you come up with the flavors?
BC:I like to incorporate flavors that I grew up with. I love passion fruit because it reminds me of my childhood in Venezuela and how my grandmother’s “manjar de parchita” (passion fruit gelee), so I created a passion fruit cupcake. It reminds me of her. I also created our corn and arugula cupcake also inspired by my grandmother’s “torta de jojoto” ( corn cake with fresh corn). It reminds me of the flavors of my grandmother’s kitchen. Almost every flavor is a memory from my childhood and my grandmother’s desserts.
FSF: what makes your shop even more desirable is that you offer gluten free desserts and many people nowadays are choosing a gluten free lifestyle. Why did you decide to offer? Do you have a lot of customers asking for gluten free?
BC:Yes I do have a lot of customers with gluten sensibilities or that they prefer to eat this way. I offer almost all the items we have in the gluten free/vegan version. We have gluten free/vegan cupcakes, cakes, brownies, cookies, empanadas, cheese balls, whoopie pies, gelato in gluten free cones, milkshakes, and our lunch menu sandwiches can be prepared with gluten free/ vegan bread.
FSF: If you could only eat one dessert from your shop for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
BC:That is such a difficult question! But my favorite flavors are cinnamon sugar, passion fruit, guava, banana chocolate chip, and our new “sin tres leches” which is our version of the popular Latin dessert, ” tres leches.”
FSF: When you hear all the customer feedback and read the reviews and praise, does it get old? Is it still a fairytale for you?
BC: I am so grateful. Everyday I meet different people at the store that I can help, that I can relate to, that are me five years ago when I was looking for a cake for Luke. It makes me happy to be able help people, to have someone eat their first cupcake in front of me and I get to look at their smile. It never gets old. I’m so grateful each time a customer tells me they enjoy our products. That is the reason why I work so hard everyday.
FSF: Any plans to expand to other locations?
BC:Yes we plan to open a new location in the very very near future.
2322 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, Florida 33137