Saturday, February 17, 2018
Features and More

Tampa Bay's sweet lineup of new cupcake shops

You'd think the cupcake craze would be cooling. Not by a long shot. In the past 18 months, a new crop of cupcake shops have been added to Tampa Bay's already sweet lineup. Here are the new players, with a look at their best offerings.

Laura Reiley, Times food critic

Sugardarlings

Jessica Beebe opened her first location in 2010 in New Port Richey and a second shop in Palm Harbor near the end of 2011 with a third shop set to open any day in Land O'Lakes. Originally aiming to be an ice cream parlor, she soon found she couldn't keep up with the demand for her cupcakes. Ice cream took a backseat as she went full throttle on the cupcakes, known for their super-moist cake and vanilla- or cream cheese-based frostings. There are four core offerings every day (chocolate-chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, red velvet and cannoli) with another dozen or so rotating flavors. She likes to experiment with exotics (think ginger-wasabi, spicy chocolate, hibiscus or honey lavender), and, in 2011, Sugardarlings won the Great St. Pete Cupcake Contest.

Crowning Achievement: Beebe won the contest with a peanut butter s'mores cupcake, but the cannoli-inspired version with mascarpone frosting and chocolate chips is a showstopper.

8511 Old County Road 54, New Port Richey; (727) 376-2253, sugardarlingscupcakes.com. Also 4966 Ridgemoor Blvd., Palm Harbor; (727) 785-2253. A third location is opening soon in Land O'Lakes.

$2 each, $20 per dozen

Sweet! By the Cake Factory

Jeannette Sanchez and son Daniel Delgado plus partner Carlos Delgado opened their little cupcake bar in January. They have a unique spin on the cupcake game: Choose from six flavors of cake, five kinds of icing and 18 toppings to create a custom cupcake for $3.50. You can get creative, with Oreo cookies, coconut, Pop Rocks and chocolate-covered pretzels as toppers, in the vein of Yogurtology or other create-your-bliss yogurt spots. Sweet! has also carved out a niche for itself with gluten-free and vegan options and it chooses a different charity each month and crafts a celebratory cupcake, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to benefit that charity.

Crowning achievement: Sweet! makes a lovely classic red velvet cupcake with not-too-sweet cream cheese icing, decorated with a delicate fondant heart (shown).

1100 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 498-8587, sweetstpetersburg.com

$3 for premade cupcakes, $3.50 to craft your own

Glorified Cupcakes

Opened in November, Glorified Cupcakes is the brainchild of Pedro Gonzalez. His shop is an outgrowth of his work as pastor of "Saturday Night Cafe," an alternative service at the Casa del Alfarero church on Hesperides Street. Glorified Cupcakes is run by volunteers, and some of the proceeds go to benefit the church and the community's needy. The group aims to open more locations in the Tampa area, but for now the little storefront is crowded with display cases of peanut butter cup, dulce de leche, key lime and Almond Joy cupcakes. They also sell coffee, salads and wraps, and deliver within 5 miles with a $20 minimum order.

Crowning achievement: A Cuban coffee cupcake starts with either a basic chocolate or yellow cake that is filled as well as topped with a subtle Cuban coffee buttercream, capped demurely with a coffee bean.

3601 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 874-2253, glorifiedcupcakes.com

$2.75 each, $29.99 per dozen

I Love Cupcakes

Sherry Sheppard opened her shop in February after years of baking at home for family and friends. Many of those loved ones had dietary restrictions as, it appears, do many locals; at I Love Cupcakes, gluten-free and vegan cupcakes have been huge sellers. Sheppard offers eight to 10 regular flavors a day, including a core of chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, in addition to other sweets like brownies and cookies. She has also focused on hosting birthday parties and, on the second Thursday of the month, a ladies' night.

Crowning achievement: The banana cream pie cupcake begins with a dense, very moist organic banana cupcake with a vanilla custard filling, then topped with whipped cream frosting and capped with crunchy organic banana chips. (Second place definitely goes to the carrot cupcake.)

13220 Belcher Road, Weston Plaza, Largo; (727) 543-9045, ilovecupcakesllc.com

$2.50 each, $24 for a dozen

GiGi's Cupcakes

The shop, opened last year, features a charming pink-and-brown color scheme, with a little seating counter and two cases that contain the daily-changing cupcake lineup selected from a pool of more than 60 varieties. One of 30 franchises of a company started a couple of years ago in Nashville by Gina "GiGi" Butler, this outpost seems to do a brisk business. Very tall piped icing is the signature, which can make the cupcakes a little top-heavy and inclined to tip. A whiteboard over the counter lists each day's offerings, as does the website, complete with pictures and lavish descriptions.

Crowning achievement: A perfect summer cupcake, the s'mores version features milk chocolate cake with chocolate chips baked in, topped with vanilla fluff and toasted marshmallows, the whole periphery rimmed in graham cracker crumbs and with a jaunty square of Hershey bar sticking out the top (shown above).

3810 Neptune Ave., Tampa; (813) 258-5555, gigiscupcakesusa.com/florida

$3.50 each, $36 per dozen, and they have just introduced minis for $15 a dozen

Enjoi Sweets & Company

Joi Escobar didn't grow up baking. But after studying fashion merchandising and not finding a job in her field, she took her burgeoning baking hobby and turned it into a business. She and her mother, Rhonda Mitchell, sold cupcakes, cookies and mini pies at the Ybor City Saturday Market under the name Sugar Flower Cupcakes before opening Enjoi in March. It's a pull-up-a-chair-and-relax kind of shop with local artists' work on the walls and a lounge area with a couch and soft chairs and coffee tables. Opinions are divided on the top offerings — some say cupcakes, others say the mini pies (offered in apple, sweet potato and sweet cream lemon custard).

Crowning achievement: With 11 kinds of cupcakes each day (rotating from a master list of about 22), the most exciting may be the "cookies and cream" version, a yellow cake that has Oreo cookies in the batter, topped with vanilla buttercream with more cookie crumbs on top.

4707 W Gandy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 545-7282, enjoisweets.com

$2 each

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293.

     
Comments
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orche...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

TAMPA — Cirque du Soleil is back in town with a new show.The Montreal-based company always puts on an extravaganza, splashing around color with the abandon of a toddler playing with paint buckets and a storyline several layers deep, the artistic skel...
Published: 02/16/18
The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

It’s almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentine’s Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this year’s James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
Bar review: Valenty’s Lounge, part of Pasadena Liquors in St. Pete — who knew?

Bar review: Valenty’s Lounge, part of Pasadena Liquors in St. Pete — who knew?

Once, if I’d received a recommendation to check out a lounge attached to a liquor store near the beach, I wouldn’t have been in much of a hurry to check it out. But I’ve learned that there’s frequently magic in these places. ...
Published: 02/15/18
Local craft beer of the week: Process IPA, Calusa Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Process IPA, Calusa Brewing

Not long ago, it was all about the West Coast IPA. California breweries like Stone, Russian River and Bear Republic built empires on the style, favoring a dry IPA base and mountains of resiny, intensely bitter hops to craft aggressive brews that laug...
Published: 02/15/18
New CoffeeHouse and Eatery comes to South Tampa

New CoffeeHouse and Eatery comes to South Tampa

Daily Dose Coffeehouse & Eatery opened earlier this month and offers South Tampa unique smoked coffee and a number of fresh, homemade breakfast items.Located in Fair Oaks Plaza at 3324 W Gandy Blvd., Daily Dose serves a different chef special everyda...
Published: 02/15/18
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar has opened at International Plaza

Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar has opened at International Plaza

INTERNATIONAL PLAZA—After a long wait, the highly anticipated Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila bar is finally open for business at International Plaza’s Bay Street on Monday (Feb 12).Originally expected to open last September, owner Rocco Mangel said they g...
Published: 02/15/18
I sat through Disney's Hall of Presidents five times. It says more about us than Trump.

I sat through Disney's Hall of Presidents five times. It says more about us than Trump.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Next time you’re at the Magic Kingdom, walk up Main Street USA and hang a left at Cinderella’s castle. Enter the faux colonial Liberty Square, with its exact replica Liberty Bell and "liberty tree" adorned with 1...
Published: 02/15/18