Some little girls dream about dancing. Sherry Sheppard always daydreamed about baking. A week and a half ago, her sweet dream came true with the grand opening of I Love Cupcakes.
Sheppard stayed busy at home creating specialty cupcakes for friends and family. But her baking journey actually began as a child, when she made her first cake from scratch at the age of 9.
"It was my mom's birthday," said Sheppard. "I thought I would bake her a chocolate cake. I followed the recipe to a T. Mom was eating, saying it was really good, then said, 'Is there coconut in it?' I said no. She kept eating and said, 'Tell me what is in the recipe again.' … I went down the list. She said, 'Oh, you didn't brew the coffee, did you?' When I said no, she said, 'You're supposed to brew it first, honey.' "
That didn't discourage Sheppard. She perfected recipes and created her own. Eventually, she made tasty cupcakes that fit friends' and relatives' dietary restrictions.
"Because my niece couldn't have eggs, I crafted recipes she could eat," Sheppard said. "I had friends who were dairy intolerant or had celiac disease. I created gluten-free, wheat-free, organic and vegan cupcakes so they could eat goodies."
About a year and a half ago, a friend asked her, "Why are you doing this for free?" Sheppard said she liked it. To which her friend replied, "Why not do what you like and make money?"
Sheppard began to do just that with a home-based business. Then she stocked up on baking supplies and signed a storefront lease. Within two weeks of having her business license, she hosted three little girls' birthday parties.
The parties aren't just about eating cupcakes. Children decorate a take-home apron and chef's hat. They bake their own treats. They get to eat one cupcake and take one home.
"The kids have a blast," said Sheppard. "The good thing is, I can teach children about making vegan or gluten-free cupcakes. They're shocked that the cupcakes are so good. The parents are, too."
While Sheppard takes special orders, eight dozen cupcakes in the store tempt anyone who stops by. Whipped icing tops cupcakes flavored like banana cream pie, lime coconut, chocolate fluff, peanut butter banana, mint julep, upside pineapple, mocha madness, red velvet, and French toast with bacon. Not to mention Sheppard's favorite, Bunny Wabbit. That's carrot cake with pineapple and golden raisins topped with a maple cream cheese frosting.
The full-time employee of the city of Pinellas Park bakes every evening and on Saturdays. Husband Marc, who turned a dark-red-walled space into an airy pink cupcakery, is a manager at a Winn-Dixie in Holiday.
I Love Cupcakes is a family business. Their sons, Aidan, 4, and Logan, 10, think what their mom does is cool. Logan came up with the idea of a banana split cupcake, which Sheppard plans to try in the future. Her accountant parents manage the books. Her mother manages the shop when the Sheppards work their day jobs.
"We're so fortunate to have such support," Sheppard said. "We're pulling long hours. Yeah, I'm tired, but I love doing this so much that even if I'm here until 1 in the morning, I'm happy. Marc may not be as happy," she said with a laugh. He smiled.
"At first I was a little scared about the whole thing," said Marc, who always took his wife's talent seriously. "Now that we're actually into it, it's exciting."
"I had a vivid dream of my cupcakery," said Sheppard. "The colors, the name, everything. It just came to me. I woke up, wrote everything down and told my husband."