Some of life's greatest food inventions happened by mistake, which explains baker Andy Herrera's croqueta cake.
The idea came from a party Herrera attended. Hungry, he snatched up the last few remaining ham croquetas, which were smeared with meringue from a nearby cake. "I tried it, and it was actually pretty good!"
The flavor profile of sweet and savory stuck with him, and in the privacy of his bakery, he began tinkering with a new creation that was the ultimate Cuban-food combination. A customer spotted him making it in the kitchen and shouted, "Oh my God, I need that in my life!"
Soon after, he posted a picture on Instagram and quickly knew he'd stumbled upon a hit. "People started going pretty crazy over the croqueta cake."
That was about eight months ago. Now, Herrera sells almost 80 cakes a week. The cake is a traditional Cuban panatela, or vanilla butter, cake. Customers can choose from a number of fillings, but Herrera explains most people opt for one of the two most popular flavors: Nutella and guava. Unlike most Cuban cakes, which are then covered in meringue, Herrera coats his with nata, a whipped icing.
"I'm not a huge meringue fan, so we make this cake with nata. We place all the croquetas on top of the cake and make it as pretty and uniform as possible. It's surprisingly good!"
Herrera left an 18-year career in tire sales to open Breadman Bakery after a hobby of selling homemade bread from his house demanded more time, space, and attention. It seemed a natural move, because food was in his DNA.
"My dad was in the restaurant business. Most 8-year-olds are playing around in mud, and I was making croquetas and empanadas."
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He opened his first bakery in Hialeah in May 2015 and an outpost in Westchester in January 2016. Both locations sell the croqueta cake, as well as a plethora of sweet and savory treats alongside sandwiches made on the bakery's signature bread.
The croqueta cake sells for $57 and serves 20 people. It must be ordered at least a day in advance, and Herrera is happy to offer advice on how to best enjoy it.
"People think, Oh, do I slice it like that? and I tell them no. The way I intended it to be served is you actually pick at the croquetas first and then you slice the cake."
Breadman Miami. 5804 W. 20th Ave., Hialeah; 305-273-2362; and 8100 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-265-1348; breadmanmiami.com.