While food trucks get all the shine on the local affordable-dining scene, it's easy to forget that some of them are offshoots of actual brick-and-mortar establishments! Case in point: Sugar Rush Miami, the city's first baked-goods truck. The truck wows with so-bad-for-you-they're-good concoctions like deep-fried cupcakes and super-thick milkshakes. But it's worth heading west down Sunset Drive to visit the store that begat Sugar Rush, Sweetness Bakeshop and Cafe.
A couple weeks back we showcased some of the store's inventive custom-made fondant cakes -- but there's a lot more to be found in the inviting, cool-colored space. First off, there are, surprise, savory items! A range of sandwiches and other simple lunch fare keeps the suburban spot bustling even at lunchtime.
There are also sweets to be found here that aren't aboard the truck. A rotating selection of mini cupcakes here can often also be found aboard Sugar Rush. But Sweetness is where you will find non-cake desserts as well, like tangy, mousse-like key lime pie shots, and a honey-goat cheese pudding, which sounds almost virtuous enough to have for breakfast. (Screw it, though -- the Guayabera cupcakes, with a guava-paste filling and stiff cream cheese frosting, also make a delicious start to the day.)
There's another important fact about Sweetness worth pointing out to party people. Should the sugar craving strike in the wee hours, it's the only bakery around open late -- "until the last person leaves" on Fridays and Saturdays, which is usually around 1 a.m.
In a (very tough) quest to document the city's independent dessert-biz scene, we caught up with Sweetness founder Stephanie Perez-Diaz. She runs the family operation alongside husband J.C. Perez, mom Yamile Diaz, and brother Danny Diaz.
Sweetness Bakeshop and Cafe. 9549 Sunset Drive, Miami. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m. "till the last person leaves" on Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m.to 7 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays. 305-271-7791; sweetnessbakeshop.net
New Times: How long has your shop been open? Did any of you have a formal culinary background, and if not, how did you decide to take the leap into opening a brick-and-mortar store?
Stephanie Perez-Diaz: None of us have had any formal culinary training. We grew up with my mom always baking; it was something that became natural to us. We toyed with the idea of opening a store for a while. We tested the waters out first by working from home until the demand got too big and we were basically forced into opening a store.
The list of cupcake flavors on your web site is huge. How do you decide when to rotate them in and out? When do you find the time to experiment and come up with new ones?
We rotate our flavors every day; usually we pick our flavors the morning of. Not having a set menu allows us to be more spur-of-the-moment with our flavors. If I see a mango vendor on the street on my way into the store, that'll be the flavor for the day. We try to take inspiration from the seasons, pop culture, and what our customers request and recommend.
We're always experimenting in the kitchen, but Mondays (the one day the store is closed) is usually the day we're all back there testing out new ideas, whether it be a cupcake or dessert.
On your web site, you specifically note that you use butter in your buttercream (so it's not pure white) -- so it seems that ingredients are important to you. What other high-quality ingredients are you proud to use?
We don't cost-cut when it comes to putting out a quality product. We pride ourselves in using high-quality ingredients such as pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla, buttermilk, pure cane sugars, fresh fruits (and veggies sometimes too!), whipping cream, whole grain flours, and the best chocolates from around the world. We use different types and brands of chocolate depending on what we're using them for.
What's your personal favorite cupcake flavor?
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It changes pretty often. For right now it's the champagne, which is a vanilla bean cake, filled with champagne sabayon, topped with champagne buttercream. It was a flavor we created for New Year's.
Finally, what new items are in development for the shop and/or the truck that customers should look out for?
That's tough. We're always working on new stuff for the store and truck; it's a matter of which makes the cut! We've been working on making "G.O.A.Twiches," which is our G.O.A.T. chocolate chip cookie, sandwiched with ice cream in the middle.