Mariana Cortez of Bunnie Cakes Talks Cupcake Wars, Vegan Baking, and Valentine's Day

Mariana Cortez started baking vegan sweets back in 2009 as a way to fulfill her son's dietary restrictions. At the time, she never imagined she'd be the first person to open a vegan bakery in Miami.

Now, Bunnie Cakes is celebrating its one year anniversary -- just a few days shy of Valentine's Day. What better way to say "I love you" than with mini vegan cupcakes topped with edible hearts?

This Sunday, Cortez is offering prizes, mini cakes, and other wonderful activities. We recently spoke to Cortez, who was featured on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, about her appearance on the show, her bakery, and what guests can expect at her anniversary celebration.

See also: Bunnie Cakes: Gluten-Free, Vegan Love Cakes by Family Gal Mariana Cortez

Short Order: It's hard to believe it has been a year since Bunnie Cakes opened its storefront. What's the past year been like?

Mariana Cortez: Amazing and unbelievable. I'm so happy for all our achievements! We were featured on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, we were voted Miami New Times' best vegan bakery, and we tripled our sales projections for our first year. But more importantly, we gave vegan and gluten-free options to kids and people that didn't have any before. Finally, all my dreams came true and exceeded my own expectations.

Tell us about Cupcake Wars. How did that experience change you as a baker? What did you learn or what's the most important thing you walked away with?

I was so nervous! During the first round I made a corn-arugula cupcake and the batter came out wrong -- I put an extra cup of sugar. I realized that the cupcakes were not right when I had 10 minutes left on the clock. I started making a second batch and took them out of the oven with 1 minute left on the clock.

When we decorated them, the frosting melted, and it was a complete mess. Standing in front of the judges, I was shaking. I couldn't stand still, but luckily the cupcake and the flavor was a complete success! The judges were impressed and I was even more impressed. Hearing from top chefs that every single cupcake I made was beautiful and delicious was surreal. The whole filming was surreal. I stayed in L.A. for almost a week, and even though I missed my children every minute, the experience was unforgettable.

We heard you're going to have all the flavors you made on the show available at the party. Anything that you've never had before?

For the first time at the store we are going to have the Key lime pie/coconut pie cupcake. It has a graham cracker crust, key lime cake, and toasted coconut frosting. This is my favorite cupcake of all time -- the combination of flavors and textures are amazing and this will be the first time I'll be offering this cupcake to the public.

We'll also have our most popular guava cupcake (it's our top seller), as well as the surprising corn-arugula cupcake, which is contrary to what everyone expects. It's truly spectacular, delicious, and different!

Are there plans for another Bunnie Cakes anytime soon?

Yes, it's coming very, very soon. But for now, we're really enjoying the success of our current location. We have clients who come all the way from West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Are you cooking up anything special for Valentine's Day?

We have a complete Valentine's Day menu that is delicious and super original for your valentine -- from cupcake boxes with sweet messages to heart-shaped brownies and cakes. You can special order or pick it up at the store. We will also have balloons and plush bunnies and cupcakes. It's a one stop shop!

How many cupcakes are your kids allowed to eat a week? Do they have a limit?

I allow them to eat only one cupcake in the afternoon, and for their school's snack, they get either cookies or brownies. Luke recently started a sugar-free diet, so I make gluten free/vegan/sugar-free cookies and brownies for him. He doesn't even notice the difference. The sugar-free items are available upon request at the store, and they are sweetened with xylitol.

What about you?

I also restrict myself to eat one or two per day, but it is extremely difficult. The smell of the cinnamon cupcakes is irresistible. So yes, let's say is two, three, or maybe four! Depending on the day of the month.

Tell us about the one year party celebration. Will there be music? Can people just hang out and eat goodies?

Yes, there will be music all day. People can just come hang out and get a cupcake! Perfect Sunday funday!

With every purchase, you get to spin the fortune wheel and get one free item. We are also going to have kids activities, face painting, balloons, and a bounce house in the back. The first 50 customers receive a gift bag with gift cards for future purchases. Also, there will be amazing gifts from all our sponsors, like one month of unlimited membership to Play In, unlimited Pilates classes at Pilathon, yoga classes from Trio Yoga, and Bikram Yoga Central Miami, a pair of pants fromBuddah Pants, free hair services from Blo Midtown, doula services from The Natural Baby Store, gift certificates from Spris Pizza, a relaxation session from Let Go Stress, a pair of my favorite heart leggings from Fit Mama, vegan gelatos from Dolci Pecatti, art from our dear friend Piktorama (our muralist), and photography discount sessions by Photography by Priscilla... and so much more! Every customer will receive a ticket and the winners will be announced by the end of the day.

Vegan or not, this is one party you better not miss. Cortez ensures that even non-vegans enjoy her cupcakes more than regular, buttery recipe. So if you've yet to try them, head over this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to Bunnie Cakes for some guiltless guilty pleasures and possible prizes.

Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha

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