While baking is still a popular hobby, several Delawareans have turned their passion into a business, and customers are once again embracing the standalone bakery. That’s good news in February, since Valentine’s Day is one of the sweetest days of the year.
Why has the area seen a resurgence in pastry shops?
The increased interest in “bakes” started before 2020. Credit the number of TV programs devoted to cakes, cookies and other confections, including the The Great British Bake Off and Baking Impossible on Netflix, and the baking championship series on the Food Network. Archmere Academy graduate and bakery owner Kati Singley grew up watching TLC’s Cake Boss, featuring Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro Jr.
Family and friends welcomed the home bakers’ goods during the pandemic’s early days. “People wanted comfort food,” explains Evangelina Guajardo, owner of Evangelina’s Vegan Desserts in Newark. And there’s nothing more soothing than rich chocolate cake or chewy macarons.
The just-baked products spoiled them. “There’s a difference between getting something just made from a bakery and getting something that’s a few days or weeks old from a supermarket,” Guajardo notes.
As people downsized wedding and party lists, they emphasized quality rather than quantity, which boosted bakery sales, explains Singley, owner of CupKate’s in Greenville. Plus, who doesn’t love the bakery experience, complete with pretty pink boxes, fresh buttercream and the intoxicating aroma of sugar?
Singley, who learned to bake from her mother, opened CupKate’s in Greenville last September. The Saint Joseph’s University graduate was destined for self-employment. She made and sold jewelry and dollhouse furniture at craft fairs as a youth.
Her mission is to “make life sweet,” and she’s succeeding with custom bakes in fanciful flavors. In the shop, she also has a grab-and-go case filled with cakes, cupcakes, macarons and cinnamon buns. Selections change daily. (4001 Kennett Pike, Suite 134, Greenville; 256-0819; cupkatescakes.com)
Singley isn’t the only young entrepreneur with a sweet tooth. Sisters Darien and Emma Donovan plan to open Sprinkles Italian Bakery & Market in north Wilmington early this year.
The duo started baking during quarantine. “I had just graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with a degree in teaching—and I love teaching—but there was something pulling me toward starting my own business,” says Darien Donovan, whose parents own a property management company. “I loved the idea of having my own store.”
The 1,400-square-foot space in the old Berri Yummi Frozen Yogurt location has room for an Italian market. Indeed, don’t let Darien’s red-gold hair and last name fool you. The sisters’ grandmothers are Italian. “I was raised super Italian with Italian recipes and family dinners on Sundays,” says Donovan, who grew up going to bakeries like DiFonzo’s. Expect tomato pie, meatballs and “gravy,” wedding soup and Italian sandwiches.
Sprinkles fills the gap left by Sweeney’s Bakery, the Brandywine Hundred store that operated for 60 years before closing in 2018. (3100 Naamans Road, Wilmington; sprinklesitalianbakery.com)
Incidentally, the women aren’t the only siblings who love sugar. The Cake Sisters Pastry Arts Studio, which opened in 2019, has made Delaware City a destination for wedding and celebration cakes. (88 Clinton St., Delaware City; 838-1948; thecakesisters.com)
A vegan since 2000, Evangelina Guajardo started baking for her family in 2013, and friends soon requested her cakes and pies. The business took off, and she started providing items to cafés and stores in the Newark area. “I needed a location so I didn’t have to run around delivering and people could pick things up,” she says.
In 2020, she opened Viva! Vegan by Evangelina’s Vegan Desserts in a storefront, only to temporarily close when the pandemic led to restrictions. After reopening, she primarily uses the location to fill orders but accepts walk-in traffic on Fridays and Saturdays.
Popular items at this time of year include cookies resembling the candied message hearts and heart-shaped cakes. “We do pretty much what a regular bakery would offer but the plant-based version,” Guajardo says. (280 E. Main St., Newark; 729-4327; evangelinas.com)
Rosmeri Hernandez opened Rosita’s Bakery in Milford partly because she pined for the xeca and conchas, the pan dulce (sweet bread) that she’d enjoyed in her native Guatemala. But the shop isn’t limited to Central American delicacies. You might also find strawberry-pretzel salad, a distinctly central and southern Delaware favorite, and cakes, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, apple dumplings and fruit pies.
The bakery plans to expand its offerings this year. “We are hoping to bake more Central American bread and whole-loaf sandwich bread this year,” says Christian Mendoza-Hernandez, the owner’s son.(621 N. Walnut St., Milford; 503-7190)
Monique Walker and her family often engaged in friendly bake-offs, and she liked it so much that she started an in-home business in 2012. By 2018, she had a Dover storefront selling creative cupcakes and gourmet milkshakes. The strawberry crunch cheesecake is a top seller, and during the pandemic, Walker started selling the crumbled topping on Etsy.
Last fall, she opened Sweet & Treats Restaurant and Bar on Main in downtown Smyrna. The restaurant offers a full-service menu full of noshes, such as pasta, wings, milkshakes and burgers. There is brunch on Sunday. Of course, the dessert menu includes milkshakes and cheesecake.
Walker decided to use the bakery’s name for the restaurant because Kent County residents are familiar with it, but the Dover location will remain a bakery. (147 S. Governors Ave., Dover; 670-1380; 2 N. Main St., Smyrna; 389-8665)
Many bakeries begin as cottage industries, and Biamby Sweet Treats in Georgetown is an example. Jeannie Biamby turned to baking when the pandemic affected her 12-year-old cleaning business.
“It really hit us hard,” she says of the temporary ban on short-term rentals, which made up much of her business. “And I have always loved baking, so friends said, ‘Why don’t you sell your baked goods? They’re amazing!’”
Specialties include custom cakes, such as wedding and birthday designs. She’s seen an uptick in orders for custom cookies for baby showers and other celebrations. She’s hoping to open a shop, perhaps in Milton.(519-1604; facebook.com/biambysweettreats)