As the time approaches for wedding, graduations and other occasions for celebration like moving to Miami for a new job, you face one big question: Where can I get a really good cake in Miami?
For many years, as far as I was concerned, Miami was a bakery wasteland. The few good bakeries were small and little known, which meant we all ate a lot of bad cake. In fact, I got so tired of eating bad cake that I wrote a column for The Miami Herald suggesting people bake their own cakes.
Luckily, life in Miami has gotten sweeter, at least when it comes to cake, cookies, pies and other desserts goods. The number of good bakeries in Miami has increased significantly, meaning you are more likely to get a good cake. Good doughnuts are still rare, but new gourmet doughnut shops have just started moving in.
Everyone has a favorite bakery or two, and my one regret is that I haven't been able to try as many as I would like yet, but I am working on it.
Classic Miami pastries to try
There are many kinds of bakeries in Miami, including the ubiquitous Latin or Cuban American bakery, which may or may not be the same thing, depending on who is running it. If you have not had a pastelito yet, you want to rush to a Cuban bakery and order one. The mainstay of Cuban bakeries is a flaky pastry with filling that can be savory or sweet. My favorite is the pastelito with guava and cream cheese, but if it's lunchtime, you may want to try the beef.
Croquetas, usually made with ham, cod or chicken, are another local Cuban American favorite food in Miami.
Empanadas, which are common in many Spanish-speaking countries, also are popular and aren't just in Cuban or Latin bakeries.
Miami also has Haitian and Jamaican bakeries with specialties from those countries, including special breads and their versions of meat pies and pastries. Rum cake is ubiquitous in Miami. While I've struggled to find one that's to my liking, there are others who think there are some good rum cakes in Miami. If you like rum cake, I recommend you do some sampling.
There are many delicious cakes, cupcakes and other delicacies available in Miami; a lot of these baked goods take advantage of Florida's tropical and Latin American-Caribbean heritage. Key lime and mango are just a starting point.
If you're looking to find cake or other delicious dessert in Miami, here are some bakeries we recommend you try:
1. Enchanting Creations, Miami Shores
Karen and Alex Matamoros, a husband-and-wife team, have a retail bakery café and also create custom cakes for weddings and special occasions. Their menu offers a mouth-watering assortment of pastries to breakfast, to savory meals you can pick up for lunch.
2. El Brazo Fuerte Bakery, Little Havana
El Brazo Fuerte Bakery can easily be considered the best Cuban bakery in Miami. This old-style Cuban bakery has been filling Miami's sweet tooth or more than 35 years. Look here for old-style pastelitos and croquetas, as well as Cuban bread and other pastries. The shop also makes cakes to order. The Daily Meal included El Brazo Fuerte on its list of the nation's best bakeries.
3. Fireman Derek's World-Famous Pies, Wynwood
OK, it's not cake, it's pie, but very good pie. And you can also get cheesecake, carrot cake, red velvet cake and other desserts. Owner Derek Kaplan really is a fireman and works for the City of Miami Fire Department when he's not baking. His store also offers empanadas, quiches and more.
4. Bunnie Cakes, Wynwood and Aventura
Mariana Cortez started her vegan, gluten-free bakery (which is also kosher) when she couldn't find a vegan cake for her son's birthday party. She brought her cupcakes with a Latin flair to the Food Networks' "Cupcake" wars and offers cakes, cupcakes and more at both locations. They're the go-to option when you're looking for delicious, vegan desserts in Miami.
5. Sweetness Bakeshop & Cafe, South Miami
The Diaz family offers custom cakes as well as cupcakes in many creative flavors, brownies, milkshakes, cookies and other desserts, as well as beer, coffee and flavored milk in the cafe. The shop was listed in Food & Wine's Best New Cupcakes feature.
6. Vicky Bakery, Hialeah and 14 other locations
Antonio and Gelasia Cao, who met while working at a bakery in Cuba, opened their first store in Hialeah in 1972, four years after arriving from Cuba. Three of their children have joined them in the business. They make pastelitos with the same recipe they used in Cuba, as well as croquetas, custom cakes and other favorites.
7. Todo Dulce (Everything Sweet), South Miami
Pastry chef Laura Fleubry opened this shop in 2003, and she has been providing custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other desserts ever since.
8. Zak the Baker, Wynwood
Zak Stern's sourdough bread has earned a cult following. For years, you could only get it in restaurants or farmer's markets, but there is now a cafe in Wynwood and the bread is available at Whole Foods and other markets as well as in restaurants. Everything is kosher. Cake is not part of the menu.