Many local bakeries are whipping up their most creative concoctions in preparation for the sweetest holiday of the year, Valentine's Day. But for one Tampa shop, those cupcakes might be an unexpected item.
At Nicola's Donuts, South Tampa resident and co-owner Michele Kaw only added the treat after she purchased the shop with her sister, Rachel Waatti.
"We both like baking and we enjoy creating products," Kaw said. "The previous owners only had doughnuts — we brought in the gourmet cupcakes. We noticed in other states, there is a cupcake craze."
Nicola's has two locations in Tampa, one at 902 W. Busch Blvd. and one at 14390 N. Dale Mabry Highway.
Just as Sweetie's Delights uses signature recipes, Nicola's Donuts also keeps its unique recipes closely guarded.
Kaw said they use European chocolate as well as fresh fruit. One of their unusual cupcake flavors is called the "Florida Orange."
"Florida is known for its oranges," Kaw said. "We use fresh orange in the cake, and the frosting is made with fresh orange juice and orange zest. Then we use our signature fondant topper, which is a circle with a hole in the middle to signify the doughnut."
Kaw said many parents purchase cupcakes for their children to take to Valentine's Day parties at school, while professionals take the cupcakes to office parties.
In addition to cupcakes such as the red velvet with pink vanilla buttercream frosting, they sell special Valentine's Day chocolate doughnuts with red sprinkles.
Kaw said the sisters asked their Facebook fans to help them pick a flavor to feature as the 2013 Cupcake of the Year. She said they just named the cupcake "Heath Bar Heaven."
Customers receive one free cupcake made with chocolate cake, vanilla buttercream and Heath Bar topping when they purchase a dozen.
In Valrico, Karen Walker of Valrico, the owner of Sweetie's Delights Bakery on Bloomingdale Avenue, said she sells a lot of cupcakes and cookies for Valentine's Day, thanks to her signature "whippy dip" icing. She said the bakery offers gourmet Valentine's Day decorated cupcakes in more than 24 varieties of flavors and toppings daily, starting the first week of February.
"The men seem to gravitate to cookies over cupcakes and women go right for cupcakes," Walker said.
She describes whippy dip as a light and fluffy icing that she whips up from a secret family recipe.
In particular, she said the majority of women favor the Southern-style red velvet cupcake made with cream cheese frosting and a dollop of whippy dip, while the male customers typically choose the candy-theme cookies or cookie sandwiches.
"We do a cookie called a Smoochie," she said. "It's where we take two of our cookies chocolate chip or chocolate, chocolate, chocolate chip and we put them together with whippy dip or chocolate fudge icing. Those go over big with men."
For Valentine's Day, she sells decorated sugar cookies cut in the shape of a heart with pink icing and sprinkles, as well as heart-shaped brownies sold in a gift box and custom decorated cakes. Other favorites include a chocolate chip brownie hand-cut in the shape of a floating heart and covered with chocolate ganache and white chocolate drizzle.
Bakeries that specialize in gourmet cupcakes have been popping up throughout the country.
For information on Sweetie's, call (813) 662-5671. For information on Nicola's, call (813) 374-2396.