Confectioners are sometimes a forgotten segment of our city’s thriving artisanal food scene, yet it seems that with every passing week, new sweet shops materialize faster than crevices in your dentin. Salted caramel has become about as popular an ingredient as bacon, and, indeed, many of these savvy sugarmongers seduce us with both – the “dark chocolate salted peanut butter bacon crumble cupcake” at Se7en Bites being one prime example. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but what a mouthful it is. We take a closer look at Se7en Bites, in addition to three other shops that have mastered the art of hitting that proverbial sweet spot.
207 N. Primrose Drive | 407-203-0727 | se7enbites.com | $$
On any given weekend, the tables inside Se7en Bites will be occupied and the line to get into Trina Gregory-Propst’s bright (and tight) Milk District bakery will be out the door. Accept it; embrace it; ain’t nothing you can do about it. Once you’ve come to terms with that inevitability, you can go about enjoying some of the finest baked goods in the city. Cold hands make good pastry, so the saying goes, and Propst’s icy paws have landed her creations on some trendy tables (Fresh, Pom Pom’s) – creations like the salted caramel dark chocolate pecan mini pie ($7), with its phenomenally buttery crust. It’s the sweet that started it all for Propst, but the bandana-wearing proprietor can just as easily finish you off with a lemon cupcake injected with huckleberry-vodka ganache and topped with Italian meringue ($3), or a double-fudge brownie with chocolate chips and espresso sea salt ($3.50). This is a sweet and savory bake shop, and I was hoping to try the chicken pot pie during one brunchtime visit, but they were fresh out, so we sampled a generous portion of a tomato, pesto and goat cheese quiche ($8.50), as well as the Se7en Benedict ($7.75) – crispy green tomato, over-medium egg, and two sublimely crispy pieces of baked (yes, baked) bacon in between dense biscuits we wished were served warm. The bakery’s name refers to the seven bites of food Propst was allowed to eat after gastric bypass surgery. For patrons of Se7en Bites, such limitations will undoubtedly be hard to stomach.
P Is for Pie Bake Shop
2806 Corrine Drive | 407-745-4743 | crazyforpies.com | $
Tara Gould is a staunch “from-scratch” purist, so you won’t find Crisco, gelatin or any processed foods inside her Audubon Park bakery, P Is for Pie Bake Shop. Forking a piece of strawberry-basil mini pie ($3.50) into my mouth and then sipping on a cup of coffee brewed with beans from Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters afforded me a quintessential Agent Cooper moment. “That’s a damn fine cup of coffee,” I said to no one in particular, then took a hefty bite out of Gould’s signature caramel-pecan hand pie ($3), whose crust achieves the textural trifecta of formed, flaky and crumbly. The strawberry-raspberry cobbler ($3.50) is another item sure to tug on your Southern heartstrings, though don’t pass up the Mason jar pies (4 ounces, $4; 8 ounces, $5). The surprisingly light and airy banana cream, coconut cream and chocolate cream pies are easily scarfed delights, and don’t have needless added sugar. The chocolate peanut butter sea salt cutie pie ($2) – think salty peanut butter cup with a graham cracker crust – is just plain ridiculous. Made-to-order pies will run you $25 ($30 for double crust); Gould still runs her wholesale catering business from the same kitchen. You’d never know the bake shop once housed Sushi Lola’s, what with its minimalist farmhouse-chic decor, but from interior design to designer desserts, this pie shop is making believers out of many.
127 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park | 407-660-2253 | bcupcake.com | $
You might drive right past Sheila Norton’s cupcake shop on Fairbanks Avenue, so look for the UPS Store just before Park Avenue and turn into the parking lot. As if that isn’t deterring enough, the Crossfit Gym next to B’s looms as an admonishing edifice, but just ignore it, walk into the delightful little space, and commence drooling with the other voyeurs peeping into the rows and rows of cupcakes behind the glass case. Made fresh every morning at 6, the cakey wonders are offered in many intriguing flavors – and, oh my side, the sweet potato cupcake ($3), with its nutmeg hints and cinnamon cream cheese, should be as much a symbol of all that’s good with Dixie as Boss Hogg. The rum snowball ($3.50) is part of B Cupcakes’ 21-plus collection, which also includes Kahlúa- and Baileys-infused cupcakes. Infused with coconut rum, the vanilla cake is capped with coconut-rum cream cheese and flecked with toasted coconut; it made an ideal midmorning pick-me-up. I paired it with a glass of salted caramel milk ($2), which amounted to 2 percent with a few squeezes of Monin syrup – not particularly noteworthy, but they do offer other flavors (vanilla, chocolate, banana, strawberry) in your choice of 2 percent, almond or soy milk.
The Soda Fountain Ice Cream and Gifts
2525 Edgewater Drive | 407-540-1006 | thesodafountain.com | $
OK, the Soda Fountain in College Park may not actually have a soda fountain (it’s coming soon, we’re told, along with sorbet spritzers and craft sodas), but what it does have is a unique appeal: Seeing a kid slapping the display case begging for two scoops of rocky road is as common as seeing a hipster pop in to purchase a bow tie by Forage Haberdashery. With everything from vintage board games to porcelain salt and pepper shakers, the vibe at this ice cream store is undoubtedly eclectic, and that’s precisely the intent of owners Brad and Christina Cowherd (who also own Infusion Tea, just down the road). Patrons are encouraged to scribble and draw on the chalkboard walls as they enjoy their sundaes, floats, shakes and egg creams. The ice cream is fashioned locally by Muse Gelato’s “Orlando Ice Cream Company” brand (they also supply LuLu’s in the Eat More Produce parking lot), and the flavors we’d go back for are the bananas Foster, chocolate peanut butter, and a strawberry basil sorbet ($3, single scoop; $5, double scoop). The sea salt caramel might leave a bitter finish, but that can be easily remedied with a few sweet sips of a classic vanilla shake ($4). With a new store manager on board, look for more creative ice cream treats in the near future.