With her Easy-Bake Oven, Charlita Varner created her first sweet treat at age 8. Though her equipment has been upgraded since, her childhood passion for baking has never waned. Drawing on skills she learned from her mother, a self-taught baker, Charlita blends eggs, sugar, and butter into customizable cakes whose designs have ranged from chessboards to sombreros.
Her visual flair doesn't sacrifice taste—Buttersweet Bakery's flavors include vanilla, lemon coconut, and key lime, whose recipe Bon Appetit featured on its website. The magazine isn't the only media outlet to stand up and take note of Charlita's work. Her cakes have also basked in the spotlight on TLC's A Wedding Story and delighted guests at the BET Awards.
When Jeff and Brandy Martin opened Smallcakes: A Cupcakery to showcase Jeff’s baking talents, they could hardly have imagined the success in store for them. Appearances on The View and The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, however, stirred up a national frenzy for the 15 made-from-scratch flavors that constitute the core of the bakery’s menu. It’s hard to blame the public for getting excited about flavors such as caramel crunch, cookies-n-cream, and pink chocolate. Jeff and Brandy don’t limit themselves to this group of staples, however. They pool their creativity to invent seasonal flavors such as autumnal pumpkin, sweet potato, and turducken—a turkey stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a cupcake.
Since 1986, JD Rothschild Gourmet Chocolate has warmed bellies with its instant, all-natural hot chocolates. The company's decadent blends greet lips with familiar flavors, such as premium chocolate and hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, plus a few unorthodox ones, such as candy cane, salted caramel, and malted. The blends, which are packaged in decorative, reusable tins, are simple to prepare: customers just need to add hot water and stir, counter-clockwise if they're Australian.
JD Rothschild Gourmet Chocolate's chocolatiers also lead chocolate-making classes, which introduce students to different types of chocolate, including Valrhona and Callebaut. The classes go on to teach participants how to whip up a chocolate mousse, craft fine truffles, and create tasty cocoa rubs.
Chocolate Girl Cupcakes’ Nicole Turk—aka Chocolate Girl—pours a lifetime’s passion for baking and cooking into crafting gourmet cupcakes, cake pops, and baked goods. Without using any preservatives, she bakes her treats from scratch, in cupcake flavors such as Neapolitan, lemon, or chocolate, all topped with decadent icings. She also makes cake pops, brownies, and whoopee pies, as well as cocktail cupcakes—cupcakes infused with liquors.
After the birth of her son, Debra Coleman resigned from her corporate job, and started working from home in a field for which she has a true passion: baking. Today, her handmade, handheld cakes excite taste buds with the flavors of real sweet cream butter, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, free-range eggs, and fresh fruit. Thanks to her handiwork, wedding and banquet guests of all ages dine on decadent desserts topped with cloud-like dollops of frosting and gourmet sprinkles, while grown-ups celebrate responsibly with cupcakes spiked with rum and Kahlua.
Coleman and her company give back to the community through a wealth of civic-minded initiatives. That includes using only eco-friendly cleaning products and recyclable materials in the kitchen, and donating a portion of the weekly profits to Atlanta-area schools and women's and children's shelters.
Yum Yum Dessert Co. got its start as the city's first licensed cupcake and dessert truck, but now shares its delectable desserts from a storefront as well. Cupcakes and gourmet cakes are just a sample of the dessert offerings—ice cream, macarons, cookies, and pies also beckon from within the store's glass cases. Guests can pair their desserts with a coffee drink or hot chocolate.