Nina Torres has been creating exquisite, one-of-a kind cakes for nearly 40 years, beginning in her native Puerto Rico through today at Cakes Plus Tampa, the specialty bakery and retail shop she opened in Tampa in 1992.
She may have started baking cakes as a hobby for family and friends, but soon Nina’s passion for making memorable, delicious cakes and her desire to teach and inspire others led to a bustling business. Today, in addition to turning out the best cakes in Tampa, Cakes Plus Tampa is also the premier destination for cake-decorating enthusiasts to find the supplies they need as well as attend classes and workshops where Nina shares her knowledge and techniques.
Starting from Scratch
Nina’s passion for creating memorable cakes began after making a cake for her daughter’s first birthday, continuing to grow a few years later when she did the same for her son’s birthday. Soon family and friends in Puerto Rico were asking her to make cakes for their special occasions and a successful home business was born.
Upon moving to the Tampa area in the early 1990s, Nina continued to make cakes and began teaching cake-decorating classes out of her home. Soon she realized she needed more space to pursue her passion and opened Cakes Plus, despite no formal business or baking experience. Her former career as a nutritionist helped her create recipes, including a signature pound cake using brandy, rum and sherry that is still used at the bakery today.
“Her original recipe is vital to our success as it is very unique and not something you can find anywhere else,” said her son Mario, who has worked alongside his mom for the past 20 years and is now the bakery’s executive pastry chef.
He adds that his mom built her business from the ground up by offering classes and workshops on cake-decorating and also filling a void in the market—offering hard-to-find cake-decorating accessories and candy-making supplies. In 2015, Cakes Plus added a second location in the area. Both locations also have coffee bars complete with a selection of cupcakes and pastries.
Today, Cakes Plus continues to flourish by sticking to some “old-school ways,” according to Mario.
“We don’t mass produce anything,” said Mario. “We take a limited number of special orders each week in order to maintain the highest quality and customer satisfaction.”
Another factor they attribute to the bakery’s success is making many items, such as buttercream frosting and fondant, from scratch. For other items, Mario says they seek out the very best ingredients or products that help them maintain the high quality and consistent results their customers depend on—products such as chocolate, yellow, white and red velvet cake mixes from the Pillsbury™ Bakers’ Plus™ line.
Wedding Cakes that Wow
Over the years, Mario and Nina have had the opportunity to play a star role in many of their customer’s most memorable occasions—their wedding day.
When she first came to the United States, Nina was one of the first in the area to share some of the techniques she had used in Puerto Rico like sugar laces, fondant and embroidery. She and Mario both agree that today there are many more options, from flavors to decorating, for customers to choose from when it comes to wedding cakes.
Mario said he tries to incorporate seasonal flavors whenever possible, whether it’s fresh ingredients like strawberries or flavors like spice. Sugar flowers—gorgeous, edible works of art—have remained consistently popular over the years.
“We love being part of the most important days of our customers’ lives,” said Mario, who notes they are now at a point where they have served multiple generations within many local families. “We like to make people happy.”
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