Mariana Cortez Serves Up Something Sweet

 

Baked with Love

Mariana’s son was turning two and she couldn’t find a cake for his birthday. Her son had an allergy to dairy, and she was unable to find a single bakery in Miami that could serve his dietary needs. Instead of giving up, Mariana saw the predicament as an opportunity: she would make the cake herself. She spent the next few weeks trying out different recipes until she found the perfect one. The experience made her realize the need for specialty bakeries, and that she could be the one to fill it. So in 2009, she founded Bunnie Cakes.

 

With both a mother and grandmother who were passionate about cooking, Mariana loved making food from a young age, and would bake with her grandmother often. Her love for art came early as well, as Mariana would spend hours drawing and painting throughout her childhood. It’s impossible to tell from the treats she creates that Mariana has no professional background in either design nor baking. Cakes painted with a lifelike Frida Kahlo and cupcakes frosted to resemble famous historical paintings are confectionary proof that dreams are achievable so long as you have a passion.

 

When Hurricane Irma struck Florida, Bunnie Cakes was hit with severe damage to its roof and AC units, leaving Mariana in urgent need of financial support. She turned to Accion, whom she found out about through the Bayside Foundation. With the loan Mariana received from Accion, she was able to continue covering her day-to-day expenses while she made necessary repairs. “It was very helpful for us as a small business because we needed that capital to continue the business.”

 

A Family Affair

As a mother of five, Mariana’s family has been intertwined with her business from the start. “We’re used to the fact that this business is part of our family, we embrace it as if it’s another child.” Mariana recently expanded her business to include a summer camp, which all her children attend, and one daughter assists her with a baking workshop. While at times Mariana has struggled to balance her time, her children have increasingly recognized the value of their mother’s commitment to her business, and the life lessons it provides them with. “Now that they’re older they feel proud when they see we’ve accomplished something. They’ve been part of this journey through the years. I see the hard work we’ve put in as something very positive. They’re learning that dreams are possible with hard work.”

 

Fully recovered from the damages of Hurricane Irma, Bunnie Cakes now has 16 employees, is sold in numerous Whole Foods and Starbucks locations, and has a massive social media following as well as several press mentions. Bunnie Cakes continues to be an unstoppable force, with Mariana’s inspirational vision enabling it to thrive. Mariana has plans to open a second location, continue teaching, and of course, continue baking delicious and inspirational treats. “I get to express my creativity and I feel good doing it. That makes me happy.”