Satisfying a sweet tooth is easy in Southwest Florida. Whether it’s cupcakes, donuts, truffle es, or pastries, you don’t have to drive far for gourmet treats. Making tasty desserts takes much longer than eating them. Local bakers start working long before sunrise to produce fresh bread and cakes each morning. And that’s only half the job.
Here are the stories behind some artisans who decorate their treats with style, presenting desserts that are as lovely as they are tasty…
FROM ACCOUNTING TO CUPCAKES
Four years ago Grace Bolen left corporate life and entered the sweet life. She traded her briefcase for an apron and opened a cupcake shop in Naples. “I’ve always loved sweets,” she says. “I’m the kind of person who likes to check out the dessert menu before the regular menu and plan my meal around that.” Today, Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes has ﬁve locations in Southwest Florida, including one at Coconut Point Mall. A sixth is opening this month in Milwaukee, the hometown of Bolen’s business partner, Shelly Stayer. Bolen’s background in ﬁnance and accounting helps with running the business, but when it comes to the creative side, Bolen is self-taught. “I’ve always been kind of a foodie,” she says. “I love to try different things.”
Grace & Shelly’s makes about 40 different cupcake ﬂavors, each topped with a scrumptious swirl of icing and delectably decorated. About 15 ﬂavors are featured in the store each day on a rotating schedule. For a small sampling of sweetness, there are miniature cupcakes, which Bolen refers to as “shooters.” Regular-sized cupcakes are $3.45 apiece, with discounts for larger quantities. Grace & Shelly’s also offers double-sized jumbo cupcakes, as well as giant cupcakes – the equivalent of a small cake. They’re especially popular for birthdays and bridal or baby showers, Bolen says. The store also sells Royal Scoop ice cream. Bolen oversees daily operations at all ﬁve locations, and Stayer concentrates on marketing the brand. Sharing a passion for sweets, the two paired up in 2011. While Bolen has hired bakers and decorators to help with the growing business, she still takes the lead for special events. “I like to personally take care of all the weddings and large party orders,” she says.
GRACE & SHELLY’S CUPCAKES
When Bolen opened Gracie’s Cupcakes in 2009, she would start baking at 5 a.m., then decorate until the shop opened at 11. Cupcakes are still baked fresh daily at the Naples Fifth Avenue and Bell Tower Shops locations (and delivered to other locations each morning).
Best-selling ﬂavors include Red Velvet, Brown Sugar Caramel, and Coconut Snowball. New ﬂavors are developed from customer suggestions and experimentation of the baking staff. Bolen’s 11-year old daughter, Isabelle, created Izzy’s Chocolate Chip. “It tastes very much like a chocolate chip cookie,” Bolen says. “It combines all the things she loves.” One of the most unusual ﬂavors is Maple Bacon, served on the weekends. It’s vanilla cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with cinnamon and bacon. “It’s almost like breakfast,” Bolen says. “I think the sweet-and-salty combination is really popular.” Grace & Shelly’s has been featured on TLC’s “Cake Boss,” and their cupcakes have been enjoyed by celebrities like Glenn Beck. The Coconut Point store is located between Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Bice Grand Cafe and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.