A bar might not be the first place you look to find miniature cupcakes, but if you venture into a popular beer bar, you might find two women whipping up some sweet treats.
Erica Abalos-Hernandez and Emily Bowers started The Bees Knees Sweet Treats in the kitchen of Orlando’s Redlight Redlight. Abalos-Hernandez’s husband owns the bar, and he encourages the duo to sell their cupcakes there, too.
And these aren’t manly beer cupcakes. The small treats are decorated with plump, bright raspberries, sparkly sprinkles and delicate flowers.
“I love to pair this really girly beer, Framboise, with a chocolate cupcake — it’s the perfect combination” fan Dayna Griffin said. “Even the guys like it.”
Bowers and Abalos-Hernandez of East Orlando started Bees Knees in February. They sell their treats at Redlight Redlight, local farmer’s markets and also cater events such as baby showers and bridal parties. Not only do they have cupcakes, but truffles and other sweet confections, and even tea sandwiches. The business was Abalos-Hernandez’s idea.
“I’ve always had a passion for baking,” she said.
As a little girl, she would bake cupcakes with her mom for the holidays. Then, she wasn’t so much involved in the process as she was in the end result.
“She loves to eat, so she was always interested,” said her mom, Elisa Abalos.
Through the years, Abalos-Hernandez would always go back to baking. Whether it was a holiday party, or a co-worker’s birthday, it w as her job to bring the cupcakes. She began to appreciate process, and started to bake from scratch and create her own recipes.
Friends and family kept telling her she should start a cupcake business, and she’d joke about it at work with Bowers.
With the encouragement of her husband, and Bowers, her now-business partner, Abalos-Hernandez quit her job as an admissions representative at Full Sail University and started baking full time.
At first Bowers wasn’t so into the baking part. The pair are a bit opposite — she’s more of the business-minded one and Abalos-Hernandez is the “out there creative one,” they said.
“We’re a good team,” Abalos-Hernandez said.
“We complement each other,” Bowers added.
But once they started, seeing her partner’s passion for it helped encourage Bowers’ cupcake passion. She also loves sharing something sweet with people.
“Seeing people enjoy what you make, helping people celebrate, I guess you could say I fell in love with it,” Bowers said.
That’s what Abalos-Hernandez loves, too.
“For me I’m just very passionate about food; I feel like it’s a part of you,” she said. “I like being able to share things I work so hard on. So much heart goes into them. These are things I make for my mother and grandmother, and I’m sharing that with other people.”
“She puts her heart in it,” her mom said.
And people love them.
“Her sweets are way better than any Publix bakery could ever make,” Griffin said. “Not only are they good, but I like to support the cause.”
The cause is a local one. The Bees Knees partners bake with as many local ingredients as they can. Right now they’re using local eggs, which are about 30 hours old when they’re whisked into the batter, local seasonal fruit, honey and whiskey. The two are passionate about supporting local community and business, so they use local ingredients. That’s also why they like to sell their confections at farmers markets, which helps build the community.
“It’s just a win win when people buy from the community,” Abalos-Hernandez said.
Their customers also like their signature miniature size.
“The bite size is fun because of the portion control,” said cupcake fan Megan Panagopoulos.
That’s why the two decided to specialize in small cupcakes. The smaller size allows customers to try more flavors.
“It’s a guilt-free portion size,” Bowers said.
Plus, the flavor packs a big punch in a mini package.
“The flavor is intense enough that you get all you need out of a miniature cupcake; you don’t need a big cupcake,” Griffin said.
While the cupcakes seem to be taking off — they make and sell about 500-plus treats a week for the markets and events they cater — Abalos-Hernandez isn’t sure where the future will bring Bees Knees.
“Right now we’re playing it day by day, and enjoying the catering,” she said.
So now, the two are sharing their signature “love and sweetness” with their favorite crowd — the locals.
Want a cupcake?
Emily and Erica sell their sweet treats every Monday at the Audubon Farmer’s Market from 6-10 p.m. and every Thursday at the College Park Farmer’s Market from 5-9 p.m. They also do catering for special events. Check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheBeesKneesSweetTreats. For more information, e-mail them at [email protected] or call them at 407-694-4430.