From mall carts to storefront, Gourmet Goodies has become a beloved bakery in the heart of downtown. Famous for their cupcakes, they have expanded not only their space over the years but also their sweet offerings.

photography by Dan Austin | styled by amy schaus

Carissa Hughes never imagined opening a bakery. With a diverse background ranging from business management to real estate to ministry, Hughes always desired owning a business but never thought this dream would become a reality through the form of a bake shop — especially since baking wasn’t included in her varied experiences. “I don’t bake … it’s not my forte,” says Hughes, owner of Gourmet Goodies.

So, how did a non-baker build a thriving bakery in the heart of downtown Winter Haven?

Hughes and her husband, Bob, began the business merely as a hobby. Bob was the baker and spent much of his free time perfecting his recipes. With support from their family and friends, they then decided to develop a weekly route throughout town to sell and deliver their sweet treats to local businesses. “We started the business just for fun,” says Hughes. Well, their fun door-to-door business continued to grow, and although through disappointment and missed opportunities from jobs, Hughes and her husband felt that it was just the right nudging to pursue crafting their weekend hobby into a full-time business.

As the business continued to grow, its location continued to adapt to its expanding market. From carts at malls to pop-ups at the local farmers markets, Hughes soon learned that their business would need to take root and find a home. They needed their own bakery. “It was either go big or go home,” she says. Their first location in Winter Haven opened in February 2013, and after two successful years, they outgrew this location too. Their space then moved on November 2, 2015, to downtown Winter Haven where they have been able to double their size and expand their daily menu options.

Today, Gourmet Goodies offers over 40 different flavors of cupcakes. They have 11 everyday favorites and five featured specialties that rotate each month. Customer favorites include the sea salt caramel and peanut butter brownie cupcakes. “We sell more cupcakes than anything,” says Hughes, “and iced sugar cookies!” That’s right, their delectable offerings span beyond cupcakes, with an extensive menu which also includes macarons, cake pops, brownies, and other specialty items. Hughes’ favorite? “The cheesecake is to die for,” she says. They also take custom orders, including wedding cakes.

Since their humble beginnings, they have still been able to maintain Bob’s original recipes while also improving them. Hughes has grown in her baking skills, as well. “I had to commit myself to learn to do it so that I could be a more effective manager,” she says. She also credits their business’ success to their talented staff. “I was able to hire on people who knew better than me,” say Hughes.

“What encourages me the most is when customers come into the store and say, ‘I remember you from the cart in the mall,’” says Hughes. “They’re happy to see where we are, but they’re also happy to be a part of it. Because of their support, this small, family-owned business is here. They supported local and that allows us to be their local bakery.”