Each morning around 7 a.m., Diane Falco prepares the day's cupcake inventory. Nine signature flavors, from classic chocolate to Kahlua Moose, lay the foundation of Cupcake Heaven's six-day-a-week routine.
When the nine cupcakes are complete and encased under the front counter display, Falco chooses a few different flavors from a collection of more than 30 to offer as options. On this day, Key lime was on the list.
Falco has done this nearly the same way for four years, since Cupcake Heaven opened its doors on Oct. 22, 2009 at the Timber Pines Center on Commercial Way in Spring Hill. Denise Cornelius, Cupcake Heaven's original owner, brought Falco in and the two began building a foundation for the bakery that broke from traditional molds.
But for two weeks in December, customers who ventured to the shop saw a sign in the window that told of the Bakery's pending demise. Cornelius decided to close the business after four years.
But Falco, one of the prime bakers, had poured her heart and soul into the bakery and wasn't prepared to walk away. She quickly commissioned the help of family and worked out an agreement with Cornelius. The bakery reopened on Dec. 21, just days before Christmas, and resumed its typical routine.
Now Falco frosts the cupcakes for the day's inventory the same way she has done for four years but with an even deeper commitment.
As the owner, her perception has changed a bit. While her mind is still abuzz with the amount of work she now must carry on alone, she is also prospecting into an uncertain future.
Falco has no immediate plans to change any of the fundamentals that made Cupcake Heaven a popular spot among regular customers. But she envisions broadening her scope to reach as many new customers as possible.
"We're going to start off small," she said, and find creative ways to entice new customers through the door.
Cupcake Heaven was the first bakery in Hernando County to offer personal-sized cakes with a festive diversity of flavors and colors, many with decadent fillings. The idea was guided by a national craze, with cupcake bakeries opening in big cities.
Several flavors of cupcakes were created, tested and introduced before taking a permanent spot on the list of daily flavors. Others were added gradually, some from suggestions made by customers. And the list of optional flavors grew.
The store has had its share of struggles, typical headaches in a still-recovering economy, but Cupcake Heaven managed to stay afloat by offering a few little perks above the supermarket cupcake choices.
Larger cakes, decorative toppers and options for multiple purchases and preorders made Cupcake Heaven a popular alternative to traditional cupcake options.
Cupcake Heaven's signature is in how the cakes are created, over-sized, many filled with a unique blending of flavors, and topped with mounds of butter-cream, cream cheese or whipped cream icing. Their pricing, at $2.50 per single cupcake, hasn't changed in two years. A half dozen is still $14.50 and a dozen $28.
Falco hopes to add multiple orders for school parties and other engagements that would demand a more economical price, offering a traditional sized cake with basic icings.
For now, Falco's main priority is focused on keeping her doors open into the new year, reaching as many regulars as possible to let them know the bakery isn't going anywhere. With the help of her husband, Pat, her daughter, Brittany Borgia, and Brittany's boyfriend, Cupcake Heaven has settled into its second phase.
"We're here to stay," Falco said.
Contact Hernando today correspondent Kim Dame at firstname.lastname@example.org.