Caren Torrealba brings the culture of Venezuela to South Florida, offering the sweetest treats in town.
The cakes, cookies and other Hispanic desserts she makes in Lovely Bocaditos, her home-based bakery, each incorporate a little bit of home in the recipes and even in the ingredients.
“I incorporate a little bit of Venezuela in every dessert to keep the culture of my country alive,” she says. “I love to use Venezuelan products, for example, I use Diplomatico rum to infuse my simple syrup.”
Torrealba, 24, moved to Pembroke Pines six years ago from Valencia, the third-largest city in Venezuela, and brought with her a business that she started unintentionally by selling brownies in her school as a pastime.
“Lovely Bocaditos was born in 2014 in Venezuela when I started to sell boxed brownies in school just for fun,” says Torrealba. “It happened so unexpectedly and organically.”
Torrealba says making brownies for school sparked a passion for baking which inspired her to make new recipes from scratch, many of which were passed down by her grandmother.
“My grandma was a baker and I inherited her cookbook, which I call my dessert bible, and I take it with me everywhere I go,” says Torrealba. “Most of the recipes that grew my business came from there.”
Lovely Bocaditos began to grow as Torrealba started to cater homemade bocaditos, mini desserts, for weddings, birthdays, family gatherings and holiday parties in Valencia.
That led her to culinary school.
After she graduated, she completed a cooking internship at a hotel in Valencia. But shortly after that, Torrealba fled her country to escape President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government and moved to the U.S.
“It was like starting from zero right when my business was at its prime,” she says.
She was forced to put her business on the back burner as she adapted to her new country.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic allowed her to take a step back from her busy life working in cafés and restaurants in Pembroke Pines and revive her passion.
“I began to advertise my desserts again through my Instagram and Facebook page and it was a blessing to see orders actually coming in,” says Torrealba. “And once they started, they never stopped.”
Dana Malave, 27, was one of Lovely Bocaditos first customers in the U.S.
“As a Venezuelan immigrant, I can say it is hard to find businesses that incorporate authentic Venezuelan flavors in their desserts,” she says. “And Lovely Bocaditos does just that, it makes me feel close to home.”
Lovely Bocaditos offers sweets such as alfajores, a dulce de leche stuffed cookie; marquesas, a no-bake chocolate cake layered with Maria cookies; pavlovas, a meringue-based dessert topped with fresh berries; as well as custom cakes, brownies, tres leches, custom cookies and more.
Torrealba takes pride in using the best quality chocolate, sugar, butter and flower in her homemade desserts.
“I don’t cut corners when it comes to Lovely Bocaditos and I think that’s what makes my business special,” she says.
As Lovely Bocaditos grows, Torrealba hopes to open her first location in the near future.
“It hasn’t been easy, but there is nothing more rewarding than making people happy through my desserts,” she says.