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Bertsos Bakeshop crafts custom treats that are scary good – Orlando Sentinel

Stephanie Bertsos of Bertsos Bakeshop, adds a gold-leaf decoration to a chocolate cake, at Prometheus Esoterica in Winter Park. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)
Sure, scarlet fever or consumption would have been a more apropos outbreak to prompt the growth of Bertsos Bakeshop, but no matter. The yearlong furlough from her luxury-hotel gig was enough time for cake artist Stephanie Bertsos’ seedling business to night bloom.
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You’ll hear Bertsos hawking her ghoulish gateaus — she does everything from small bites and chocolates to whimsical custom wedding cakes — all over town at markets and pop-ups. And places like Winter Park’s Prometheus Esoterica, where creepy confections pair brilliantly with coffee as customers shop for oddities and curiosities and Elvira T-shirts.
“During the pandemic, I had much more time to invest where in the past I’d always put my full-time job first and squeeze in my own work whenever I could…. COVID-19 changed a lot of people’s minds about how they want to spend their time, what they want to do. And it’s much more rewarding when it’s something that comes from you and goes directly to the customer.”
Stephanie Bertsos of Bertsos Bakeshop, brushes glitter powder onto a red-velvet Coffin Cake Pop. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)
And Orlando, she says, is rife with customers who clamor for her dark designs.
“There’s a really great spooky community here. It’s not just a Halloween or October thing. They keep it going all year round.”
Bertsos, who describes her style as “sophisticated goth,” has long been a fan of Halloween Horror Nights and Spooky Empire, but is hardly a horror fanatic.
“I enjoy scary movies, but for me, it’s more about that Victorian or oddity-shop aesthetic for me. I love to go to antique or thrift stores and find something from that era. More curiosities than pumpkins and ghosts.”
White chocolate raspberry-filled brain bites. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)
But the two styles enjoy lots of overlap that pays off.
Bertsos’ dark sweets bring drama and whimsy to shops like Prometheus (where this photo shoot took place), and the goodies – like raspberry-filled chocolate brains and coffin-shaped cake pops — fly off the shelves. Especially in October.
For roughly 15 years (about a decade in Orlando), Bertsos — who graduated from the Art Institute of Tampa with a baking and pastry degree in 2008 — has been building toward this. Through various jobs — grocery-store cake decorator, restaurant baker, hotel cake artist — she’s had a sweet side hustle.
Stephanie Bertsos of Bertsos Bakeshop adds a gold-leaf decoration to a chocolate cake at Prometheus Esoterica in Winter Park. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)
“I made cakes for friends and family and they’d always refer me to their friends,” she explains. “People from work would order from me. I’d get out to markets. Word of mouth spreads. And the best part is that they say it doesn’t only look good — it tastes good. Something that’s not always synonymous!”
Though a self-professed chocoholic — ”I’ll eat chocolate on chocolate on chocolate,” she says — she does all combinations and enjoys matching exterior looks to what’s inside. Flavors like red or “dead” velvet (it’s black) meld well, but Bertsos has a similar fondness for tiki and enjoys fruity pairings, like pineapple filling, in those desserts. There’s even a neat intersection of the two.
Sugar ice makes a fun topper for a mai tai-inspired tiki cake from Bertsos Bakeshop. (Bertsos Bakeshop / Courtesy photo)
I call it “tropi-goth,” she says.
Though customers come with ideas, she enjoys their trust in taking the reins to put her stamp on it. A chilling Pennywise clown cake is a recent favorite.
A tasty and terrifying Bertsosian take on Pennywise the clown. (Bertsos Bakeshop / Courtesy photo)
“It’s less people handing me a photo and saying ‘copy this’ versus giving me the license to do what I want with it, sort of how a really good tattoo artist has their own style and signature. People who trust me come back over and over.”
Bertsos is growing the home business. Post-furlough, she dialed back her hours at work to keep up with demand. At some point, she hopes to take the plunge into the full-time entrepreneurial pool.
“I’m so passionate. I put so much love into every item I make, big or small,” says Bertsos. “I care about all the little details and it’s so rewarding. People really notice when you go that extra mile. There’s so much satisfaction in it.”
“She Sells” Market, Oct. 16, at The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive in Orlando, 11 a.m. -4 p.m.
Spooky Empire, Oct. 21-23, at the Orange County Convention Center (tickets required) spookyempire.com
Oddities & Curiosities Expo, Nov. 5, Tampa Convention Center, 2-10 p.m. (tickets required) odditiesandcuriositiesexpo.com
More info: instagram.com/bertsosbakeshop/; www.facebook.com/bertsosbakeshop
Find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @amydroo or on the OSFoodie Instagram account @orlando.foodie or email me at amthompson@orlandosentinel.com, and your question could be answered in the Ask Amy Drew column. For more foodie fun, join the Let’s Eat, Orlando Facebook group.

Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel

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