When Shonnika Denise quit her full-time job to launch her “cottage bakery,” Synergy Sweets, she knew she made good desserts. What she didn’t know, however, was that they were actually the best in Tampa. That news came later.
“When I first quit my job, I was freaking out,” Denise said. “I was so nervous. I run my bakery from home, so I was doing everything non-stop; social media, baking, shopping, packaging, labelling—sometimes I would lose sleep because my brain wouldn’t shut off.”
From “pop-up” baker to cupcake champion
In the early days of Synergy Sweets, Denise would run from market to market, from Wiregrass to Fort Lauderdale. Toting white paper boxes of scratch-made sweets, the passionate baker was on a mission to get her name out.
“I knew what I was making was really good,” she recalls of her 2020 decision to start Synergy Sweets. “When I went to markets, people would tell me how much they loved my cupcakes or cheesecakes.”
Pop-up sales and special events are not enough to make oneself a household name, however. And, with an end goal of owning a brick-and-mortar storefront, Denise realized, she’d need a steady following. Tampa’s upcoming Dessert Wars competition, she thought, might be the perfect opportunity for business growth.
In early 2021, Denise applied to Dessert Wars hoping to—at the very least—get some exposure.
In November 2021, at 6pm on a Saturday, the independent home-baker was crowned champion.
Vibrant conversation and visually stunning desserts
I contacted Denise a few weeks back after perusing the Dessert Wars’ winners list. Given the size and prominence of the competitors involved, I was surprised to see a newcomer take home the top spot and quickly decided I needed to try her cakes. Luckily for me, she was more than willing to give me a taste.
Today, when I finally met up with Denise—who invited me to call her Shonnika—, the confidence of her recent win was still radiating from her outwardly humble body. Between that exuberance and her rainbow knit sweater, everything about the dessert master was vibrant and bright. Upon my arrival, she greeted me with a visually stunning box of cupcakes.
For a while, we bantered back and forth about life and passions and the necessity of sprinkling salt on desserts. She told me the story of her past and her vision for the future. Cooking, she said, was always her happy place.
Cupcakes “on demand”
After about a half hour of chatting, I found my eyes wandering back to that aforementioned beautiful box of cupcakes. I asked Shonnika how people could buy them.
“Right now, Synergy Sweets is a ‘cottage bakery,’” she said, which means she runs the business from her home. “People can order from my website, and I will deliver their orders.”
What this implies for the Tampa public, then, is that they can get a dozen 1st place Dessert Wars cupcakes delivered straight to their doorstep. All it takes is the click of a button.
Now, as a dessert junkie, the idea of “cupcakes on demand” already sounded amazing to me. After trying Shonnika’s cupcakes, though, that idea became euphoric. With every bite of peanut butter-stuffed, caramel-coated goodness, I knew I would be using that feature 24/7.
The menu necessities
Curious what types of cupcakes won me over to team Synergy? Or what other desserts you can order online? Here are some of Shonnika’s best menu items:
- Snickers Cupcake: A “black-velvet”-based cupcake, this is the legendary treat that won Shonnika her 1st place Dessert Wars trophy. Topped with a brown-butter cream cheese icing, stuffed with peanut butter nougat, and finished with a homemade snickers, this was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while.
- Toffee Cookie Butter Cupcake: My second favorite, this cupcake features a vanilla cake base (loaded with toffee chunks), a Biscoff cookie butter filling, and cookie butter buttercream frosting—all dusted in even more toffee.
- Funfetti Cupcake: A fun take on a childhood staple, this birthday-themed cupcake comes topped with an entire, soft-baked sugar cookie that’s just as good as the cake beneath it.
- Red Velvet Cupcake: No surprises here. Just greatness.
- Guava Cheesecake: One of Synergy Sweet’s best sellers, this was the first item to “run out” on the bakery’s Dessert Wars table. If you ask me, I’d blame that on its dreamy graham-cracker crust.
- Carrot Cake Cheesecake Bars: I didn’t try these, but I saw them on Synergy’s Instagram which is pretty much the same thing. I mean, it’s 2022. The phone eats first, anyways.
- Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies: A customer favorite, these decadent brownies are a conglomeration of three of Synergy Sweet’s best desserts.
- Soft-Baked Cookies: In flavors such as chocolate chip, brown-butter toffee, snickerdoodle, “junk food” and more, good luck eating just one of these delicious treats.
Click here for cake:
Ready to try some of Shonnika’s award-winning cupcakes? Or maybe some rich brownies? An indulgent cheesecake? Simply click here to place a custom order and get it delivered.
Oh—but you might want to hurry, because rumor has it Synergy Sweets is in the process of becoming a full-service, storefront bakery.
So, if you’re the type of person that likes getting cake without ever having to leave your couch, I’d jump on that link ASAP.