Sep 28, 2022 - Food and Drink

Dulce Dreams Cafe brings flavors of Mexico to Charlotte

Dulce Dreams

Manteconchas, or concha-topped muffins. Photo courtesy of Norma Zuniga

Owner Norma Zuniga opened Dulce (pronounced dool-seh) Dreams as a pop-up bakery last December. Less than a year later, she quit her job as a lab technician to pursue her pastry-making passion full-time.

Between the lines: Zuniga, a Mexican-born Charlottean, taught herself how to bake her signature dishes by watching YouTube videos. Now, her side hustle is her full-time career. “I’m really nervous and scared,” she told me, “but I’m really excited.”

The big picture: Nearly one in four new businesses in the U.S. are Hispanic-owned, according to the Small Business Alliance. Charlotte has seen this boom firsthand, especially in the restaurant industry, with new restaurants like Cuban-owned El Puro and Venezuelan-owned Los Chamos opening up in the last year, to name a few.

Flashback: Zuniga immigrated to Charlotte from Mexico when she was five years old. She graduated from Johnson C. Smith University with a degree in biology and never expected to become a baker.

Dulce Dreams
Zuniga often sells out at pop-ups. Photo courtesy of Norma Zuniga
  • “I didn’t have any [pastry-making] role models growing up or anything like that,” Zuniga told me, adding that the only other Latina baker she knows is Cris from the Batchmaker.
  • Zuniga hopes to inspire other Latinas looking to start their own businesses. “If they really want something, they can do it.”

What to expect: Conchas (a Mexican sweet bread in the shape of a sea shell) of various flavors and colors, baked individually and as sweet sandwiches.

Dulce Dreams
Pumpkin spice concha sandwich. Photo courtesy of Norma Zuniga
  • Ube pastries, made from a purple yam from the Philippines.
  • Tres leches cheesecake made with conchas and ube.
  • Mexican coffee with different flavors like marzipan.
  • Cafe de olla, a different type of Mexican coffee made with cinnamon and clove.
  • And atole, which is traditional hot corn and masa-based beverage.

Details: Zuniga operates Dulce Dreams out of Sweet Spot Studio in Oakhurst.

Dulce Dreams
Gansito concha. Photo courtesy of Norma Zuniga
  • Pre-orders are available for pick-up and Zuniga posts her availability (which she’s about to increase) on the Dulce Dreams Cafe Instagram.
  • Zuniga also participates at local pop-ups and posts where she’ll be ahead of time on her Instagram as well.

What’s next: Zuniga says her goal is to open a brick-and-mortar eventually.

Dulce Dreams
Ube cheesecake. Photo courtesy of Norma Zuniga
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