Gift your Valentine something sweet from the 2019 New Venture winners’ bakery

Media Credit: Camille DeSanto | Staff Photographer

Graduate student Edith Alejandra Leiva and her sister Nicole Leiva started a bakery last year after winning cash prizes from a start-up competition.

Get your special someone a sweet treat from a Latin American bakery started by last year’s New Venture competition winners.

Dulceology, owned by graduate student Edith Alejandra Leiva and her sister Nicole Leiva, specializes in alfajores, a Latin American pastry that resembles macaroons. For Valentine’s Day, the owners said they are piecing together themed gift boxes packed with an assortment of alfajores and samoas, which are pastries layered with dulce de leche and drizzled with freshly toasted coconut shavings and milk chocolate.

“We discovered that people want to share product, and so we’re going to be launching mini alfajor gift boxes,” Edith Alejandra Leiva said.

Each of the Valentine’s Day boxes come in different themes, including the “Sweetheart” box, ($25) which is filled with pink, heart-shaped alfajores, and the St. Valentine’s Day Gift Box, ($25) which comes with red, black and white alfajores. All alfajores are made with no added preservatives – just as they are traditionally made.

You can also pick up a gluten-free Valentine’s Day box ($28) or the Neapolitana ($25), which comes with the same style pastries in circular shapes, according to the website. Monday marks the last day customers can order a Valentine’s Day box, the website states.

“I’m currently working on packaging, redesigning everything, making the presentation a little better,” Edith Alejandra Leiva said.

The sisters said they will officially open a storefront in Baltimore at the end of the month. The duo originally launched their business online after they won cash prizes in three categories of the New Venture Competition – best track winner, best art and design, and best food and beverage.

“There was so much passion back then,” Edith Alejandra Leiva said, referring to the competition. “That’s the reason why our business has been able to flourish because we do have that sheer passion.”

Edith Alejandra Leiva said alfajores date back to the 14th century in Latin American countries like Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru. She said she has had customers from parts of Latin America who have eaten alfajores and were unable to find the product in the U.S., which makes her business’ product unique in the United States.

The bakery’s alfajores are not the only thing you can get at Dulceology. The business also regularly sells samoas, assembles custom dessert tables, creates favors for weddings and bakes and decorates custom cakes, the owners said.

Leiva said that baking had always been a big part of her life. Her mother was a pastry chef and her father used to manufacture restaurant equipment in El Salvador.

“We grew up in a factory setting and when we would go to work with my mom, she would be in a commercial kitchen, so we were always surrounded by kitchens,” she said.

Once her family moved to the U.S. in 2001, she said they had a difficult time finding the cookies and sweets that they loved and ate in El Salvador.

“We went into our family recipe book and found our grandmother’s version of the alfajor.” Leiva said. “We tweaked it a bit. We made it our own version.”

Leiva said that she and her sister started to sell these sweet treats through Etsy about three years ago. She said there were no other alfajor makers on Etsy at the time, and they have had more than 600 sales just on Etsy to date.

“I would have not imagined where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for GW,” Leiva said. “Really, GW gave me the resources to plan for this.”

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