CEDAR RAPIDS — Carmen Castro grew up making her grandmother’s recipes for Mexican desserts like empanadas, conchas and flan. Now, she’s helping her mom Paula Rogers share those treats with Cedar Rapids. The two opened Paulita’s Pastries on July 20 inside NewBo City Market.
“I think Mexican pastries are delicious. My goal is for everybody to know about them,” Rogers said. “I like sharing my flavors with people.”
They moved from Dallas, Texas, to Iowa when Castro enrolled at the University of Iowa. She has since transferred to Coe College, where she studies molecular biology.
Before she decided to pursue science, she considered studying to be a chef, she said. The bakery has been a good outlet for that passion; she’s been there most days helping out after classes.
“I love cooking and baking, and spending time with my mom,” she said. “My grandmother in Mexico taught me all about baking, and we kept baking when we moved here.”
Bread pudding is their signature offering, Rogers said. Her mother, known as Mami Zefi, still lives in Veracruz, Mexico, and the recipe makes her feel close to her.
“In my family, every birthday, every Christmas, every party, they ask my mom for her bread pudding,” she said.
They only offer it on the weekend, she said, because they make a big pan of it fresh each time, featuring different flavors, including vanilla, cinnamon and raisin.
Rogers’ sister Nancy Garces also helps. Her favorite things to make are the bread pudding and conchas, which are time consuming, taking several hours to make. Conchas, which get their name from their seashell-like shape, consist of a sweet bread roll with a crumbly cookie dough topping.
Everything at the bakery is made from scratch in an oven tucked into the back of the small market stand. They also make their own marmalade fillings for their pastries, including pineapple and strawberry-filled empanadas. They plan to keep adding flavors, like a pumpkin empanada for fall.
They also plan to start baking Mexican sweet bread, and plan to have specials for Day of the Dead held Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 and for Three Kings Day on Jan. 6. Both holidays have special breads associated with them.
Other treats on the menu include cookies with caramel or chocolate in the middleand crispy filled pastries called hojaldras.
Castro said she appreciates the market’s heavy foot-traffic location because it means the pastries are reaching a broad range of people.
“It’s especially gratifying when Hispanic people walk by and see things from their culture,” she said. “And getting different people to enjoy our things feels really good.”
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If you go
• What: Paulita’s Pastries
• Where: NewBo City Market, 1300 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
• Details: (319) 640-0548