Jennifer Geils, who runs The Cheesecake Cutie & Café on Anna Maria Island, can't pinpoint a specific ingredient or technique that makes her cheesecakes stand out. Instead, she credits the quality of her cakes to the fact that she follows a simple rule.
"Mom knows best," says Geils. "That's usually where it's at."
Growing up, Geils learned how to make cheesecake from her mother, who perfected the dish over decades. After Geils' mother died in 1995, when Geils was 18, Geils began making cheesecakes for family gatherings and holidays, then started sharing slices with friends, who encouraged her to begin selling them.
While living in Orlando, Geils built a steady business providing cheesecakes for weddings and other events. In addition to full-sized cheesecakes, she began making "cuties," two-inch individual-sized cakes that are effective at feeding large groups.
Geils' cheesecakes soon became so popular that she outgrew her kitchen. She and her husband, Kane, had gotten married in Sarasota and lived in the area for awhile, and they had always wanted to move back. When the couple learned about an open restaurant space on Anna Maria, they jumped at the opportunity. The Cheesecake Cutie & Café opened in Holmes Beach last November.
The cheesecake menu runs from classic to creative, with blueberry and lemon, peanut butter and Snickers varieties, among many others, plus seasonal cakes with ingredients like pumpkin or peppermint.
Cheesecake may be the café's calling card, but the restaurant offers more than just sweets. Kane devised the café's menu, which includes a number of different sandwiches and wraps. The restaurant also puts together cheese and charcuterie platters for groups of different sizes; they're ideal for couples enjoying an Anna Maria Island sunset or families splitting a vacation rental for the week. You can also order a platter of "scuties," bite-sized appetizers that can feed a hungry crowd.
Geils says locals on Anna Maria have welcomed the café and her family with open arms. "The island is so close-knit," she says. "No matter if you're their competitor or not, they're all rooting for you. It's an amazing community."
The Cheesecake Cutie & Café is located at 3324 E. Bay St., Holmes Beach, and is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more info, call (941) 779-2253 or visit the restaurant's website.