Latin American Dessert Shop in Houston Gets a Hand from Pepsi
Sweets By Belen, a woman-owned, Peruvian dessert shop at 6001 Hillcroft that started over a decade ago, is getting a helping hand at a critical time from a soda giant. PepsiCo’s Hispanic Digital and Delivery Program, part of PepsiCo Juntos Crecemos (“Together We Grow”), helps the owners of restaurants, bodegas and carnicerías improve their digital delivery, technology, logistics, marketing and SEO. In addition, the PepsiCo Foundation Impacto Hispanic Business Accelerator selected Sweets By Belen as one of 100 businesses receiving business consulting and a $10,000 grant upon successful completion of the program.
The assistance from the programs couldn’t come at a better time, as owner Belen Bailey is currently battling breast cancer. At the time of this writing, Bailey was corresponding with me from her hospital bed as she copes with a breast infection. “I am blessed with the best. My team is working hard while I am in the hospital. Hopefully, I can go home soon,” she wrote.
Bailey wants to use the opportunity from Pepsi to strengthen and popularize the Sweets By Belen business. That’s a process she’s started on her own by adding pickup and delivery services. The shop isn’t big enough for a dine-in area, although there is a table that we filled with a selection of pastries to sample on the spot.
Walking into the Sweets By Belen shop is like being enrobed in confections. Thanks to the pastries and Peruvian decorations, it’s a joyful riot of pink, orange and green. Kids — especially little girls — must love the place, because the back shelves are laden with imported fabric dolls, animals, and fish, as well as ceramic teapots and cups.
The wide glass cases are dedicated to the extensive pastry selection. There are numerous macarons in flavors such as guava, coconut, dulce de leche and birthday cake, and the more commonly seen strawberry, chocolate and raspberry. There are both macarons and cake pops decorated as unicorns.
There’s a silky, seductive tres leches, and I can’t keep my hands off of it. Belen’s Peruvian heritage shines through in her delicate alfajores (there’s a beyond-decadent Dulce de Leche Cheesecake topped with alfajores, too), Lucuma Tiramisu and Lucuma Cheesecake. (Lucuma translates to “egg fruit” in English due to its interior appearance, but the taste is reminiscent of sweet potato). Cheesecakes come in several other flavors, including mango and passionfruit. Bailey is also particularly proud of her Chantilly Cake topped with mango and strawberries, insisting I try a bite right in the shop.
The tops of the pastry cases are lined with glass jars of packaged treats — small pink and white meringues, giant lollipops with swirls of rainbow colors and even packs of savory roasted broad beans and chulpi, or toasted corn kernels.
Despite her health challenges, Belen is still optimistic about the future. “I am grateful and happy to be in this amazing city that allows me to keep dreaming big.”
Sweets By Belen is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s closed on Sundays.
Editor’s note: article has been corrected to identify the correct PepsiCo programs assisting Sweets By Belen.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.