There is no modern machinery or packaging equipment at Piononos, just a couple of ovens and a crew of dedicated bakers, many of whom have worked there for years and do everything by hand. Fruits are meticulously cut; all deserts are prepped and packaged by hand. Owner and operator Maria Luisa Benavides proudly states, “Our processes are pretty archaic, but the total focus is on creating a perfect and tasty desert every time.” She trains the staff herself and her goal is simple: bring joy through her baking.

Piononos has its roots in Peruvian desserts but is an international bakery with influences from Spain and beyond. Their most popular delicacy is the pavlova de fresa (walnut meringue with dulce de leche or Nutella whipping cream and strawberry).  

Customers drive from as far north as Palm Beach for the delicious desserts and what Maria Luisa calls “the Piononos” experience – excellence in baking and customer service.

They are in the Galleria Mall, 328 Crandon, Suite 217. They accept special orders and deliver. You can reach them at 786-488-6770. They are open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Name: Maria Luisa Benavides, proprietor and operator

Question: Where were you were born?

Answer: Lima, Perú

Q: Where do you live now?

A: For the last 24 years, my husband and partner at Piononos, Cesar Ubillus, and I have resided in Key Biscayne with our kids, Isabella, 18 and attending college in Savanah, Georgia; and Alejandro, 15, who will attend LaSalle High School.

Q: How did you get your start?

A: Sin querer (by accident) at home! I always had an aptitude for baking, it’s something I love. When Isabella was born, I started baking to be productive and make some money, and it turned into Piononos. This store opened six years ago.

Q: What is your “secret to success?”

A: To do something you love! Have the perseverance to succeed.

Q: What’s your proudest moment?

A: There are many, like when a customer tells you they love your deserts, and when I realize how far we’ve come. We’ve built a business that supports our family and a lifestyle we enjoy, and Cesar and I get to work as a family.

Q: Any funny or embarrassing stories?

A: Not really. We have a lot of “famous” people, for example, that work on local TV, both on and off island, that love us and, in a way, help us promote the business.

Q: What do you love most about your career?

A: (Laughs) ¡comerme los dulces! (to eat the desserts we make!). There is always room for desesrt! Love to make it, see it, eat them!

Q: What is your favorite dessert at Piononos?

A: I have two: Enrollado de caramelo (Caramel and Cream Roll), a flourless vanilla sponge cake filled with dulce de leche and cream. I also love turrón de nueces, a chewy walnut cake covered and filled with dulce de leche. 

Q: What is your favorite comfort food?

A: Tacu! (Peruvian version of refried beans and rice). If you top it with lomo saltado (traditional Peruvian dish of sliced beef, hot chiles and French fries) it’s fantastic.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Spend time as a family. I love to follow cooking shows and read recipes, always looking to add variety. I loved the original Food Channel – the traditional shows, not the contests. I also love to speak with people in the industry!

Q: What’s your favorite part about working in Key Biscayne?

A: ¡Key Biscayne es lo máximo (Key Biscayne is tops)! I live literally across the street, loved raising our kids here!

Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

A: I’m a self-taught baker. Took one semester of schooling for this, but that’s it. I like to try new things, slowly though and always a traves de mi gusto (through what I like).

Q: What’s your advice for someone just starting?

A: Haz lo que te apasiona (Do something you can be passionate about). Don’t get in it solely for money. We are successful now, but, like we say in Peru, I’ve had to quemarme las pestañas - don’t worry about the hours, this is a lot of hard work. The American Dream exists but you have to work hard to achieve it.

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