Valentine’s Day, along with Easter and Halloween, is one of the few holidays where the focus is pretty much exclusively on sweets and treats.

Valentine’s Day allows people to indulge guilt-free in their favorite chocolates, cookies, cakes, confections and other goodies all in the name of love.

Like with grandma’s fruitcake, there are certain things specific to each holiday that you can count on seeing on store shelves or receiving in a gift bag.

Sweethearts original heart candies, with their short little notes of love like “Cutie Pie,” True Love” and “Be Mine” stamped into the chalky-tasting treat often come to mind when reminiscing about Valentine’s Day Candy.

Sweethearts, the iconic heart-shaped conversation candy, have been a staple of Valentine’s Day exchanges for years. (Credit/Christine Kohler)

Despite kind of being a horrible candy, you knew you were the bee’s knees if you saw this small box in your Valentines mailbox securely taped to your elementary school desk. There was always a good chance the “To” and “From” on the back of the box were blank, allowing your mind to wonder who could be the Romeo or Juliet pining after your heart.

As with many things, Valentine’s Day candy has come a long way.

Now there’s options for personalized M&M’s, melt-in-your-mouth Dove chocolates and even adult-themed chocolate conversation hearts. Even gummy candies have hopped aboard the Valentine’s Day train with Trolli Sour hearts.

While you can always opt for the good ol’ favorites like See’s Candy or heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover chocolates, why not break away from the Valentine’s Day norm by opting for something unique and different, yet very much decadent.

Many Macarons owners Landon and Paige Fleener. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

Many Macarons, located at 1224 Automation Drive, Suite E, in Windsor, offers a variety of the classic French cookie and hand-made chocolates that will dazzle the eyes and taste buds of all ages.

Husband and wife owners Landon and Paige Fleener took their love of baking, and working together as partners, and turned it into the go-to place for sweet treats that you can’t find on every corner.

So what’ the deal with these cookies?

Well, French macarons are actually pastries created with a meringue-based top and bottom sandwiched together by silky buttercream, sweet or savory jam or rich ganache.

“To be honest, when you call it a ‘cookie’ the experts get a little grumpy about it,” Landon Fleener said, laughing.

Macarons often come in vibrant colors and flavors and a true French macaron is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

“The colors and flavors really set macarons apart from just getting a chocolate chip cookie or a sugar cookie that you could make at home,” Paige Fleener explained. “This is something we can provide to our community that you can’t find everywhere.”

The thing with macarons is that they are not easy to make. Even with their experience, the Fleeners say they still watch the pastries bake through the oven window, sometimes while holding their breath and crossing their fingers.

“It took us making around 800 to 1,000 of them I would say before we could get them to somewhat resemble this,” Landon Fleener said, motioning to the bakery case filled with the pastries. “They were melting, exploding and doing everything but looking like a macaron. If you look at the macaron wrong, don’t say enough nice things, it could go bad.”

Many Macarons also features decadent chocolates from Robin Chocolates out of Longmont. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

Flavors of the Fleener’s macarons vary from banana cream and cotton candy to classic birthday cake and strawberry chamoy and pretty much anything in between. Flavors rotate daily, however, you can place a custom order for a specific flavor of macarons. Flavors can also be made dairy-free upon request.

“It’s kind of a niche cookie right now and I think people are falling in love with the macaron in general. I have people who bring their kids in because their kids love macarons and have been trying to make them,” Landon Fleener said. “It takes so much time and effort to make, that when you are eating it, you are truly enjoying the experience as opposed to slamming a cookie back.”

For Valentine’s Day, the Fleeners will be offering customized macarons as well as breakable hearts filled with goodies and a hammer to break it open.

“I think we have some of the most romantic desserts,” Paige Fleener said.

Along with macarons, the store offers cupcakes, macaron cakes, Fairy Crystals, chocolate dipped pretzels and strawberries, Crème Brule, handmade gift cards, t-shirts and other items that are sure to put a smile on the faces of everyone in the family.

Along with macarons, customers can choose from handmade cards, cupcakes, cakesicles and more to make unique gift boxes. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

“We have cocoa bombs and Unicorn Farts which is a conversation starter on its own, we have Cupcakes, cakesicles. We have a little bit of everything,” Paige Fleener said.

The store also carries Robin Chocolates from Longmont.

The handmade chocolates by Robin Autorino are literal works of art and can make you think twice before popping one into your mouth.

“My favorite is the Longs Peak,” Landon Fleener said, as he carefully pulled one out of the case, offering a sample.

Longs Peak chocolates features a shell of white and dark chocolate filled four different fillings — dark chocolate ganache, Tahitian vanilla bean ganache, milk chocolate ganache and, lastly, white chocolate ganache.

Biting into the chocolate, it’s amazing how you can taste each layer individually as the smooth ganache floats across your tongue.

Another popular choice is the Caramel Pecan Turtles shaped like turtles with painted shells of edible gold luster dust.

Many Macarons can put together a gift box filled with macarons, chocolates, cocoa bombs and other items of customers’ choosing, providing a nice variety of sweets for everyone in the family.

“I have a whole variety of things that I can put into boxes,” Paige Fleener said. “Then it’s not like, ‘oh, I don’t like chocolate so you don’t have anything for me.’ We have something for everyone.”

Caramel Pecan Turtles by Robin Chocolates are filled with caramel, toasted pecans and covered in dark chocolate and edible gold luster dust. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

Custom orders require a minimum of 12 macarons per flavor and a 48-hour notice.

Many Macarons is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and closed on Sunday.

For more information, or to inquire about a custom order, go to www.manymacaronsbypaige.com or call (970) 460-9812.

If cookies or candy aren’t your lover’s jam, then head on over to Loveland and pick up some small portable cakes, fondly known as cupcakes.

The Cupcake Gypsies, 415 N. Cleveland Ave. in Loveland, offers a variety of classic cupcake flavors like chocolate and red velvet to more funky options like pistachio and cola flavored cupcakes.

Andrea Strick and Amber Cronin are the “gypsies” behind Cupcake Gypsies. The two sisters developed their love of baking from their parents, Richard Campbell and Marilyn Valdez-Campbell as well as from other family members.

The Cupcake Gypsies features five to six new flavors of cupcakes each day. (Courtesy/Cupcake Gypsies)

“I’ve always liked cooking and baking since I was a little kid. We used to make pies at Thanksgiving and I used to go help my grandma make Christmas cookies,” Strick said. “Then when I got into my late 20s and early 30s, all those cake decorating shows were on and I got super excited.”

Strick decided to make a career out of her love of cooking and baking and attended school for hospitality and food management. After taking a course on baking, Strick began gifting people with her baked goods.

Her gifting turned into requests from friends for cakes and cupcakes for birthday parties, wedding, anniversaries and other events.

The family started Cupcake Gypsies with a food truck in 2015 before opening a storefront in August 2019.

While both sisters love baking, Andrea is the one in the store’s kitchen whipping up freshly baked cupcakes each day while Amber transitions her focus to her wedding planning business.

Amber Cronin, left, and Andrea Strick, right, are the Cupcake Gypsies. (Courtesy/Cupcake Gypsies)

“When you love what you do, it shows in what you do. Andrea loves to bake and you can taste the love in her baked goods,” explained Valdez-Campbell. “We’ve actually had customers tell us they can taste the love.”

For Valentine’s Day, try the gypsies’ Heart on Fire is a chocolate cupcake topped with cinnamon candy buttercream and garnished with a cinnamon candy heart.

Bee Mine takes a honey cupcake and tops it with vanilla bean buttercream, garnishes of honey drizzle and finished off with yellow, black and white sprinkles.

For a romantic twist, the Prickly Rose is a vanilla cupcake topped with lychee rose buttercream and garnished with an edible rose.

This year treat your Valentine to something different by opting for some gourmet cupcakes from the Cupcake Gypsies in Loveland. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

“We want to be different and unique and make things that nobody else is making,” Strick said. “My sister and I used to sit and brainstorm, ‘oh, we need more flavors,’ and talk it out with each other. A lot of it is just things we just try and see what happens.”

One of the more odd flavors Strick has experimented with was a dill pickle cupcake for National Cupcake Day.

“We sold out of the dill pickle cupcakes, which shocked me,” Strick said, laughing. “It turned out way better than I expected it to.”

“People were either really intrigued by it or were like, ‘that sounds disgusting,” Cronin added.

The Cupcake Gypsies is located at 415 N. Cleveland Ave. in Loveland. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

The shop features five to six new cupcake flavors each day and customers can choose from standard sized cupcakes or mini-cupcakes.

“People can just commit to one mini and try different flavors,” Cronin said.

In addition to cupcakes, the store offers a catering menu with one to two-tiered buttercream frosting cakes for birthdays, weddings and other events as well as pies, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, cookies, coffee cake and different flavored bars.

“We are a cupcakery, so we focus on cupcakes,” Cronin said. “We have people who want sheet cakes and I tell them our sheets cakes are cupcakes.”

The Cupcake Gypsies sells both standard sized cupcakes as well as mini-cupcakes. (Tamara Markard/Staff Reporter)

Custom orders require at a three-day notice and orders must be paid in full prior to pick up.

Cupcake Gypsies, located at 415 N. Cleveland Ave. in Loveland, is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday and Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For more information, or to ask about a custom order, go to www.thecupcakegypsies.com or call (970) 702-4791.


This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune