Here’s a philosophical question: If you order an over-the-top milkshake for a great cause, do the calories count?
Not according to Julie Curry.
Curry owns Bake’n Babes, the wildly popular bakery inside the Hall on Franklin food hall in Tampa Heights. In addition to cakes, cupcakes, cookies and pies, perhaps the bakery’s most buzzworthy menu item is its freakshake.
The phenomenon of freakshakes—outrageously indulgent milkshakes topped with cake slices, candy and treats—started in Australia and quickly spread, largely due to their "wow factor" on social media.
Bake’n Babes creates a new freakshake each month, and this February’s freakshake is extra sweet—in every sense of the word. That’s because Curry has partnered with the Heart Gallery of Tampa, a nonprofit that shares portraits of foster children to increase their chances of being adopted.
The Heart Gallery freakshake is a Valentine’s Day monstrosity: a strawberries-and-cream milkshake topped with a jumbo Funfetti cupcake, which in turn is topped with a miniature ice cream cone. A candy heart adorns the base of the glass, and somewhere in the mix are cotton candy, conversation hearts, a purple and white swirl lollipop and whipped cream.
“You definitely will not leave hungry,” Curry says.
But she hopes you’ll leave with a different type of yearning.
Each Heart Gallery freakshake is served with a valentine featuring the photo and bio of a child available for adoption. Of the thousands of Hillsborough County children in foster care, eight were selected to be featured, including three siblings hoping to stay together. For each freakshake sold, one dollar will be donated to the Heart Gallery.
“We just hope that it sparks conversation at the table,” says Curry, who got the idea for the Heart Gallery freakshake after viewing the organization’s exhibition at the Tampa Bay History Center.
“It pretty much just crushed me,” Curry says through tears. “These children just pulled at my heartstrings.”
Herself a biological mother of two, Curry acknowledges that adoption isn’t for everyone. But, she says, everybody can do something to help kids in foster care, like volunteering to photograph children, or hosting a birthday party.
“We’re not just a bakery,” Curry says. “We want to be a community contributor.” She jokes that the February freakshake contains “zero calories, ‘cause it’s for the kids this month.”
This isn’t the first time Bake’n Babes has used the Instagram-worthiness of its freakshakes for a higher calling. In October, Curry’s Think Pink freakshake raises awareness and donations for women battling breast cancer.
Of course, some freakshakes are just for fun.
For Tampa’s Gasparilla pirate invasion in January, Curry and her team devised a tres leches milkshake with a slice of red-and-white-striped cake, served in a glass with a skull-and-crossbones eye patch and rubber ducky wearing a tiny pirate-style bandana, for good measure.
And in September, Bake’n Babes created a freakshake in honor of chart-topping singer Lizzo, complete with a cupcake, cookie in the singer’s likeness and even a flaming sparkler. During her concert stop in Tampa, Lizzo stopped by the Hall on Franklin to try her namesake freakshake and snap a photo for Instagram.
“Watching the milkshake go out to the table is my favorite thing,” Curry says. “We want it to be very Instagrammable for you. We want it to be eye-pleasing. I do think that people eat with their eyes first.”