Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop opens in Fort Lauderdale


When “Good Morning America” went on a quest for “the best desserts in the country” a couple of months ago, they made a stop at one of South Florida’s revered sweet spots, Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop in Wynwood. There, correspondent Will Reeve filled his face so full of guava berry pie that he could barely choke out his review: “Yes!” Reeve exclaimed to the camera, with a fist pump. “That’s so good! Nothing else to say, guys!”

When Derek Kaplan went on a quest for the best location for his first Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop outside of Miami-Dade County, he chose a Federal Highway storefront in downtown Fort Lauderdale, in the seam between bustling Flagler Village and Victoria Park.

“You see all the tall buildings going up, and you can see the neighborhood changing. We’re here to be part of the growth of Fort Lauderdale, and the ever-growing culinary scene,” says Kaplan, a former Miami firefighter and Division 1 football player at Grambling State University in Louisiana.

Opening on Saturday, the new Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop will offer the same menu that attracted “GMA”: A range of towering cakes, cookies, ice cream and plump pies, including a signature dessert that must be included in the conversation about best Key lime pie in Fort Lauderdale. Kaplan also knows savory — from empanadas to the popular buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese pot pie.

At Fireman Derek's Bake Shop in Fort Lauderdale, a slice of guava coconut cake will come with an extra squiggle of guava.

In a recent conversation, Kaplan, a 39-year-old father of two young boys, spoke about what the Fort Lauderdale shop means for him and for dessert fiends.

In this first foray outside of Miami-Dade County, Kaplan says the success of the Fort Lauderdale shop will inform decisions on future expansion into Palm Beach County and beyond.

“To be here and make it work gives [me] more of an idea of what it looks like in the rest of America. Because Miami is a unique animal in its own way, a melting pot. The brand has performed in that town, and some people say, hey, I don’t have to do anything. Just stay centrally located. But I see a bigger picture.

“This store performing in Broward County, in a location like this, kind of sets the stage for Orlando, Tampa, other markets. Not that I want to go out of state just yet, but people will give me the example of, oh, Austin, Texas, or Dallas or Houston, Vegas and whatnot. This really is that leap forward.”

You won’t find pictures on the shop’s walls with Kaplan in his turnout gear, but he spent 10 years at Station 1 in downtown Miami “cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for 20 guys.” He opened his Wynwood bakery in 2014, and left the department in 2016.

“I found baking to be therapeutic because I would be at the fire department and we would be on runs and see some of the wildest s–t you can possibly imagine that human beings would even do to each other.

“I always wanted to make a difference, to be of service to the community. Military service is important, being a police officer, a firefighter is important. When you serve your community you really get to know your community. It just gives you a better sense of self. You value where you live, because you’ve put time into those neighborhoods to make them a better place.”

Kaplan acknowledges that his prices may be a tick higher than what customers are used to — a slice of pie at his other locations typically goes for $8 to $10 (whole pie $40 to $45), and a slice of cake is $9 to $10 (whole cake $80).

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“I care about what we’re feeding people. The ingredients we use are high-end. We don’t put fillers or preservatives or anything phony in it. If it’s Nutella Pie, it’s got real Nutella in it. If it’s Oreo Cookies & Cream, it’s real Oreos. It’s real cream cheese, real butter, real eggs. We’re not using liquid sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Everything is legitimate. I know the products are on the higher end in terms of cost, but people have to understand that the ingredients are on the higher end of the costs. You can taste it.”

Kaplan says he’s been diabetic since he was a child, but he did not let that deter him from a life of dessert.

“I’ve always had a talent in cooking and baking. To sit here and say, well, I can’t do that because I’m diabetic is nonsense. I’ve never let it stop me. Do I eat a whole cake in one sitting? No. I have one slice. I still go to the gym five or six days a week, do cardio and weights. Just living a healthy lifestyle keeps my blood sugars in check. It also helps me to have the energy to do what I want to do. Because I’m diabetic, I have to have a healthy relationship with food in general, and I eat it in moderation. … I just try a little bit of each,” he says, with a laugh.

Key lime pie is a signature of Fireman Derek's Bake Shop, which is expected to open a new location in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 5.

Asked to choose his go-to dessert in the shop, Kaplan’s answer comes easily. Key lime pie got him started in his baking life as a teenager in his dad’s apartment, and it remains the most popular item at Fireman Derek’s locations in Wynwood and Coconut Grove, selling about 1,000 a month.

“I’ve been making it for over 20 years, and the recipe’s never changed. There’s really only one way to make Key lime pie, in my opinion: Condensed milk and egg yolks, fresh Key lime juice and graham cracker crust. And that’s graham crackers and butter. Anybody that makes it differently, I’m not hating on them or discouraging them from being creative, but to me there’s only one way to make it.”

The Fort Lauderdale location of Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop is at 250 N. Federal Highway. Visit

Staff writer Ben Crandell can be reached at Follow on Instagram @BenCrandell and Twitter @BenCrandell.

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