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Parked outside Replay Lansing is a new food truck in Old Town. With a bright pink paint job, offers pressed Cuban sandwiches, coffee, handmade desserts and all too scrumptious churros with hot chocolate.
Owner Yohana Ferra left Cuba and arrived in Lansing in 2014. She spent her past life working as a baker in Havana. But her new life in the United States gave her a jolt — with newfound access to fresh ingredients from all over the world, she realized she still had a lot to learn about cake.
“In Cuba, I made cakes for weddings, quinceañeras and everything. But when I started living in Lansing, I saw all the different types of cake and gasped,” Ferra said. “I had only seen these cakes in magazines before.”
Ferra left Cuba to pursue a better life for her children and a chance to open her own business, she said. She came to Lansing because she had an uncle here who told her “If you can survive the winter, Michigan isn’t too bad.”
There were many challenges with adjusting to life in Lansing for Ferra at first.
“I didn’t speak English. Nothing. So, the first thing I did was go to LCC to learn the language. I had to learn to drive too. I never thought I would drive in my life. In Cuba, I could’ve never gotten a car.”
While attending LCC, she became fast friends with her instructor Maria Shafer and credits Shafer with helping her business become a reality.
She showed me a business plan and helped me take things step by step, Ferra said. “She was my guardian angel.”
Opened on Dec. 28, Ferra made her dream of owning her own business a reality.
Among her traditional Cuban baked desserts are three milk, guava and coconut cakes as well as guava pasteles, akin to turnovers.
Her hot chocolate and churros were a winter tradition in Havana, she said.
A far cry from hot chocolate packets, Ferra’s hot chocolate is made by stirring in high grade Barry Callebaut Belgian chocolate chips into hot milk.
The popular Cuban sandwich is on the menu as well. The pulled pork on a Cuban sandwich should never be made of barbecue pork, Ferra said. She oven roasts the pork shoulders slowly over-night to completion.
Ferra also offers another native Cuban sandwich not many people have heard of called the Elena Ruz. It is a pressed sandwich consisting of turkey, strawberry jam and cream cheese.
Though both are native to the island, they aren’t very popular there, Ferra said.
“Many people know about the Cuban sandwich, but the people who actually live in Cuba don’t eat this sandwich, because it is too difficult for people to buy the meat and cheese.”
Ferra said she is happy to further extend the Cuban food scene in Lansing.
“My children give me the force and hope that I can succeed,” Ferra said. “Here, I can find everything I could ever want. It gives me inspiration.”
Habana Delights 536 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing
11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tuesday to Saturday