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Wednesday
May212008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sandy Ploy, the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen

Cupcake from Swirlz, from Sandy's recent tour of Chicago Cupcakeries

From our home base in Seattle, where the streets are practically paved in cupcakes, it's nearly impossible to believe that there still exist cities which lack a proper cupcakery. However, this is the case in Milwaukee, where though custard and kringle reign aplenty, there is nary a cupcake shop to be found. 

Luckily, Sandy Ploy is on hand, heading the campaign to bring cupcakes to Milwaukee. Why should bakers sit up and take notice? Well, Ploy is no idle enthusiast: not only does she work at one of the nation's major food magazines, Taste of Home, but also manages a site, mkecupcakequeen.blogspot.com, which represents an all encompassing cupcake love that makes it easy to see why she's referred to as the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen. Here's what we learned when we recently caught up with her to discuss the plight of being cupcake-obsessed in a land devoid of cupcake shops: 

Cakespy: Can you tell us a bit about how your cupcake obsession started?
Sandy Ploy: Believe it or not, it only started about 18 months ago. I was researching cupcakes for the April/May 2007 issue of Taste of Home. I was blown away at all of the great cupcake shops and blogs I came across online. But..the clincher was JOHNNY CUPCAKES. (sigh…excuse me while I have a Mrs. Robinson moment). When I saw that cupcake and those cross bones I knew I had found my niche. A little sweet and a little rough…just like me!

Cakespy Note: It's true. That Johnny is a hottie with a naughty body.

CS: How do you feed your cupcake obsession?
SP: Well, aside from collecting awesome Cakespy art – a little schmoozing never hurts – I am an addicted cupcake cookbook collector. I check out several blogs (Chockylit, Cupcakes Take the Cake, All Things Cupcake, Bake & Destroy) on a regular basis. In March I entered and then won my first cupcake competition - the 2nd Annual Cream City Collective Crazy Cupcake Competition. My winning cupcakes was a coconut cake with a sweet curry lemon curd filling and a sweet basil cream topping. Now, I have found myself embroiled in IRON CUPCAKE, which is basically an ongoing cupcake challenge between myself and a local chef. So far our challenges have included wasabi, mustard and next is cocktail.

CS: Although Milwaukee does not have a cupcake-specific shop, there are bakeries which sell cupcakes. Are there any that you suggest? 
SP: Simma’s Bakery in Wauwatosa is notorious in the city for their amazing baked goods. Also, The Cake Lady on the south side of Milwaukee makes the most amazing cakes in town and will do cupcakes via special order.

CS: Do you have a favorite cupcake shop outside of Milwaukee?
SP: Hands down, it is MOLLY’S CUPCAKES in Chicago. It is like a playground, a cupcake shop, a bar and a toy store all rolled into one. Two brothers own the shop, named it after their elementary school teacher and have injected their favorite toys and lunchboxes as décor in the
 shop.


CS: Can you tell us about some of the best cupcakes you've ever had?
SP: The best frosting ever is at Swirlz in Chicago – they use an Italian buttercream – it is light and exotic and absolutely incredible. Dot's Cupcakes in Pasadena, CA makes a delicious Caramel Apple cupcake that is so indulgent, I like to visit them whenever I go to CA to visit my family. And, I won’t brag too much, but I love most of what I create at home.

CS: Tell us about the worst cupcake you ever had (shudder).
SP: Well, that is easy and not at all surprising…grocery store cupcakes make me ill. ‘Nuff said.


CS: You've made some pretty crazy cupcakes yourself--ummm, the dark chocolate bacon ones (pictured left) come to mind. Tell the truth--were they delicious?
SP: The combination of pork fat and chocolate is rockin’! Although, one of my latest creations – the corn dog cupcake – is probably the one that I have gotten the most praise for (pictured above). Regardless, I love the challenge of combining unexpected ingredients in anything I cook.

CS: Getting away from cupcakes for a moment (don't worry, it won't be long), can you tell us what bakeries or regional baked good specialties can't be missed in the Milwaukee area?
SP: I have lived in Milwaukee for about 12 years now. By far and away the most coveted baked good is the Racine Kringle - a danish pastry similar to a buttery phyllo filled with fruit, nuts and other sweet gourmet fillings. EVERYone knows a Kringle and loves to nibble on them!

CS: You work at Taste of Home--pretty much any foodie's dream office! In our minds, your office is a magical land full of free food samples, bustling with flambees being tested, chock full of double crust pies and of course, rows and rows of cupcakes, all just there for the taking. Can you confirm or deny this vision?
SP: Minus the flambees, that pretty much sums it up. We receive over 90,000 reader submitted recipes per year. Between the test kitchen and the photo studio. Food is abundant – and snack can almost always be found. More often than not, the amazing smells of various baked goods, meats, sauces, soups, etc. are wafting up the hallways…and occasionally there is fish – and whether it is a fantastic recipe or not, that rarely smells good amongst the cubicles.

CS: What do you see as the next big thing in the cupcake baking world? Or, what would you like to see?
SP: I am a big advocate of ‘grown-up’ cupcakes. Unique flavors and combinations that are not necessarily your run of the mill kiddie cupcake.

CS: *If* a baker looking to open a cupcake shop in Milwaukee were reading this, would you have any suggestions or words of advice?
SP: PLEASE COME! Keep it accessible, not too prissy. There is definitely an audience for them, I am amazed we don’t have any. I wish it were me doing the opening - If there was a cupcake angel out there wanting to finance my dream, I would love for them to land on my shoulder.

CS: If someone ever tried to challenge your status as the Cupcake Queen of Milwaukee, would you settle it once and for all through A) A dance-off B) A Bake-off, C) Knock them upside the head with your (cupcake-shaped) scepter, or D) All of the above?
SP: By all means, steer clear of my cupcake shaped scepter, it flings sprinkles into the eyes of anyone who challenges my royal status.

Cakespy Note: Don't mess with Cupcake!

Danger on the StreetsCS: Some say that "pie is the new cake". What do you have to say to this?
SP: I was never good at math, so I will pass on the pie.

CS: What will be your next cupcake adventure?
SP: I am dying to get to NYC and visit the overwhelming selections of cupcakeries in a city just throbbing with life and excitement! I suspect another trip to LA is more likely to happen first.


Eager for more? Check out Sandy's photos at flickr.com, and of course check out her blog at mkecupcakequeen.blogspot.com!

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