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Sunday
May042008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Leslie Fiet of Mini's Cupcakes, Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah, as we recently learned, has the highest Jell-O consumption per capita--not in the state, not in the USA, but in the world.  In fact, the jiggly stuff was actually declared the official state snack in 2001. Why so? As one theory goes (from a former Utah-ite), perhaps it's the ease in preparation that seals the deal: Utah boasts a lot of big families, and a package of Jell-O sure can go a long way. Really though, we're still shaking our heads over this one. 

Of course, while this lore is interesting, it doesn't necessarily bode well for the baked good scene in the state that Brigham Young made (in)famous. 
However, as we recently happily discovered, other choices are cropping up, in particular the Salt Lake City-based Mini's Cupcakes. Based on the positive response this pioneer cupcakery has received, it's clear to us that the state might be ready for some other snacking options; when we recently we had the chance to talk with owner Leslie Fiet; here's what she had to say:

Cakespy: You mention that cupcake bakeries in NYC served as part of the inspiration for Minis. Any bakeries in particular you'd recommend or that served as inspiration to you?
Leslie Fiet: In my other life I am a professional photographer and I have many clients along the east coast. While being in NYC it is impossible to ignore the cupcake craze there, and I got hooked on wanting to visit Magnolia Bakery because of Sex in the City. So I went there and all I can say is , they are cute, not great but cute. The staff was less than nice and I walked away a little disappointed after waiting in line. So on my next few trips I tried other places and fell in love with the coconut cupcake at Dean and Deluca. I loved that cake! I tried to get them shipped to me at Christmas just over a year ago and was sad to hear that there were no shipping options. So in January, while we were on a plane to Cancun, I informed my husband I would be opening a cupcake shop. His response, "ok, but you do not bake?" I do things like this all the time, he knows when I get my mind set that I will make a go of it no matter what. So by March of that year, I had a commercial kitchen space leased and all my recipes figured out (or so I thought) and hit the pavement and got some retail business to sell my cupcakes.

CS: It seems like the "mini" concept is not only part of your business but part of your life--you drive a Mini Cooper as well as making mini cupcakes! Tell us more! 
LF: I hate our "supersize me" economy and life we (most Americans) live. I hate all the stupid fad diets, they never work. Life lived in moderation in all things (except Gin and travel) is a very good thing. When I started doing my research on cupcakes I was shocked to find there were "Texas" size cupcakes! Even the regular size seemed big, I want a taste of desert not an additional dinner. I own a mini cooper which I love and I decided to do "Mini" cupcakes. But when I started looking for a pan I ended up using one that is right between a standard US mini and regular size, my pans come out of Europe so I think it is standard size in Europe. About 4 good bites. 
Cakespy Note: Let it be said, for the record, that the Cakespy crew is not necessarily opposed to Texas-size cupcakes. Just keeping our options open.
CS: Though the cupcake trend has been catching on across the nation, it's still relatively new in Utah. Were the locals skeptical about the idea of a cupcake shop?
LF: No, I was really lucky to have great support from day one! Well there were a few skeptical people (including my parents) but after getting my cupcakes in the right places, and doing the farmers market, doing a lot of research, creating custom packaging (all of you who use the mini inserts from Big River, single cupcake boxes, 1/2 dozen cupcake boxes you can thank me I gave them the idea and dimensions with my prototypes). Being the first cupcake place has been
 really good, especially once I opened up my retail store. I still laugh at how lucky I am people are in love with cupcakes as much as I am.

 

CS: You initially offered only cupcakes, but on your website it seems like you've considered adding some other items. What other items will you or have you added?
LF: A few things, I have a motto of only doing and baking what I love. Where my store is located we have no good food options, the Taco Cart on the corner or Taco Time on the other corner. Because we worked all day and never left, I started making sandwiches for myself and my staff, good for you type of things that taste good. Then I decided if I loved them so would other people so I offer a very small selection of boxed lunches, they are 1/2 sandwiches, a nice salad, and a cupcake. The presentation is really good and many of my clients are law firms and ad agencies. They love how they look and taste, this drives people to my store for a dozen cupcakes once they get one in a lunch at a meeting. I also love rice krispie treats, so I decided to make homemade marshmallows (pink of course) and use the marshmallows I make and turn them into crème for the rice krispies. They are more like a marshmallow sandwich, really good I usually eat one or two a day. I saw that episode of Martha Stewart and I loved the idea of cupcakes on a stick, so I decided that I would start doing that as well, the kids love them and they have gone over really great. Who knows what is next? I never can tell until something pops into my head.


CS: We're intrigued by the "Lemon Pie" cupcake. Is it a mini pie, or a cupcake?
LF: It is both! I make homemade lemon curd, fill my lemon cupcakes with it, frost them with meringue and take a blow torch to them. These are my favorite for breakfast.

 

 

CS: What are some of the baked goods in Utah that might be considered regional specialties? 
LF: My first thought was anything made in a crock pot, Dutch oven, or in a casserole dish. But that is for everything not just baked goods, so in thinking about it a bit more we do not really have a "baked good item" it is more of an ice cream and Jell-O state. If someone out there knows of something let me know?

 

CS: What is the bakery scene like in Utah? 

LF: Limited at best, we have a few great small local places for bread and pastries. Volker's and Crumb Brothers for bread, Les Madelines for French pastries (she has cuppies too) and Brugge for real Belgian waffles. Most of these I can only get during the summer at our farmers market.

 

CS: What is your most popular flavor at the shop? 

LF: Tie, the Diva (dark chocolate cake with pink cream cheese frosting) and the Breakfast at Tiffany's (vanilla cake with Tiffany Blue cream cheese frosting), because of how they look and their names I think.

 

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor?
LF: The Snowball. Coconut is my favorite.

CS: You do custom orders--have you ever gotten any wacky or off the wall requests? 

LF: No, not yet. Everyone has been really easy and understands I do what I do and my most wacky request has been for really bright colors ( I do not do them) or picks on top of the cupcake (I send them to the grocery store).

 

 

CS: You refer to an ideal cake-to-frosting ratio on your site. What is that ideal ratio to you? 
LF: 1.5 frosting to 1.0 cake. I like frosting.
Cakespy Note: We like the way you think, Leslie Fiet. 

CS: What do you think the next big thing will be in the baked good world? 
LF: Local buying, no additives, and back to the basics. I know of many places around here that are selling baked goods made with a box or shortening, hi-ratio, and crap. People are starting to realize that putting all that stuff in their bodies is not good, we will soon get back to the basics.

 

CS: Any advice for others who are considering opening a bakery?
LF: Research! Do your homework, do not be afraid to ask questions of others bakeries, do what you love and love getting up really early, charge enough for you product and time--you are not a grocery store.

CS: What's next for Mini's?
LF: Who knows? Life is a journey that should be enjoyed.

Are you in Salt Lake City? Well, duh, it's time to visit Mini's! They're located at 800 S 14 E
Salt Lake City, (801) 363-0608; but even if you're not in the area, you can learn more at 
mini-cupcakes.com!

 

Reader Comments (36)

Such pretty little cakes!

Too adorable. It could almost be revolutionary! :-)

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

LOVE LOVE those little coconut cup cakes!:))

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterAsha

Great interview! I wish I were in Salt Lake to come visit.

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterJen

if i'm being honest, my ideal ratio of cake-to-frosting is 2:1. i'm a frosting freak. :)

this was a great read!

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Gorgeous cupcakes. What's more elegant than coconut flakes on frosting?

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterJeanna

Melisser: Yes, aren't they cute?

Ann: Ha! Revolutionary cupcakes! I like the idea!

Asha: Aren't they like little pom poms, so cute?

Jen: I wish I were there too!! :-) hope you are well!

Grace: Whoa lady! That's a strong ratio in the favor and flavor of delicious!

Jeanna: It is a pretty good look, isn't it?

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

those look amazing!

but mostly, i was super excited to see i'm not the only one saying "cuppies"...

May 5 | Unregistered Commenterj*amy

These cupcakes actually look tasty. I have been let down by many a cupake. Utah is lucky.

May 5 | Unregistered Commenterglamah16

I saw one of their delivery trucks driving down the street in Salt Lake the other day and the driver was smoking. I thought, "Ew, I am not buying a cupcake from a smoke filled delivery van. I don't care how good their cupcakes are. That is gross."

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I read an article yesterday (I think it was in the New York Times) about a Jello museum, and it mentioned another theory about why Jello is popular with Mormons. It suggested that because they don't smoke or drink or even take caffeine, their great vice is sugar. Your suggestion makes more sense to me though.

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

Well if I'm ever in Salt Lake City...

I always thought it would be fun to own a cupcake shop, but I'd have to include more than just cupcakes. That one that you featured in Tacoma recently... I found out that it's owned by my nephew's buddy's sister (and her mom.) What a fun venture!

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterRecipeGirl

I think we all read the same NY Times article, linked from Serious Eats, yesterday. I laughed so hard when I read about their theories regarding Utah and Jell-O. I've never lived in Utah, but I AM a Mormon. What's not to love about Jell-O? It's inexpensive, has no last-minute prep work, can be prepared hours before it's needed, can be easily transported to the sick and afflicted and to family events (we do a LOT of food transportation!), it's totally colorful, kids and adults love it...and if you throw in fruit or shredded carrots (ewww) it can be served as a salad on the ward buffet line! Oh, and it can be made into TONS of other things- whipped, mixed with Cool Whip, poked into warm cakes, Jigglers, molds, etc. Ha- to listen to me, you'd think it's all we eat! (Personally, I think I opened one package of Jell-O in the past year, and that was when I had the flu.But it DOES have a lot of strong points!)

Great write up about this cute little bakery! If I'm ever down there, we'll have to give it a try :)

I need one of the lemon meringue pie cupcakes. Mmmm.

Yay for one featured in my home state!! I don't make it to SLC very often, but next time I do, I want to visit Mini's. And my husband grew up in Utah, and hates Jello...

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

All of those cupcakes look amazing!

mini's??? say it ain't so!!! I could just pop like 5 or 43 of these into my satchel to snack on throughout the day!!! jenny craig here I come!

Delicous looking cakes. I like the round cake tip they used.

Those are some gorgeous looking cupcakes. Makes me wish i still lived in the Salt Lake area!

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterHalf Baked

This sounds fabulous. I'll have to make a stop next time I visit my sister. As a former resident, I can testify that eating ice cream is the official alternative to, well, other adult activities.

Alas, i rarely (in fact never) visit Utah. I would definitely be a regular customer for those little coconut jobbies. The Lemon pie cup cakes are pretty alluring, too.

Out of curiosity, does Leslie have any cupcakes that have a jell-o component in her repertoire?

What adorable looking cupcakes...and I love your comment of 1.5 frosting to 1.0 cake...too funny!

Great interview! I love mini cupcakes. They're just so darn cute. Perfect for parties.

I enjoyed the interview. Interesting fact about jello...
and cakespy I love you and I love your cupcakes. You are the cupcake GOD!!!! Each and every one of your creations are pure perfection....

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterLina

great interview! i loved all the photos!

May 5 | Unregistered CommenterGigi
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