Everyone's buzzing about cupcakes and globalization this week--what better way to feed your interest than an interview with Rita Halkias, proprietress of Simply Rita, an Athens, Greece-based cupcake business? If you're curious about cupcake culture in Greece, search no further! Here goes:
CakeSpy: Can you tell a bit more about what made you decide to start a cupcake business?
Rita Halkias: When I moved to Greece around 2 years ago there were so many things that I missed from back home, my family and friends, Dunkin Donuts coffee, diner food (yes, although all Greeks in American own diners there is not one diner in the city of Athens) and cupcakes of course. I started experimenting in the kitchen to try and create the perfect cupcake. I then began to bring these cupcakes to various events and people would go crazy! Everyone started raving about these American cupcakes, one thing lead to another and things have really been great ever since.
RH: I am self taught. I received my bachelor’s degree in Special Education and my master’s degree in Assistive Technology. When I lived in America I taught in a maximum security prison as a State School Teacher for several years. My father however, coincidently owned a restaurant that was located a few miles away from the prison. After my teaching job I would go help out at the family restaurant. I was in charge of the dessert menu; this is when my love/obsession for baking began!
RH: No, cupcakes are not popular here in Athens. I guess you can say I am the first to start the trend!
CS: What sets apart your cupcakes from others?
RH: My cupcakes are baked to order; always ensuring that they’re fresh. Being a compulsive perfectionist can be a bit exhausting at times, but it seems to work in my favor, since my cupcakes end up being one of a kind. When customers contact me for an order, my primary objective is to accommodate their ideas and needs. The cake itself is always super moist and fluffy.. My frosting is sweet, but not toothache sweet like some other cupcakes I’ve tried in the past. Also, most of the cupcakes on my menu are musically inspired, with “Hollaback Girl” and “Sweet Thang” being some of them. It’s amazing how the sweet sound of a melody can inspire me to create something that satisfies my palette!
CS: How is your blog going to play a role in your business?
RH: My blog will definitely help my business because it’ll help my customers to get to know me at a more personal level. Forming lasting relationships with my customers is essential to running a successful business. Like my dad used to say in his heavy Greek accent, “here our customers have names; they are not just another number”!
Writing a blog is more interactive than a website, which makes it great for networking. Following other peoples’ blogs helps me keep up to date on the latest cupcake trends.
CS: What are your most popular flavors?
RH: Apple pie cupcake with cinnamon buttercream frosting; Nutella stuffed chocolate chip with hazelnut frosting; Peanut butter stuffed banana cupcake with chocolate frosting (my favorite).
CS: Are you selling only cupcakes, or other baked goods as well?
RH: Mostly cupcakes but I also do cheesecakes, chocolate dipped cheesecake lollipops, and custom made cookie lollipops.
CS: Stepping away from cupcakes for a moment, I'm curious about baked goods in Athens. What other types of sweets or desserts are popular where you live?
RH: Where do I start? I guess the easiest way would be to make a list:
- Loukoumades: Fried dough in the shape of a ball traditionally topped with honey, walnuts and cinnamon, but recently a shop has started filling them with Nutella!! YUM!
- Baklava: Walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar layered in between phyllo dough then drenched with gooey sugar syrup.
- Galaktobouriko: Custard filling layered in between phyllo dough and topped with simple syrup.
- Ekmek Kataifi: Layered kataifi, custard, whipped topping and walnuts topped with simply syrup.
- Kourabiedes: butter cookie dipped in confectioners sugar
- Poungi: Pastry dough stuffed with ricotta, cinnamon. and sugar that is deep fried then topped with honey and walnuts.
There are so many others but those have to be my favorite!
CS: What are your goals for the future?
RH: I have so many personal goals set for myself, but as far as my business goes my goals would be to continue to run a successful business where my customers are truly valued, and to possibly expand in the future!