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Entries in cupcake interviews (5)

Monday
Aug012011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Cyndy of Stanwood Cupcakes, WA

Images c/o Stanwood CupcakesCupcakes truly are taking over the world. The trend of cupcakeries that started in cities is continuing to spread in the suburbs and smaller towns, with continued success; one such establishment is Stanwood Cupcakes in Washington. I recently caught up with owner Cyndy for some sweet talk about her business:

To break the ice: tell me. What is the last amazing dessert or baked good you ate? It was a crème brulee that had been made just perfectly with the top torched and just a dollop of whipped cream on top. I'm a sucker for the creamy desserts!

Stanwood Cupcakes. Tell me baby, what's your story? About 2 years ago I became aware of the growing interest in a couple of cupcake shops in Seattle. I began to follow their growth and I started to have cupcakes delivered to my Seattle friends for celebrations. A year ago, my husband and I took a car trip to Ashland Oregon and decided to stop at every cupcake store on the way back to Stanwood that showed up on our GPS. We tried a cupcake at over 15 different cupcake shops on that trip. Last summer, all the right things happened for us to get into the business ourselves. I started to overwhelm my neighbors with cupcake samples and got great feedback on the good and bad of my cupcakes. After loads of paperwork, lots of equipment orders and hundreds of cupcake bakings, my husband and I opened our shop in October of 2010. We believed that Stanwood needed a happy place to drop in for a cupcake, cookie or hand-dipped ice cream and we're glad that we created just that place.

(CakeSpy Note: P.S. here are a few shots of Cyndy and her husband David...one from 1968 and one from since opening the cupcake shop! Which one is sweeter?!? I can't say!)

What is your most popular flavor right now? Our most frequently purchased cupcake right now is the S'mores. Graham cracker crust, chocolate cake filled with marshmallow frosting, topped with a swirl of ganache, a pile of marshmallow frosting, a sprinkle of graham craker crust and finally a square of chocolate.

What made you decide to take the jump to opening a retail storefront? My husband and I were both available to put all our time into our shop and the timing was right!

Are you professionally trained or self taught as a baker? I am a self taught baker pulling lots of guidance and tips from being a food network junkie. When I watch the food network, I pretty much go into a zombie mode, shutting out the world around me, taking in all the techniques and recipes.

Describe a "perfect" cupcake to me. A perfect cupcake is moist, flavorful, well balanced with frosting to cake ratio and appealing to the eye.

I've never sampled Cascade Glacier ice cream, but it's your house brand of ice cream. What makes it cream of the crop? We sampled several local brands to ice cream looking for creaminess, incredible flavor and that refreshing uplift that should come with ice cream. Cascade Glacier, from the Oregon Ice Cream Company, got our highest marks all around. It never lets you down.

Some people like to say that cupcakes are "so over". What is your response? Cupcakes are "new" to Stanwood and our goal is to help Stanwood and Camano Island residents learn the delightful joys of cupcakes.

In your opinion, what is the ideal cake-to-frosting ratio for a cupcake? For most cupcakes, the best ration for cake-to-frosting is 2/3rds to 1/3rd.

I didn't fail to notice that there is a "Cyndy's Famous" chocolate chip cookie on the menu. What makes these cookies so special? As a kid, I started making these same chocolate chip cookies and have raised 3 kids on them. At every church and school function, they were always a hit and neighbors and visiting children always asked for more. My son was amazed and delighted to see these cookies featured at our shop.

For more information, visit stanwoodcupcakes.com

Thursday
Mar172011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Cupcake Artist Joyce Wan

I love reconnecting with friends from my past, especially when our new connection involves cupcakes. I had the pleasure of working with artist Joyce Wan when I was an art director at iPop years ago; these days, we maintain contact because of our shared love of cuteness and cupcakes (she just came out with an adorable new book, You Are My Cupcake !) Here's a sneak peek at what else this talented (and supercute) artist is up to these days:

CakeSpy: I have had the pleasure with working with you as an art director, but at that time your sweet art was mainly focused on cute animals. How did you make the jump to sweet anthropomorphic food?

Joyce Wan: Food has always been a major part of my life. My father owned a restaurant when I was growing up, my mother can cook a Chinese home-cooked meal like nobody’s business and my brother recently graduated from the French Culinary institute and is now working as a professional chef in New York City. As an artist, I am frequently inspired by memories from childhood and things that make me happy so naturally food has found it’s way into my art.

CS: How does food as a subject matter compare to other cute characters? Do you enjoy illustrating one more than the other?

JW: I love all my children equally. However, the only problem with drawing food is that it can make me very hungry in the process which is not quite helping me get bikini ready. An occupational hazard, I suppose!

CS: Can you tell us a little bit about your illustration medium/process?

JW: Most of my art is digital. I sketch the drawings on paper. Then I scan it into illustrator, trace and color.

CS: Your new book, You Are My Cupcake , focuses on sweet terms of endearment. Do you and your husband have any pet names for one another? Be honest.

JW: I’m “sweetie” and he’s “hun” - although sometimes I think he really wants to call me “devil’s food cake”.

CS: What is the last excellent sweet thing you ate (baked good, frozen treat, dessert, etc)?

JW: The strawberry cheesecake from Junior’s in New York City – simply sublime!

CS: Your other book, we belong together, brings up the question: what dessert flavor combo do you think belongs together?

JW: Warm, crumbly apple desserts with vanilla ice cream – one of my favorite combos!

CS: You live in the NYC area. What are some of your favorite bakeries?

JW: Levain Bakery, Two Little Red Hens, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Billy’s Bakery. (CakeSpy Note: Oddly, I think I visited most of these in the course of 24 hours once!)

CS: Tell me more about how your product line has developed--what are you selling, and where can we buy it?

JW: My style merges contemporary yet whimsical designs with Asian cultural influences and traditions. I started my business with greeting cards and now have expanded into other goodies such as infant apparel, tote bags, prints and pendants. One of my most popular products is my zodiac infant bodysuit packaged in a clear takeout box. I had my first children’s book published in 2009 called Greetings from Kiwi and Pear ;. My two new books You Are My Cupcake and We Belong Together; will be out later this summer. I’ve also just recently ventured into the digital world with the release of “Kiwi and Pear World Adventure” which is an iPod, iPhone, and iPad application for kids which is based off my first picture book. You can find my cards and gift products on my website at wanart.com and at various stores and boutiques across the country. In the Seattle area, Uwajimaya and the Seattle Art Museum gift shop carry a nice selection of my products. You can find my books on amazon.com. The app is available in the iTunes App store.

CS: As an artist, how do you stay inspired? (doesn't have to be dessert related)

JW: I try to keep things interesting by experimenting with new styles, mediums, and characters/subject matter. I always keep my eyes and my mind open and look at nature, people, and everything in between as possible sources of inspiration. I read or see what the trends are in other industries such as fashion, entertainment and technology. I visit galleries, festivals, and museums to see what others are creating and are inspired by. I also have an inspiration board that I keep on my wall in my studio where I pin up photographs, quotes, scraps of paper, fabric – anything I find that resonates with me. Also, I just love making people smile when they see my art – that in itself motivates me everyday.

CS: What is the next big thing you're excited about?

JW: Besides the new books (which can’t come out soon enough!) I’m excited about expanding my business this year through more strategic licensing partnerships and digital ventures. And, of course, I’m always excited about my next food adventure.

To see more of Joyce's work, visit wanart.com. To buy her books, visit Amazon.

Wednesday
Dec052007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Jess of All Things Cupcake


Not sure if you've gathered it yet--but we are really into cupcakes. (Insert brief pause with intense expression). Like, really into cupcakes. So it certainly gives us pause when we meet someone who is possibly even more into cupcakes than us. Nonetheless, we know when we've met our match, as is the case with All Things Cupcake, a Tennessee-based blog dedicated to...well, you know. Bursting with recipes, photos and all the cupcake products and services you could ever dream of, this blog has already snagged a place in Martha Stewart's Circle, not to mention our hearts. We recently had a chance to learn more about Jess (aka Tattooed Mama), the Head Cupcake herself, in an email interview; here's what we learned about the dessert scene in the south, cupcake tattoos, and ideal frosting-to-cake ratios:

Cakespy: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself i.e., name, geographical location, occupation)?
Tattooed Mama: I have the ever so popular name, Jessica. Most call me Jess or The Tattooed Mama. I'm a California girl, born and raised. I moved to Tennessee in 2005 and had quite the culture shock. I am a stay at home mama who enjoys blogging, baking, and obsessing over cupcakes. Quite the life, I must say.

CS: What made you decide to start All Things Cupcake?
TM: After contributing many items to Cupcakes Take The Cake, I decided to quit annoying them with all the products I've come across. I then started a blog where I can let others know where to find any and all things cupcake and keep everyone up to date on all the latest cupcake trends. I have six contributors who also love to bake, share their recipes, and who also love to share their obsession for cupcakes with the world.

CS: You live in Tennessee... is there a big cupcake bakery scene there?
TM: Sad to say, there is not. The closest cupcake bakery that I am aware of is in Atlanta, Georgia. I need to change this, don't I?

CS: What other types of desserts are popular in your area?
TM: Pies, pies, pies. They seem to be the ticket around here. I, however, am not a big fan of pie.

CS: Some people say that "Pie is the new cake". What do you think of this?
TM: Gosh, I hope not...I usually eat the filling, or the topping. I never really enjoyed the crust that much.

CS: What is your favorite type of cupcake?
TM: I love Asian inspired cupcakes. I recently made Green Tea Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Tapioca Filling. Delicious.

CS: You have a baby girl! Has she had her first cupcake yet? If not, what will be the first special one you'll make her?
TM: She has not had her first cupcake yet, but she did get her first taste of peas today. I am thinking about taking the recipe for "baby's first cake" and making a cupcake for her. It's a sugar-free form of Carrot Cake, basically.

CS: You're married to a tattoo artist (!). Do you have any cupcake tattoos?
TM: Why yes I do! After not being able to get any tattoos for a year, one of the first tattoos I got after the baby was born, was my cupcake tattoo. I have posted about it on All Things Cupcake of course.

CS: What is your favorite non-cupcake dessert?
TM: I would have to say, Green Tea Ice Cream or Fried Bananas. (Sure, I am a sucker for Green Tea). You can't find it around here, so I have resorted to making it myself.

CS: You bake an awful lot--what is one of your favorite things to bake?
TM: Peppermint Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Candy Cane Topping. Holiday Treat. I will be making these later today!

CS: In your opinion, when is the best time of day to eat cupcakes?
TM: Is there really a wrong time of day to eat a cupcake? I can remember having a cupcake for breakfast, lunch, and a midnight snack. I am not ashamed!

CS: At Cakespy, Head Spy Jessie likes to cut her cupcakes in quarters before eating them (weird but true). Do you ever engage in (or have you ever witnessed) any strange cupcake eating behavior?
TM: I have witnessed my little nephew licking off the frosting first. I try to take a big enough bite to include the frosting and the cupcake. It's pretty hard.. and can be messy. I usually get frustrated and grab a fork. Eating a cupcake with a fork is so classy, don't you think?

CS: In your opinion, is there an "ideal" cake-to-frosting ratio for cupcakes? If so, what is it?
TM: It all depends. If the frosting is really rich, I'd say the less frosting the better. However, if it's a white chocolate frosting.. I would easily go for a 60% frosting, 40% cake. Yum!!

CS: What (if anything) makes a "bad" cupcake?
TM: I remember eating a cupcake when I was younger, and the frosting left that nasty chalky taste in your mouth. I didn't like that.

CS: What are some of your favorite baked good or foodie blogs?
TM: I love Cakespy of course. Oh, the artwork! I also love recipes from cupcakerecipes.com. I have also used and tweaked the green tea cupcake recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit.

Cakespy Note: We did not pay, bribe, or offer free cupcakes to Jess for this mention, although we can't argue her good taste.

CS: What is next for All things Cupcake?
TM: Recently, ATC has been accepted into Martha's Circle. (The Martha Stewart Network). This is exciting news. There are loads of new items that we will be writing about, as well as featuring the highly requested cupcake tattoo photos from other viewers. I am also currently working on getting an interview together with Johnny Cupcakes. Should be lots of fun.

All Things Cupcake can be found online at allthingscupcake.blogspot.com.

Wednesday
Nov282007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Trilly Nguyen of whiskie bits Bakeshop

They say that while cooking is an art, baking is a science. Well, we don't know who "they" are but obviously they've never tried anything by whiskie bits Bakeshop. This Oakland-based special-order bakery's (no retail storefront at this point) menu has possibly the most avant-garde yet dazzling menu we've ever seen, with cupcakes available in flavors like Horchata (horchata cake, almonds with horchata cream cheese frosting) and Curry Carrot (carrot cake, curry spice, pistachios, almonds with cardamom-curry cream cheese frosting); cookies come in flavors like Wasabi and Black Sesame with White Chocolate and Thai-basil Lemon. They even have a series of "intoxicating" cupcakes, a naughty collection of adults-only boozy treats; all in all, we'd call it an artistic and delicious array. Cakespy was able to catch up recently with the eclectic, fearless head baker Trilly Nguyen; here's what we found out about creative baking, keeping your cakes seasonal, and why pie just might be the new cake:

Cakespy: Are you formally trained as a baker?
Trilly Nguyen: No, my experiences come from my mother (a former pastry chef who specialized in wedding cakes), working professionally in the industry, and spending most of my free time baking and experimenting.

CS: You don't have a storefront...other than by special order, can individual customers buy your baked goods at any stores or coffee shops?
TN: Right now, unfortunately no. But within the next year, whiskie bits products can be found at some local specialty retail stores and shops in the Bay Area.

CS: You have such unusual flavors...have you ever had a combination or recipe that just didn't work out?
TN: Yes, of course. Not all of my ideas and recipes work out perfectly. I am always testing out flavor combinations and using friends and families as my tasting guinea pigs.

Cakespy Note: We'd be her guinea pigs any day.

CS: What is your personal favorite cake flavor from your offerings?
TN: It depends on my mood and the weather. Sounds slightly odd, but if the weather is too warm, I like to eat a flavor that is light in texture, and vice-versa. That is why I offer seasonal flavors. So, during the summer time, I love the Hong Corn (a combination of fresh corn with coconut and salted peanuts). It reminds me of childhood and is a tribute to my mom, who would make one of my very favorite Vietnamese tapioca desserts with fresh corn and coconut. Right now, since it's fall, I am loving the Persimmon Penuche and the Bourbon Oat.

CS: You offer "intoxicating" alcohol-laced cupcakes. Will they give customers a buzz?
TN: Depends on the flavor. But overall, yes. You will get a slightly sweet buzz from all of the intoxicating flavors.

CS: Some people say that pie is going to be the next cupcake-type baking trend. What do you think?
TN: Sure, why not? I love pie as well, and I could see the endless possibilities in flavor combinations...

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a good cupcake?
TN: Quality ingredients and good technique. Baking is never worth it if you do not have the best quality ingredients. To me, baking is so time-consuming that it is only worth it if you start out with the finest ingredients. That's half the battle. The other half is learning good basic baking techniques.

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake or cookies?
TN: Any time, of course. But instinctively, I would say breakfast time and late at night (right before bed time). What's better than waking up in the morning and ending the day with a sweet treat.

CS: What's next for whiskie bits?
TN: More new and unusual yummy flavor combinations.

CS: Any TTA (Trilly's trusted advice) for budding bakers?
TN: Read my answers for making a good cupcake (above). Also, trust your instincts and judgment. Sometimes things work and sometimes, they don't. Just accept that and move on. In the end, things always have a way of working out.

For more information on whiskie bits Bakeshop, visit whiskiebits.com. If you're in the Bay Area and would like to place an order, give them a call at (510) 658-8284.

Friday
Nov092007

Batter Chatter: Interview with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes, Pittsburgh

Well, we're just going to come out and say it: it's pretty hard not to like cute guys who like to bake. And if they actually know what they're doing and have a savvy sense of design? All we can say is, magic ensues, such as in the case of Dozen Cupcakes in Pittsburgh. The owners, James Gray and Andrew Twigg have backgrounds in baking and graphic design, respectively; this expertise shows in their dense, buttery and impeccably decorated cakes and adorable shop. Pittsburgh has clearly responded: business has grown so much that a second "Bakeshop" location featuring brunch and other baked goods will open later on this year. Cakespy recently had a chat with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes; here's what we learned about getting buzzed on cupcakes, the dessert scene in Pittsburgh, and the story of the Andy Warhol Cupcake:

Cakespy: What is your most popular cupcake flavor?
James Gray: Cosmo. It is a vanilla butter cake with vodka soaked cranberries, lime buttercream tinted pink and rolled in pink and white sanding sugar. We finish it off with a lime wedge and a couple dried cranberries. People are crazy about it!

CS: Do you sell anything other than cupcakes? If not, do you think you ever will?
JG: We sell only cupcakes here and for now that is all we will sell. There will be more sweet treats in the very near future at another location.

CS: Hey, you're in Pittsburgh. Where is the Andy Warhol Cupcake on your menu?
JG: I started with a Warhol cupcake about a year ago when I first started. It had different vibrant colors of royal icing with little royal pansies in the center. I might bring them back in the future. They were really fun.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor from your menu?
JG: Right now I would have to say the spiced apple cake. Apple cake is simply the dreamiest cake for me. The little bits of apple in the cake are a delight. We frost it with a caramel buttercream and a drizzle of real homemade caramel. I have to be careful when we make them because I could eat a lot of them!

CS: We've heard that "Pie is the new cake". What are your thoughts on this?
JG: I don't think pie will ever take the iconic stand that cupcakes and cake have in this country. Pie is a bit more difficult to make and eat. Although I love some pie!

CS: What in your opinion is the best time of day to eat cake?
JG: I would say between 2-3 o'clock. This is when most people need a little pick me up. And if you can hold out until then, it really makes it that much more exciting.

CS: What are some of the other popular desserts in Pittsburgh?
JG: Biscotti! We have the best biscotti here. And almond torte. These seem to be the faves.

CS: What, if anything, makes a "bad" cupcake?
JG: Oh, easy. Bad frosting. Like using vegetable shorting instead of butter. And a cake that has no flavor and is too spongy. At Dozen are cupcakes are like little cakes. Not traditional cupcakes. The cakes tend to be a little more dense and flavorful. Old Fashioned-style. If it tastes like the cakes grandma used to make then it will be yummy.

CS: Would we get buzzed if we ate your cosmo cupcake?
JG: Unfortunately no! The alcohol is baked out in the process. But we do have buttercreams that have straight liquor in them! If you were a light weight (extremely light) you might feel a little buzz.

CS: You do weddings and sweet sixteen parties. Holy high maintenance! Have you ever had any nightmare customers?
JG: Actually we haven't. Most of the customers who come to us are absolutely great and easy going. We also do everything to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.

CS: Will cupcakes ever go out of style?
JG: Maybe someday. It will be a while though. These things have so much trend factor it's crazy.

CS: What is next for Dozen Cupcakes?
JG: We are working on Dozen Bake Shop. It's our full bakery line with Sunday brunch opening later this year or early next year. We are totally excited to bring a home-style bakery to Pittsburgh. We are opening in the hottest neighborhood in Pittsburgh right now, Lawrenceville. A mini burgeoning Brooklyn! There are lots of independent boutiques and many new restaurants and cafes opening up along Butler Street. I think the reception is going to be off the hook. At least, that's what we are hoping!

Dozen Cupcakes is located at 1707 Murray Ave, Pittsburgh; they are online at dozencupcakes.com.

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