Ask the Baker: Rhienn Davis of Look Cupcake

JavaCupcake Note: This is the seventh post in a series titled, “Ask the Baker” featuring interviews with bakers and bakery owners!

Please introduce yourself.  Tell us a little bit about what you do in the cupcake world and how/when you got started.

My name is Rhienn Davis and I’m a professional cake snob.  I’ve always been a food person and baking sprang naturally from that beginning.  I’m also somewhat creatively inclined. I spent years in various careers (horse trainer, media- maven, book keeper, etc.) struggling to find a job that would stimulate both the creative and the analytical sides of my brain.  The entire time I was making cakes for friends.  That turned into friends of friends.  Then friends of friends of… you get the idea.  It was time to get serious.  My (unflappable, amazing, and unbelievably patient) husband gave me the final push to go out and start a business.  So I did.  Look Cupcake was born.  We have a commercial kitchen in the lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.

We’re also all over the interwebs:

http://www.lookcupcake.com

http://www.lookcupcake.blogspot.com

http://www.flickr.com/look_cupcake

http://www.facebook.com/lookcupcake

http://www.twitter.com/lookcupcake

Bakery Start-Up Questions

What was the biggest challenge in starting your bakery/baking business?

Initially – figuring out the seasonality and the busy/slow cycle timing.  Because we specialize in custom wedding and event displays our business is very seasonal.  It took time to level things out.  It was feast or famine at first.

Any business tips you can share that has made your bakery a success?

I think unwavering commitment to quality has been the key for us.  We don’t make your average, every day cake/cupcake and we know that it’s not for everyone… and we’re OK with that.  We put that out there in every marketing message, every conversation and every.single.order that goes out our door.

How much time did you spend planning before you decided to take the steps to make your bakery a reality?

Years and years and years of baking.  About six weeks of actively starting the business (paperwork, permitting, etc.)

How much time does it take to run your business?  More or less than you anticipated?

More time than you ever have.  Always.  There are always fifteen things you just didn’t quite get to today.  It consumes your every waking moment and way more of the sleeping ones than you’d like it to.

What type of tools, gadgets, and gizmos are necessary for fantastic cupcake production?

Dishers (ice cream scoops) are invaluable, lots of spatulas, a scale and piping bags.

Recipe/Ingredients & Baking Questions

What do you consider to be the perfect cupcake? What flavors and textures would it have?

A moist buttery cake with a fine crumb, a pocket of delicious filling and topped with smooth, creamy, not-too-sweet buttercream.  That’s the magic formula.

How many times do you have to “re-do” a recipe before you get it right?

Sometimes the first try is magic, sometimes you tweak for months.

What is your favorite cupcake recipe?

Something tells me giving out my favorite cupcake recipe PROBABLY wouldn’t be a very savvy business move on my part. ;)

How much is made from scratch and how much is purchased pre-made?

EVERYTHING is made from scratch.  I’m an evangelist about this.  We house make everything… right down the the fruit purees and salted caramel.

What is the recipe for a foolproof cupcake batter? Just a perfect basic recipe that can be doctored with extras to suit any taste.

Find an awesome yellow cake recipe and a magical chocolate cake recipe and you can make just about anything happen from those two bases.

Where do you purchase all those fun different sprinkles you use to decorate your cupcakes with?

We don’t use sprinkles very often.  The majority of our decorations are hand made.  You can get awesome, natural sanding sugars and such from India Tree.

How do you get your cupcakes all the same size?

Dishers (ice cream scoops)

Do you have a Vegan Chocolate cupcake recipe?

Yes and it’s spectacular.

Do you have a delicious recipe for a trans-fat-free cupcake?

We don’t use trans-fats in any of our products.

What is the best cocoa to use?

We use Pernigotti cocoa.  It’s from Italy and has a very high fat content.

I love buttercream… what’s your favorite recipe for it?

We use Swiss Meringue buttercream.  Once you go to a European meringue based buttercream, there’s no going back.

How do you get great control of a pastry bag and make those mile high swirls of perfection on top of each cupcake?

Practice.  Lots and lots of practice.  Don’t be afraid to try new things with different tips.  You may find something gorgeous you wouldn’t have discovered had you stuck to the “norm.”

Inspiration Questions

Did you always have a passion for baking?

Yes.

What inspires you the most? Love of cupcakes or love of making things people enjoy?

Love of making things people enjoy.  We do a lot more than just cupcakes.

Where do you get new ideas for new cupcake and icing flavors?

Most of our flavor inspirations come from genres of food and/or drinks that we love.  Mojito, anyone?

How do you come up with new, creative ideas for decorating cupcakes?

See above.  There are no rules.

With the internet and easy availability of so many recipes and decorating ideas, how do you come up with new and unique recipes that someone else hasn’t already done?

Everything has been done.  You just have to put your own twist on things.  It’ll drive you MAD if you get caught up in worrying about other people copying your ideas.

Fun Questions

What’s your favorite part of cupcakes?

No need to dirty a dish to have great cake!  Just peel and eat.

How can you be around all that yummy and not eat it all up?

I eat more cake scraps than I care to admit.   Thankfully, chef coats are cut generously!

Would you bake me a cupcake that wouldn’t make me gain any weight please?

Would that be worth it?  I mean, the naughty indulgent aspect of it is half the fun, right?

Do you ever get tired of the site or smell of cupcakes?

I haven’t yet.

Can I live in your kitchen and be your personal taste tester?

How are you at scrubbing cake pans?  Maybe we could work out a trade. ;)

All photos courtesy of the Look Cupcake blog and website.

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