JavaCupcake Note: This is the 11th post in the “Ask the Baker” series featuring interviews with bakers and bakery owners! Click here to see the complete list of bakers being interviewed. Check back every Tuesday for a new interview!
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about what you do in the cupcake world and how/when you got started.
I’m Porche Lovely and I own Lovely Confections Bakery. We are located in Denver CO at 1489 Steele St. Unit C.
Our website is www.LovelyConfectionsBakery.com
Our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/LovelyConfections
And you can find us on Twitter @Cupcakes_Denver!
Our focus is on making the finest, artisan cupcakes using organic, local and natural ingredients. We are an eco-friendly company. We use sustainable packaging, and we compost and recycle too. We use compact florescent light bulbs and were able to reduce our electric bill by 50% when we switched.
We also donate as much as possible to non-profits because we want to be an integral part of our community.
Bakery Start-Up Questions
What was the biggest challenge in starting your bakery/baking business?
The biggest challenge was finding a location that was already a food service establishment (to minimize expenses) and finding the best source of funding.
Any business tips you can share that has made your bakery a success?
Make your business unique. Give customers a compelling reason to visit your bakery.
How much time did you spend planning before you decided to take the steps to make your bakery a reality?
I started writing my business plan in March 2007. I finished it and got a loan commitment that summer and then started shopping around for location. It took me until December 2007 to sign the paperwork on my location. I was so surprised it took that long! We opened the first week of February 2008. The biggest hold-up was waiting for the oven to arrive.
How much time does it take to run your business? More or less than you anticipated?
There isn’t enough time in the day to run a small food business. I closed the bakery for Thanksgiving weekend last year and those were the first real days off I’ve had since I’ve opened. That’s right, I went almost 2 years without a full day off. I haven’t had one off since then! Twelve to fourteen hour days are the norm. Longer days make appearances regularly.
What type of tools, gadgets, and gizmos are necessary for fantastic cupcake production?
A good oven that bakes evenly, a good mixer, ice cream scoops and piping bags.
Recipe/Ingredients & Baking Questions
What do you consider to be the perfect cupcake? What flavors and textures would it have?
Both should have flavor! I don’t like cake and buttercream that just tastes like sugar. Yes, sweet is good but give me flavor too! Our cupcakes tend to be more dense than others, especially places that use cake mix. The buttercream too is a bit more substantial because we use a lot of butter. I love butter.
How many times do you have to “re-do” a recipe before you get it right?
It took me the longest to develop by Red Velvet cupcake recipe. I use a natural food dye so that took some time figuring out how to use correctly. I tend to wing it a lot of times, especially weekend flavors. Thankfully I’ve been baking long enough that I have a good feel on how to make things work.
What is your favorite cupcake recipe?
My carrot cake recipe! And the coconut, vanilla, and chocolate too. It’s hard to pick!
How much is made from scratch and how much is purchased pre-made?
1000% scratch made! We grate carrots, zest lemons, make our caramel sauce, ganache, etc.. We also make our own fondant. I’ve even colored my own sprinkles.
What is the recipe for a foolproof cupcake batter? Just a perfect basic recipe that can be doctored with extras to suit any taste.
Hmm…. We actually have different recipes for the different flavors. I don’t just put coconut in the vanilla cake. Or lemon extract in the vanilla cake to make lemon. When you bake from scratch, the technique can be just as important as the recipe. Like I said above, make your cupcakes your own. Make them unique so my foolproof recipe won’t help. :)
Where do you purchase all those fun different sprinkles you use to decorate your cupcakes with?
A fabulous wholesale company who shall remain nameless.
How do you get your cupcakes all the same size?
Ice cream scoop.
Do you have a Vegan Chocolate cupcake recipe?
No- I love butter and eggs.
Do you have a delicious recipe for a trans-fat-free cupcake?
Simple- don’t use hydrogenated shortening.
What is the best cocoa to use?
I prefer a 22-24% cocoa powder.
I love buttercream… what’s your favorite recipe for it?
Start with any good butter and flavorings and you’ll have a great buttercream. I won’t share my recipe though.
How do you make the icing just the right sweetness?
I’ve found sweetness to be subjective. Some people think my buttercream is perfect and some think it is too sweet. Some think my chocolate buttercream is too chocolately! (Who knew there was such a thing.) And others love it because it isn’t too sweet.
How do you get great control of a pastry bag and make those mile high swirls of perfection on top of each cupcake?
Don’t overfill your bag and hold it from the very tippy top. If you do, it’s like writing with a four foot long pencil. It just won’t work. The stronger your hands get the more you’ll be able to fill a bag.
Did you always have a passion for baking?
What inspires you the most? Love of cupcakes or love of making things people enjoy?
Both. I have a deep love for the craft and science of baking. I’m a big nerd so the chemistry of it all is fascinating. Baked goods are magic. They can turn peoples’ days around and make a good day a great one.
Where do you get new ideas for new cupcake and icing flavors?
Everywhere! What are new, interesting flavor combos that aren’t currently a cake but could be?
How do you come up with new, creative ideas for decorating cupcakes?
We have a signature look for most of our cupcakes. We do make custom cupcake fondant toppers though.
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?
I think the most important thing is that you are unique in your area. Surf around the internet for inspiration, read books and magazines and then put your own spin on it. This is why it is important to be unique. Being unique allows you to put your spin, touch, etc. on something that you saw someplace else.
What’s your favorite part of cupcakes?
All of it!
How can you be around all that yummy and not eat it all up?
It is a business. Remember that! The business’ job is to make money. Yes, we make people happy with cupcakes and it is wonderful but you have to make money. The reason you can’t eat it all up as the bakery owner is that it (your cupcakes) is your profit margin. Your profit margin keeps you in business. Your profit margin is your paycheck.
Would you bake me a cupcake that wouldn’t make me gain any weight please?
Julia Child said “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Seriously though, with a balanced diet and exercise a cupcake isn’t going to make you gain weight.
Do you ever get tired of the site or smell of cupcakes?
No, but a lot of these days I can’t smell how yummy the bakery is. It just smells ‘normal’ to me.
Can I live in your kitchen and be your personal taste tester?
If customers come in at the right time, they are my taste testers.
All photos courtesy of the Lovely Confections website.