Ask the Baker – Sabrina of The Immortal Bakery

JavaCupcake Note: This is the 12th 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 on Tuesdays 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.

Sabrina, The Immortal Bakery, Seattle Washington, private cupcake baker to anyone who wants something delicious, homemade and different!  I’m the new kid in the cupcake block, but a baker who has had more kitchen time than many with shops. I love baking, it’s what my life is aside from my husband and sons.  I make flavors that other cupcake bakeries haven’t done yet or look to for inspiration for their own flavors. If it’s a bit wild we’ve done it. If it’s a flavor recreation (Like Orange Creamsicle) then we’re your place.

The Immortal Bakery Facebook Fan Page-  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Immortal-Bakery/170824986991?ref=ts

Bakery Start-Up Questions

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

Trying to get customers without a physical location. It seems to be the only drawback so far in my cupcake world!

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

Variety, never be afraid to try something  new. If nothing else you learn your strong suits and know what ingredients you should proceed with caution around.

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

I had been dreaming of a bakery since I was about 20 years old, although I had thought it would be a cookie bakery since that was what I thought was my strongest ability. Little did I know cupcakes would be something I would be known for.

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

Much less time, originally I thought I would be baking from dawn til dusk, being a custom made to order cupcake baker allows me to spend more time with my family and work activities around my baking schedule.

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

The hand mixer, without it I would be nothing. Many bakers love their stand mixers, I am old school in this belief. The hand mixer allows me the control I need and the feel to know when my batter is perfect! I adore my hand mixer.

Recipe/Ingredients & Baking Questions

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

A moist cake, deep with flavor and layers to the flavor topped with a frosting made not too sweet but sweet enough to carry the cake. Never too much frosting and always a frosting & cake complimenting each other!

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

I’ve been very lucky with this department, about 20 of my flavors I’ve gotten right the first go. My chocolate has been the toughest of the bunch, I set standards HIGH when it comes to classic flavors. Vanilla took a few months to tinker with to perfection, but I’ve gone through and made around 10 or 12 different chocolate recipes. I’ve always felt I could do better, I could just get a better cake if I tried harder. I’m really pleased with my chocolate cake now. Hard work paid off!

What is your favorite cupcake recipe?

Well, favorite to me is two ways. Favorite to bake would be my banana cupcake. I love that lil guy. When he’s baking it’s such an amazing smell and the recipe is one that is engraved to memory from doing it so much. My favorite to eat? My S’mores cupcake! The cake coupled with the frosting and the graham cracker. I can’t stop eating them!

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

The only thing I purchase are the ingredients, the butter, the sugar, the jam is homemade but bought from a vendor (Johnson Berry Farm) at Pike place. I make my own Dutch apple filling/Apple bacon filling, but I do try as much as possible to do what I can to give my cupcakes the homemade just like Mom/Grandma feel to them.

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

A thick batter is always one that is a great baking batter, I’ve found that the thinner the batter the easier it is to have something go wrong with it. I can’t really say one batter is better than another but most vanilla recipes can be doctored to make various flavors from it with just a few basic additions.

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

I tend to shy away from sprinkles or froo froo on my cupcakes. Many people can do anywhere and have a fancy cupcake these days. The real challenge is finding a plain, classic and clean looking cupcake. That’s what I gravitate towards when I used to buy cupcakes from others, stores, etc before baking cupcakes myself. I feel that too much added on top takes away from the flavor and the clean design of the cupcake itself.

How do you get your cupcakes all the same size?

Never, but that’s what makes them fun! People can have uniform cupcakes at most shops but I love that mine do offer a variety in way of size. I know people like having more frosting on one, a little more cake on another, each dozen of cupcakes ordered from me offer that to people. They’re just like people, each one is different in a way. Keeping things different is definitely what The Immortal Bakery is all about.

Do you have a Vegan Chocolate cupcake recipe?

Yes, yes I do. Do I use it often, no, no I do not. I’m all about full flavor, full fat, full everything. I made the recipe for one vegan friend, I’ve made it a couple times, it’s a great one but it’s not something I’ve ever been interested in baking full time.

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

Cupcake and fat free are two words that in the same sentence confuse me. Going out on a limb here and being blunt, anything in moderation as long as it’s not a health risk (like with diabetes) or an allergy is perfectly fine. Many people these days expect a miracle with baking. Many do not understand there is not a 20 calorie cupcake that tastes like a 200 calorie cupcake. It does not exist and something will always be missing from it. Full flavor, rich ingredients and great depth is what makes the cupcake perfect. Subtract any of that and it’s not my cup of tea. I have to say no, no I do not nor will not have a trans fat free cupcake.

What is the best cocoa to use?

Hershey’s because when you add other ingredients to it, it holds up amazingly.

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

Your basic powdered sugar, butter, milk and extract or jam are the perfect combination for me! Buttercream is everything!

How do you make the icing just the right sweetness?

That’s a pretty big secret that I have to keep to myself right now. I’ve got something I use in our frosting that I’ve not seen many bakers of today use, but actually was something my grandmother and Nanny were the ones who taught me to always incorporate into a frosting.

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

I don’t use a pastry bag, I prefer Ziploc bags with my pastry tip on them, it gives just enough resistance for me to do our signature rose tops!

Inspiration Questions

Did you always have a passion for baking?

I have, since I was very little. I would sit and watch my Nanny and mother bake and always would be so excited when I was asked to help. I started with the standard Nestle Toll house cookie recipe, the next year I concurred a Swedish Cherry pie and a Pumpkin Jelly Roll for Thanksgiving dessert. I was hooked on baking from the youngest memory I have.

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

My family inspires me, since my boys were born they’ve had home baked goodies. I always felt that extra time was well worth it and worth making the memories for them to remember. Second it’s seeing people happy. I love watching people eat our cupcakes and the expressions that come onto their faces. Especially when they try a flavor they’ve never had before like our Pad Thai or Maple bacon!

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

Life, and through remembering things I enjoy eating. Maple bacon was obvious to me, my husband and I love dipping our bacon in syrup when we have pancakes. He gave me the inspiration for the Pad Thai when I was trying to come up with new flavors. Pad Thai is something our oldest son absolutely loves. I love a great pork loin with apple, hence where our Apple bacon got its start. Life though, childhood and what makes me feel happy eating.

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

I’m not really big on decorating; I find that too much takes away from the cupcake. Too much time spent on what it looks like and never enough time spent on the flavor itself is a problem I have with some bakers these days. Clean, classic and full of flavor. That’s my frosting decorating motto.

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?

Being a baker who has had quite a few of my flavors taken, it’s not an easy thing. Right now we’ve got the first Pad Thai cupcake out there. I know eventually many bakers will try their hand at that. It makes me happy they’re inspired by something  we did first but it’s also hard since I’ve had multiple flavors that were signatures (such as our Maple Bacon) taken as quickly as new menus were posted up.  I just try to stay ahead of flavor trends and sometimes not even listen, just go with my gut and create a delicious product that others aren’t doing.

Fun Questions

What’s your favorite part of cupcakes?

Seeing people eat them!

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

Remembering that I’d like to keep the figure I have!

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

Our banana cupcake is one of the lower calorie ones, as long as you ate one or two I don’t think you’d gain any weight! I’d be more than happy to create something for you.

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

Never, why get into a business where you are tired of them. I sometimes get physically tired, but never tired of the cupcakes. They’re innocent in the war for sleep. Haha.

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

My kitchen isn’t too terribly big, would a walk in closet and trips to the kitchen be okay? And yes please, sometimes I worry my sons say “YUM” just so mom gets the cupcakes out of their room. Haha.

Thanks to Sabrina of The Immortal Bakery for the photos!!!

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