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Ask the Baker: Karla Jennings of Sugar Cupcakery

JavaCupcake Note: This is the 14th 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.

My name is Karla Jennings and I was one of the creators of Sugar Cupcakery.  My sister Krista Tevar and I started Sugar Cupcakery in the summer of 2009 to meet the growing demand for organic baked goods in the Cincinnati area.  Once we opened the store we started getting a lot of request for vegan and gluten free items, so we slowly started adding them to the menu.

I started baking professionally in the summer of 2009, but I have been an avid baker for most of my life.  Sugar Cupcakery is located in Milford Ohio and is Cincinnati’s first all organic cupcakery.

Website: www.sugarcupcakery.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sugarcupcakery

Twitter: @sugarcupcakery or @__karla__

Personal blog: http://karlajennings.blogspot.com/

*Note* Karla no longer works with her sister at Sugar Cupcakery, but she was gracious enough to still participate in our series.  THANK YOU KARLA!

Sugar Cupcakery was also a contestant on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars!

Bakery Start-Up Questions

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

One of the biggest challenges in starting Sugar Cupcakery was finding organic food vendors that would take us seriously.  There are a lot of organic distributors on the market these days but as a small business its hard to find ones that will invest their time in you.

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

Make sure you are passionate about the business you are about to start.  If you aren’t you will be unhappy.  Starting a small business is a lot of hard work and you need to surround yourself with people that are supportive of you and what you are doing.  Make sure you are well organized and are prepared to have many sleepless nights!  Also networking with local businesses and social networking;  small businesses love to promote other small businesses so getting out and doing grassroots marketing helped us a lot in the beginning.

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

I had a business plan in my head for quite some time now on a bakery that I had always wanted to start.  When my sister called and asked me to help her design the interior of Sugar Cupcakery I knew exactly how it should look.  So the planning process was much shorter than usual.  We started planning in March of 2009 and the store was up and running by September of 2009.  Most business take way longer, I suppose we lucked out that we had a great crew working for us!

Recipe/Ingredients & Baking Questions

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

My cupcakes are always a “work in progress”  I like to base my flavors on what is in season and what I can find locally so I have to be versatile when I’m planning new recipes.

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

Everything is made from scratch.  The only items we buy are the basics.   All the fruit purees are made fresh, as are the caramels and ganaches.

What is the best cocoa to use?

In the store we use Valrhona cocoa powder, it’s a great versatile cocoa.   I am also a big fan of green and blacks.

Inspiration Questions

Did you always have a passion for baking?

I have always had a passion for cooking in general.  When I was a little kid, food brought my family together and so when I think back on my childhood most of my memories are of my family sitting down with food and lots of laughter and conversation.  I love the quote by Marco Pierre White “ Good food is the basis of true happiness.”  I love baking for people, baking appeals to all of our senses and its enjoyable for everyone.

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

I get new ideas all the time, from going out to eat and looking at flavor combinations of teas or gourmet potato chips.  There are so many things around us everyday that inspire new flavor combinations, I love it!

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?

Constant research.  Also when changing the menu seasonally I have to look at what the stores around us are doing.  I never want to offer the same specialty cupcakes as the shop across town.

Fun Questions

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

Haha!  I actually can’t smell them anymore.  But I have recently been told that I smell like cupcakes, I guess I can’t complain about that!

All photos courtesy of Karla’s Flickr! THANK YOU!!

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