OTTAWA — Call it a bubble, a boom, a rush. Cupcakeries remain on the rise. The trend has been sweeping the country in spite of the Great Recession and continuing tough economy, and it has hit the Lima region in a big way.
Like a gold rush or oil rush before it, this sugar rush is drawing out home bakers in the region to move from hobby to business.
A few days a week, Nicole Black rushes from her job with Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio to her new storefront on Ottawa's Walnut Street, Oh My Ganache. The cupcake business has grown gradually and is now taking off.
“I did a lot for family and friends, and then I was doing farmers’ markets for the past two summers. People wanted to get cupcakes more than once in a while,” Black said. “The retail spot kind of fell into my lap. It’s taken on a life of its own. I love baking, and I love how excited people are when they I’ve done something for them.”
In Van Wert, Tiffany Spray and Stacia Grose will open Cake Crazy in downtown Van Wert by the end of March and are already doing big business online.
Consumer demand for gourmet cupcakes continues to grow, inspiring reality television shows and new baking businesses with cute names across the country.
“It’s been trending for several years. Everything comes to Lima a few years down the line," dessert baker Sara Anderson joked.
Anderson takes direct orders for treats and sweets and also has an exclusive agreement to provide desserts, including the cupcake trio, for The Met in downtown Lima. The trio, three mini cupcakes with flavors that change monthly, costs $4.49 at the wine bar.
For February, those flavors are chocolate raspberry, red velvet cheesecake and cappuccino chip. Keep those in mind when thinking about one reason economic experts use to explain the growth of the cupcake, the “affordable indulgence” theory. It’s the same theory behind a $5 cup of coffee.
“That’s absolutely true,” Anderson said. “Even when times are hard, and you won’t spend $30 to go out to eat, you will splurge $3 on a cupcake.”
“It’s a little taste of somewhere else," Black said. "It’s everyone’s personal piece of cake. It’s perfectly decorated; you don’t even need silverware. It’s a perfect little dessert.”
If the cupcake is an indulgence, it’s also comfort food. It turns out that people in West Central Ohio are fans of more than one kind of buckeye. Black and Anderson both pointed to some kind of combo of chocolate and peanut butter as customer favorites.
“People here seem to enjoy the classic flavors,” Black said. “They like things that are comforting, nostalgic, but I do try to put a spin on it.”
Anderson is hoping to transition from a part-time endeavor after her day job to a full-time baking vocation. Anderson believes the novelty of a custom-flavored cupcake will last.
“Yes, you can go the store and get a dozen vanilla cupcakes,” Anderson said. “But you can’t get Twix, or peanut butter hot fudge, or monster cookie. What I like about creating things for The Met is that we get to be creative, and come up with whatever sounds good.”
Anderson will soon have a website, in addition to her Facebook page. Black said social media played a huge role in the growth of her business; she has nearly 1,000 likes on her page.
“That part has been amazing. Social media and word of mouth have helped me grow the business more quickly than I expected,” Black said. “I’m just one girl in Putnam County, word of mouth and making sure people get a good product.”
The cupcake craze is heightened at the moment, especially on Facebook, as bakers make specials available for Valentine’s Day. The selling point is that a dozen cupcakes is better than a dozen roses.
Knowing her Catholic customer base, Black is also running specials now, because Ash Wednesday comes just a day before Valentine’s Day this week.
“We have special themed days all this week, and I’m open extra hours,” Black said. “And I’m hoping people don’t give up cupcakes for Lent.”