Friday, August 15, 2014
HYANNIS — In a brightly colored kingdom on Main Street, where larger-than-life cupcakes loom over bright tables while Chuck Barry sings “Twist and Shout,” a freshly minted business-school grad sets out each morning to bake just the right number of no-preservative cupcakes to feed people coming to visit “Little Miss Cupcape.”
Too few cupcakes, and she has to close the doors early. Too many, and she must give them away at a local homeless shelter, at the police and fire stations, at the slip where her family’s boat is moored.
OK, that is a bit of a fairy-tale beginning to this story, but once you visit the shop and talk with owner Taylor Stump, 22, you get the feeling there is a bit of magic involved here.
“I was never planning on graduating from college in May and having a business the next month. But if we didn’t do it now, someone else would do it,” Stump says. “My mom was my fairy godmother. Actually my whole family was.”
While Stump was taking final exams, her mom, Tonya Stump, was buying antique dining sets, sanding away dings and painting them in cheery red, pink, aqua and yellow. Friends and family — dad, Kevin, and siblings Sydney, 21, Avery, 17 and Rhyees, 9 — helped transform a back room into a birthday party room.
Dubbed “the cupcake queen” in high school in Ohio, Stump, who lives at home with her parents who relocated to the Cape, says she’s been lucky for other help as well: a local pastry chef who helped better organize the professional kitchen, and Mark Dirico, a craftsman and builder of real houses, who designed the Cape Cod cottage boxes “Little Miss Cupcapes” come nestled in.
Getting to the shop before 6 a.m. six days a week, Stump makes 12 varieties of filled cupcakes ($3.50 each) from scratch — including Buoy Buckeye, Chocolate Shark Attack, Lighthouse Lemon and Red Sox Red Velvet — usually making three dozen of each, but increasing the numbers on rainy days which, she says, seem to be busier. She’s baking faster six weeks in, meaning she doesn’t have to delay the store’s daily opening as she did a couple of times after the bakery’s June 15 debut because the cupcakes weren’t ready. Nothing is frozen or kept overnight, so it’s a very immediate business.
“Homemade cupcakes are a denser, heavier product than store-bought, which have air whipped into them,” Stump says, noting that stock is held and often frozen.
The homemade sweets need to be eaten that day, as they will get stale and the frosting doesn’t hold its shape long without refrigeration because it contains only butter, sugar and vanilla — no hydrogenated fats to stabilize it.
There’s also a create-your-own bar for people who want it their way. An employee makes the cupcake based on your choices. Options include flavors of cupcake and frosting (or no frosting since the filling itself is sweet), with candy toppings (50 cents each) and even a scoop of Cape Cod Creamery’s vanilla ice cream (that combo comes in a bowl).
“Now that’s a cool thing,” says Ian Clark, a tourist from Saratoga, New York. “We have cupcake shops, Betty’s Cake, Patty’s Cake, but I’m not sure we have make-your-own.”
Stump says she’s well aware of the competition and of trendsetters who say the cupcake — after years of replacing cakes at weddings and other fancy events — is on its way down.
“I know Crumbs just went out of business, but I don’t think they did things right. There wasn’t enough variety,” says Stump, whose parents are helping get “Little Miss Cupcape” off the ground, in what Stump calls a tradition of family support for entrepreneurs.
“A cupcake is meant to be shared with one person. I want there to be an experience when people come in.”
While you can expect a ‘50s and ‘60s rock-and-roll soundtrack in the store, you won’t find Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler there every time as he was a few weeks ago. The little shop quickly filled up with tourist — many tweeting and posting to Facebook — when Tyler stopped in.
“He was just a kid in a candy shop. He was awesome,” Stump says. “I was star-struck, but I kept my cool. I was professional.”
Stump says, “I’m ready, I think. I’m ready for cupcakes to be my life.”