As a kid, I brought the same cupcakes to school every year on my birthday: yellow cupcakes with strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla frosting from Brenner’s Bakery. My favorite was always the strawberry. That was cupcake life in the 1980s. Our students no longer bring cupcakes to school because of food allergy rules, but at home they can select from cupcakes that 1980s children could never even have imagined.
Last Thursday, I went to a complimentary cupcake tasting hosted by Boston Bloggers at Sweet Cupcakes on Newbury Street. After meeting the owner, Courtney Forrester, we tried signature cupcakes (such as chocolate and vanilla vanilla), gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes, Bailey’s cupcakes, and cappuccino cupcakes (all washed down with milk and hot chocolate).
I loved hearing about the story of Sweet just as much as I loved the vanilla vanilla cupcake. Courtney Forrester developed a passion for dessert and cupcakes after the rise of Magnolia Bakery and Sex and the City, and parlayed that passion into developing her own small business. An avid baker, she wanted to offer guests in her home more than one flavor, but realized that doing so would require her to bake several dozen each time she had guests. She also saw a great business opportunity in that there were no cupcake shops in Boston at the time, then pounced on the opportunity. Initially she wanted to bake and sell in the same location, but found that startup costs for building the required infrastructure were prohibitive. She figured out a great solution by setting up a bakery at a Hyde Park location that had already been outfitted for a now-defunct confectioner. Over the years, she has continued to have more business adventures, including a special order of a rock star cake by Bon Jovi that was delivered to the Fleet Center for Richie Sambora’s birthday.
The Sweet cupcakes shop looks effortlessly fresh, light and pretty, with touches of pink and brown. Courtney Forrester cited Laduree macaron shop as a stylistic influence, and she shows that influence in details like the bakery case, the flatscreen tv which plays scenes from retro movies like Marie Antoinette or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the custom wallpaper. Even the packaging was carefully designed. The thought and effort that went into the overall store design definitely paid off–Sweet is perfect for a lighthearted spring jaunt down Newbury Street.
Though it stays consistent in look and feel, Sweet seems to always be adapting based on feedback and new opportunities. Leftovers are often donated to organizations like Lovin Spoonfuls, Pine Street Inn, and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. In addition to the myriad cupcakes, there are pupcakes (tested by Courtney’s beagle), gluten-free cupcakes (made in Belmont by Natalie McEachern), nut-free cookies, custom cakes, wedding cupcake towers. The custom orders in particular reflect an understanding of customer demand. Customers can have logos or monograms printed on rice paper via the edible printer…this is great for weddings, marriage proposals, or prom proposals. Sweet has even extended to the “reveal cake” business by offering up cakes that are filled with pink or blue buttercream.
The cupcake tasting gave me some teaching inspiration too:
1) How do you plan the amount of ingredients needed to have 50 cupcakes left over each night?
2) How do you use sales data to estimate demand for each flavor?
3) How can you convert a cupcake recipe for making a cake?
4) How can you design a cupcake tower?
Though my beloved Brenner’s strawberry cupcakes are long gone, I’m happy to find lots more amazing ones at Sweet!