Monday through Saturday, I’m dolled up and dressed to the tee. Flared dresses, ruffled skirts, frilly tops, feminine tanks, tapered pants – all make an appearance and all are usually paired with flats and some sort of statement piece of jewelry. Come Sunday though, I have an embarrassing and guilty pleasure I indulge in. I spend the day in my coziest outfit, sewing or crafting and noshing on my favorite sweet, cupcakes. I’ve ordered from the same cupcakery since the first week I moved to Philadelphia, Philly Cupcake. I usually eat way more than a girl my size should (although I leave some to hold me over during the week) and I usually regret my indulgence by midweek but I just can’t resist their delicatessens. Each cupcake has more frosting than any cupcake I’ve ever seen or eaten but it surprisingly doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the cupcake. I still taste the spice of the red velvet cake despite the massive amounts of cream cheese frosting on top. And whatever flavor, Coconut, Twix Dream, Reese’s Peanut Butter Massacre, or BananaRama, each is topped with an extra something good, vanilla wafer, white chocolate, Nilla Wafer, etc. Being the curious one that I am and because I’ve been a customer for so long, I wanted to interview the bakers behind Philly Cupcake’s mini cake creations. I also thought it would be a fun departure from my normal patternmaking, sewing, or fashion related posts. When I asked, Corrine, the sort of the secretary of Philly Cupcake who handles different odds and ends and is the loveliest lady (she’s always is a gem to talk to), asked Kathleen, Vanessa, and Megan, three bakers at Philly Cupcake, if they would be willing to be interviewed, all three ladies accepted. During my interview, I found out that they were just as excited about the interview. They wanted to find out who that crazy lady was that placed an order every single week for the past two years. So the Saturday before I left for Florida, I spent the day in the kitchen of Philly Cupcake chatting and laughing with the three wonderful bakers. Here are my questions and here are their answers.
Kathleen: All three of us went to culinary school and all three of us can do everything in this kitchen, which depends on the day and the shift that needs to be covered.
Megan: I attended Johnson and Wales in South Carolina and graduated eleven years ago. I chose that campus for no particular reason other than it was important for me to be close to the beach. I started out bulk catering with a focus on desserts. I moved to L.A. but moved to Philadelphia shortly after and had a friend who worked at Philly Cupcake and said, “Oh, it’s wonderful, you have to come work here, you’ll just have so much fun!” and I thought you can’t beat fun. Someone once told me that you should pick a hobby that you like to do and make that into what you do for your career. So that’s what I did.
Kathleen: I received my bachelor’s degree from a college in Maryland and after a few internships, I realized that I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day. So I enrolled and attended Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Oregon. I’m from New Jersey so when I graduated, I moved home and worked at another cupcakery in Philadelphia. Shortly after, I moved to Maryland to be closer to my boyfriend but realized soon after that I did not like Maryland as much as I thought. So I moved back to this area and a friend of mine saw a job posting as she was walking by Philly Cupcake and passed it along to me. I applied and the same friend who told Megan to work here received her bachelor’s degree from the same school I did. So she interviewed me and I got the job.
Vanessa: I’m the newbie of these two. I graduated from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College last summer and like Kathleen, I chose culinary school because I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day. I worked here while I was in school and haven’t left.
Maddie: Tell me about a typical day or a typical shift.
Kathleen: There are about three shifts per day. Two to four employees, a baker, a batter prepper, and/or a cake decorator, arrive at the store at 5 a.m. and then depending on the day, another employee arrives around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. to open the store. At around 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., shifts change. All shifts are theoretically eight hours but if you finish your work early, then you’re free to leave.
Maddie: What is the difference between a baker and a cake decorator?
Kathleen: I always consider the difference between the two positions as working on one side of the kitchen versus another but technically the baker scoops the cupcakes and puts them in the oven and preps the batter for orders needed for the following day or for the baker who will be scooping the next shift. The cake decorator takes the cupcakes out of the oven and divides them, separating any cupcakes for special orders, and frosts them (side note: this is my favorite part of the cupcake).
Maddie: What position do you like better, being a baker or a cake decorator?
Kathleen: It depends on the day. If there is a cupcake or an order I am not confident in decorating, then I’m not going to be happy decorating it. And then there are those days when eighteen batters have to be made and it can be overwhelming. So both positions have their challenges and their rewards.
Megan: I like baking more than decorating. There is a sense of satisfaction of having a certain amount of orders or cupcakes that need to be completed and being able to check it off once it is complete.
Maddie: What is your favorite cupcake? It doesn’t have to be from Philly Cupcake.
Megan: My favorite is the Chocolate Chip (side note: this is one of my favorites too)
Vanessa: My favorite is the Dulce De Leche or the Tiramasu
Maddie: Wait! What? There’s not a Dulce De Leche here!
Kathleen: We don’t serve it very often. It’s a special or a featured flavor that we only carry sporadically. They’re a lost but not forgotten flavor.
Kathleen: I used to really like the Chocolate Coma but I think… I don’t know… it depends on the day. I know that is lame excuse but…
Maddie: No! I completely understand. I hate placing an order on Thursday because I don’t know what I’ll be craving on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Kathleen: I can always go for a Chocolate Coma but Mocha Chip is another favorite of mine. Because it’s a special or a featured flavor, I always take one home. I’m a chocolate kind of girl and I admit that I eat day old chocolate frosting to satisfy my chocolate cravings. Don’t worry, though, the chocolate frosting is still fresh even after a day.
Maddie: For a baker, how many are in a dozen? Twelve or thirteen?
Megan: Well, there is the adage of a ‘baker’s dozen.’ Technically twelve is in a dozen but to a baker, thirteen is in a dozen because it implies there is an extra one, an extra to put aside for yourself or for another.
Maddie: What is your favorite baked good other than cupcakes?
Kathleen: To eat or to make?
Maddie: Ooo… good question. Both.
Vanessa: To eat, I like eat bread but to make, I like to make…
Megan: I like to eat pie!
Vanessa: To eat, I like to eat bread but to make, I like to make cookies.
Kathleen: I like to bake sweets but to eat, I like savory.
Megan: I like eating sweets but I like making savory. Mostly because I make sweets all day so when I go home, I’d rather cook than bake. I don’t bake at home unless someone specifically asks me to bake something for them.
Maddie: What is the most unique flavored cupcake you have ever heard of or come across?
Kathleen: I don’t watch Sweet Genius or Cupcake Wars, but the bakers on the show make carrots and chile pepper cupcakes (side note: yuck)
Megan: I once saw a cupcake made with feta cheese and I thought, “That’s doesn’t seem like a good cupcake.”
Maddie: Certain dinners are paired with certain wines. Would you or can you apply the same to cupcakes? Is there a certain dinner that can be paired with a certain cupcake?
Kathleen: Oooo, I really like that question. It’s clever. Well, I can pair a certain wine with a certain cupcake!
Maddie: Well, wine can be dinner. That’s totally fine with me!
Kathleen: My fiancé has a major sweet tooth and he loves it when I bring home a vanilla cupcake with strawberry buttercream or a strawberry cupcake with vanilla buttercream. He’ll eat it with an iced wine, which is basically dessert.
Vanessa: I wouldn’t pair a certain dinner with a certain cupcake but I would pair a hearty or a big dinner with a cupcake because sometimes we want just a little something sweet to top off a big dinner. It’s a little bit of sweetness that makes the meal hit the spot.
Kathleen: I would pair a Mediterranean pasta salad, with grape tomatoes and feta cheese, with a lemon cupcake. It would all go – very summery, very light.
Megan: In my opinion, I would pair ethnicity with ethnicity, meaning that if you’re serving an Italian dinner, then a tiramisu cupcake would be perfect and if you’re serving a Mexican dinner, then a black velvet cupcake would be perfect. That’s how I would pair a certain cupcake to a certain dinner – spice to spice. Oh, and another one, meatloaf and mashed potatoes with carrot cupcakes.
Maddie: What’s the biggest mistake made when baking at home?
Megan: Not double checking measurements or adding just a little extra. A lot of people think a little extra won’t hurt but it actually does.
Kathleen: Overfilling the cupcake tins.
Maddie: I am definitely an over filler. While I fill the tins, I always think worst case scenario is that it meshes into one cupcake. Not a big problem.