So you think you’re ready to open a cupcake shop, right? Cupcakes practically market themselves, right?
The cupcake business is booming, and customers have shown that they are willing to pay for delicious cupcakes made with quality ingredients in traditional and experimental flavors. With many bakeries using our POS systems, we’ve spoken with our customers about what differentiates them from the ever-growing list of local bakeries.
Lucky for you, cupcake marketing has just gotten a little more fun, because some of the most successful cupcake shops have blogs, and here are all the great ways they’re using them.
Five of the Best Cupcake Marketing Strategies
1. Add a sprinkle of personality
Muddy’s Bake Shop in Memphis, Tennessee’s blog is a revelation. It provides a look into the personality of the staff. Their energy jumps off the screen. This post about their recent baking demonstration at a music festival is just one example. Their Fun Times at the Bakery category, as well as their posts about interesting accessories found on Etsy, provides a look into the personalities behind the bakery. This bakery has retro charm and an energetic staff that must help with repeat business.
2. Share behind-the-scenes baking on social media
Pink Cake Box in Denville, New Jersey features many of its special event creations on its blog. They make desserts for everything from weddings to birthdays to baby showers. In addition to the beautifully photographed cakes and cupcakes, they also blog about what happens behind the scenes. One can view a post about a cupcake tower with a fondant topper and read an article about fondant further down on the page.
3. Build stories around seasonal flavors
New Yorkers have known about MagnoliaBakery for years. Popularized by appearances on Sex and the City and Saturday Night Live, Magnolia cupcakes are world-famous.
Their blog centers around a monthly theme, with specials to match. Magnolia’s September theme is peanut butter, just in time for back-to-school. Instead of a page with links to separate articles, their blog is one page with many small entries accompanied by mouth-watering photographs.
4. Build wedding rapport
Sweet and Saucy Shop in Long Beach, California specializes in special event baking. Their blog is full of beautiful event photographs, primarily weddings. The beautiful backdrops and people featured in their weddingposts are a nice addition to amazing dessert tables with delicious cupcakes and other baked goods.
5. Shoot and post videos
Babycakes Bakery has locations in New York, Los Angeles, and at Walt Disney World. Their blog contains posts on events happening near their locations, the leatest news on vegan and gluten-free living, and, most interestingly, videos. Recently, cook, author and ex-pat living in Paris David Lebovitz visited BabyCakes NYC to talk about the bakery’s donut recipe. The video is informative and fun, providing a glimpse into BabyCakes NYC that a still photograph is unable to do.
Three Questions You Should Ask Before Opening a Cupcake Bakery
Sure, cupcake marketing seems like a breeze. The focus on one great product at three, four or five dollars a piece sounds like a simple idea. But prospective cupcake shop owners should remember that like any business, there are lots of hard costs and paperwork to account for. It’s no wonder there are so many cupcake trucks out there eliminating the storefront idea and taking their show on the road.
1. What costs should I consider?
It’s downright expensive. “I wish I knew that it would be much more expensive than I thought it would be. I wish I knew that the bottom was about to fall out of our economy,” says Nancy Sepe, of Nancy’s Fancies in Providence, RI.
“License fees, taxes, payroll, & more taxes take a big chunk of what you make. Ingredient costs keep rising every day,” she adds.
The folks at Monumental Cupcakes in Jamaica Plain, MA add, “everything, everything costs money; the dishwasher repair, the electric bills, the sales taxes, payroll tax, insurance, the garbage collection, paper supplies, office supplies, phone/internet, ingredients, equipment, the list of expenses is never ending and seemingly ever growing.”
“Get a very realistic sense of the cost of doing business and then stay healthy and strong for the long hours and hard work,” they added. Yes, it’s like running any other kind of bakery. Don’t forget to account for all of the extra ingredients you’ll need for taste-testing new products. Hey, who thought you’d ever be able to write off cupcake-tasting? It’s also important that these bakeries use a top POS system to run their operation.
Taz from Cup&Rol in Providence, RI says, “There are a lot of things that I wish I ‘d known before I opened my shop, I can’t even count, but life is full of lessons and we learn every day one by one.”
2. What will I sell besides Cupcakes? (Shakes, anyone!?)
One of those lessons that many cupcake shop owners have learned, is that offering a tasty beverage to compliment their baked goods can go a long way. “We just started to offer home made lemon ginger iced tea that we brew on premises and we use New Harvest coffee beans for our coffee,” says Taz.
Monumental Cupcakes doesn’t have really have a choice in the matter, saying “for us, considering our location and the fact that we have really good art shows every month, it’s best to offer drinks too. People come in to look at the art show in the winter and they’re craving a hot cup of tea or coffee. In the summer they ask for refreshing cool lemonades, ice teas or ice coffee shakes. We also want to offer our customers healthy alternatives to the cupcakes, so we have a carrot juice machine for fresh, all natural carrot juice and a blender for blueberry or banana smoothies.”
Even so, drinks are yet another expense to add. “We have coffee and tea, cappuccino, etc. but they do not make nor break us,” says Sepe (Nancy’s Fancies) “Some people get drinks, most do not. It was a big investment for coffee and espresso machines; one that will take a while to break even on,” she adds.
3. Whats my cupcake marketing plan?
Marketing a product—any product—isn’t easy and almost always costs money. That’s why it’s essential that owners outline a restaurant marketing plan for their cupcake business. At Cup&Rol, they highly advocate social media marketing, saying, “We are very into social media marketing, such as Twitter. We do a Twitter Tuesday Event where we pick one of the flavors that’s submitted by our followers and make it on Tuesday.”
Sepe from Nancy’s Fancies says that she’s still working on a marketing strategy (aren’t we all), but that “being on Cupcake Wars has helped. I have been in business four years and the one thing I can offer is that location and ample parking is key in survival.”
Monumental Cupcakes says it’s all about word of mouth (how could it not be, right?) “The thing that as worked best for selling our cupcakes is people trying them. People absolutely love our red velvets and chocolate ganache… love them,” they told us. “Our repeat customers and word of mouth has been our most successful marketing technique. We make a great product and it speaks for itself.”
How true that is. People don’t just want cupcakes, they want great cupcakes. It’s like the business model at Peanut Butter & Co. in New York City. Sure, people can make their own peanut butter sandwiches at home, but can they make maple peanut butter sandwiches? How about cinnamon raisin peanut butter sandwiches?
Learn Cupcake Marketing from the Best Cupcake Stores in New York City
There are more than 60 different cupcakeries in New York City, so to try and pick the best of the best would be difficult. Since city staples like Crumbs and Magnolia need no introduction, we dug into some local favorites and some not-as-known favorites. Some don’t even have a storefront, but New Yorkers swear that ordering a dozen to pick up will have your tastebuds in happy tears (that’s drool).
As always, we hope you’ll add your favorites into the comments so that all the well-loved cupcake joints get some love!
Brooklyn Cupcake is possibly the most widely known spot on our list. People flock to Brooklyn Cupcake like kids to a pixie stick. One customer says, “The cake is soft, extra-moist, super-chewy, and has just the right balance of savory and sweet. The icing is the same – it’s almost like a sweetened whipped cream, light and airy but decadent. None of that heavy sugary icing here – this stuff is the truth.” The truth.
Their menu boasts the popular New York flavor, Guava, along with timeless treats like Peanut Butter and Jelly and Red Velvet.
Brooklyn Cupcake is located at 335 Union Ave (between Maujer St & Grand St) in Brooklyn, NY.
Nine Cakes is a bit of a pop-up shop. “Betsy Thorleifson doesn’t have a bakery storefront, but she does sell cakes, pies, and cupcakes. Don’t let the lack of commercial space fool you. This just means that your order is fresh and made especially just for you. For the rest of us, we’re just lucky if Betsy makes a guest appearance at a fair or farmer’s market,” remarks one reviewer.
Another, takes an intense look at Betsy’s cupcake creations from a deeper, fundamental level, saying, “By embodying the basic principles of focus on the cake, rather than the frosting, helped elevate the flavors and delicacy of the application. Ultimately, a good piece of cake was made. The frosting? Did exactly what it was supposed to be further enhancing the buttery sweetness of the cake.”
This magical woman of cupcakery gets virtual high-fives from all over the web.
Nine Cakes is (technically) located at 155 Columbia St (between Irving St & Sedgwick St) in Brooklyn, NY.
Tonni’s Minis’ shop owner Tonnie Rozier was a contestant on Cupcake Wars and emphasizes that his cupcakes are made in small batches and baked with love. The favorites here seem to be the Red Velvet and Carrot Cake. One reviewer confirms, saying “Red Velvet and Carrot are simply the best I have ever found and others are a very high caliber.” Another notes, “I’ve tried several different cupcake spots… Magnolia’s, Crumbs, Georgetown, Baked by Melissa… and they all get the job done, but Tonnie’s takes the (cup)cake.”
Tonnie cooks up cupcakes in three sizes: Cupcake Shot, California Cupcakes, and Hollywood Cupcakes. Their “Golden Heart” cupcake is a unique twist on the usual red velvet. It’s red velvet cake, inside their yellow cupcake, topped with cream cheese icing.
Tonnie’s Minis is located at 264 Lenox Ave (between 123rd St & 124th St) in New York, NY.
Allison and Matt Robicelli of Robicelli’s are another neighborhood favorite, serving up creative flavors to neighborhood eateries. They don’t have a storefront per say, but they do have many places to go pick some up; a bunch in Brooklyn, and a few in Manhattan. They have a branded microretail location at the Gourmet Guild in Brooklyn.
Customers lose their minds for these cupcakes, which rotate four flavors every day. One online reviewer calls their buttercream frosting “smooth as silk and thick as fog” while another says, “eat as many of these as you can before their buttercream becomes a controlled substance.”
They switch up their flavors from day to day, but a few past batches include the The CPB (chocolate cake, peanut butter buttercream, ganache, roasted peanuts), The Duckwalk (vanilla cake, blueberry port syrup & buttercream, wild Maine blueberries) and The Elvis (banana cake, peanut butter buttercream, brown sugar candied bacon).
Molly’s Cupcakes is one of a two-store chain in New York and Chicago. One local paints a picture: “Nestled into a cozy corner of the West Village, not too far from the hustle and bustle of West 4th Street, a bright little bakery shines out, 90s music bumping from inside, swings hanging from the ceiling as a unique sitting option. From a glass case gleaming with so many delicious options, it’s hard to choose just one to indulge in. ” Another professes her love for lemon meringue: “That lemon meringue is something to come back for…again…and again….and again…and again….”
The menu at Molly’s has lots of classic flavors, but has a nice selection of center-filled cupcakes that make customers drool. The Ron Bennington is one of their most popular cupcakes and is a combination of peanut butter, butterscotch and chocolate.
Molly’s Cupcakes is located at 228 Bleecker St in New York, NY.
Heavenly Crumbs is a tiny little shop in the Bedstuy area. “The frosting is far superior to any frosting I have had ESPECIALLY the berry—you can see the berry seeds in the texture,” says one excited fan. Another says they’re a bit of a hidden gem, explaining, “Shannon and her crew don’t have lines down the block like some trendy spots in Manhattan, but in my opinion they can’t be beat. ”
And they have passionfruit frosting. Need we say more? This photo to the right is of their “Brooklyn Sunshine” cupcake.
Heavenly Crumbs is located at 355 Franklin Ave (between Greene Ave & Quincy St) in Brooklyn, NY.
Now it’s your turn! Here are just a few, but out of 60 different cupcake shops in New York, including a dense population in the Brooklyn area, tell us your favorites!