Cupcakes, edible cookie dough, and French macaroons! Have I died and gone to heaven?! No, but pretty close. Today, I am so happy to introduce all of my readers to Kristen Kane, the brains behind gourmet cupcake and dessert business, Sugar Social. I met Kristen at a networking event several weeks ago and upon sampling a few of her sweet treats, I was hooked and had to know more! After she revealed that she actually works a full-time job outside of Sugar Social, I was even more intrigued. Does she ever sleep? Does she posses some magical super-power that allows her to come up with all of these wonderful creations? It turns out that Kristen is just really hard-working - and really creative. Seriously, edible cookie dough? All of my dreams have come true! Kristen was gracious enough to answer some questions for me, so that I can share her wonderful business with all of you. Read on to learn more about Sugar Social, Kristen, and a little thing called a Smores Bar. What?!?
1. So you started Sugar Social in 2012. What made you want to start a gourmet cupcake and dessert business?
If you told me ten years ago that I would have a cupcake business, I would have thought you were crazy! A few years before I officially started the business, I took an interest in decorating cupcakes. Turns out I was actually good at it. People started asking me to purchase them and the rest is history.
2. What items are on the menu?
Right now I pretty much specialize in bite size treats including cupcakes, cake pops, homemade marshmallows, chocolate dipped goodies, mini dessert parfaits, edible cookie dough, French macaroons, gourmet rice krispy treats, etc. I will do small cakes, but only with weddings that order cupcakes.
3. What types of events do you cater?
At this point, I’m only taking on larger orders for cupcakes, so most are weddings. I still do corporate and social as well.
4. I am a Smores fanatic – I see you not only do Smores stations, but also homemade marshmallows. Tell us about that.
That all started last year when I was doing a champagne themed dessert table. I wanted something other than cupcakes and cake pops, so I made an attempt at champagne marshmallows. They were a hit! Since then I’ve expanded the offerings to other flavors such as classic, mint chocolate chip, strawberry balsamic, pad thai (peanut butter, sriracha, and toasted coconut), cookie butter, etc. You can eat them plain, in recipes such as rice krispy treats, or toast them. Not only do we offer the s’mores station, but for the DIY client, the option to purchase just the marshmallows is available. My personal favorite s’more is my classic marshmallow with bacon sandwiched between two soft chocolate chip cookies. Yum!
5. Edible cookie dough! How can people incorporate this into their events?
A great option is the edible cookie dough station. We scoop it out almost like ice cream and then you add your own toppings such as sprinkles, salted caramel sauce, peanuts, gummy bears, etc. They also make great favors for showers and other events when individually packaged.
6. What are your best-selling / favorite cupcake flavors?
Champagne raspberry is by far my best seller. For fall, pumpkin spice, apple cider, and kettle corn steal the show. Plain chocolate with sprinkles is my favorite.
7. Is there an item on the menu that you are really known for?
Mainly cupcakes, especially the champagne raspberry. That’s definitely my signature item.
8. Any ideas for new items that we may see added to the menu in the future?
My brain never stops with ideas! I have a huge list of flavor combinations I want to try. There are too many to list. I’m currently obsessed with trying to find a small vintage trailer. I want to paint it pink and serve cupcakes out of it at events such as festivals and weddings. My dad is on board with the idea, so I’m hoping to have it ready by next spring at the latest. We’re in the process of finding the trailer at the moment. I’m working on a Kickstarter campaign right now, so keep an eye out for it.
9. Running this business in Pittsburgh where cookie tables are such a big thing, do you see a trend toward cupcakes and more unique dessert stations?
Definitely. A lot of people opt for cupcakes instead of a traditional wedding cake. I’ve noticed that people want to offer a wider variety of items to their guests than cupcakes and cookies, so a dessert bar with plenty of options is a great idea.
10. Have you ever received a really strange or unique request?
I would have to say that my most unique request was a “Nightmare Before Christmas” wedding. The couple went all out. They even had a custom stand built for the cupcakes. I had to draw and paint each topper or mold pumpkins and cut tombstones. I absolutely love Halloween, so I was beyond excited when they hired me.
11. Will you work with clients to create desserts around a certain theme they may have for their party?
Anyone that know me knows that I’m all about a theme, so yes! I’m a pretty creative person so once someone gives me a theme, the wheels start turning.
1. While also working a full-time job, how do you balance the two worlds?
I have no idea. Haha! It’s not easy. I think that the hardest part is the fact that both businesses are event based and most events occur on the weekends. Last year, it was not uncommon for me to sleep a total of 6 hours on the weekends. This year, I’ve cut back a bit by only taking on larger orders. It seems that the two dozen orders were more work than the twenty-two dozen orders.
2. What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own small business?
Go for it! If it’s meant to be, it will work out. If not, at least you tried and I’m sure learned a few lessons along the way. I have no professional training in baking. I taught myself by reading articles, watching YouTube videos and Food Network, and of course trial and error.
3. How do you distinguish yourself in the industry and stand out from the competition?
I’m super detail oriented and I think that goes to show in my work. It seems that a lot of people can just look at a display and know that I created it.
4. What’s the best compliment you have received on one of your creations?
I don’t know if this is so much of a compliment, but one of my proudest moments was in 2012 when I participated in WPXI’s Pittsburgh’s Best Cupcake competition and placed 2nd in taste. I was shocked considering I was fairly new to the baking scene, had no professional training, and was up against some of the top bakeries in the area.
5. Favorite hobbies / things to do in Pittsburgh?
I think my favorite thing to do is eat. Haha! Some of my local favorite restaurants are Ten Penny, Capital Grill, Savoy, Ichiban, Waffles Incaffeinated, and Burgher’s in Zelienople. I also enjoy shopping, traveling, hanging out with friends and family, planning events, and cooking and baking (obviously).