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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why I started a Kickstarter campaign!

This last week I launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund my branding idea, delivering Amanda Cupcake to your town. Click here: Amanda Cupcake Kickstarter

The main reason that I did this was because I've had this vision that could be supported by my customers and fans. It is, Amanda Cupcake: Delivering The Brand to Your Hometown. I've heard that all successful entrepreneurs have a "vision", and that is one of the most important part of things being a successful brand, right?

My vision is that my little cupcake brand can change lives.  Since I've actually said this out loud the last few months, I have had people who were greatly inspired by this and motivated me to do it! And there have been others who laughed at it like I am silly, they didn't understand how a tiny little cupcake could change someone's life.  I've seen what a little cupcake can do to change peoples lives. That's how I got started. When I first started baking for people as a fun thing, I had never seen anything I had done before make people jump up and down and squeal with joy like the cupcakes I made for them. (And I was training to be a missionary. I didn't even know at the time that cupcakes might just be my "mission").  Everyone here has a different purpose and role to fill, I was just given a mission with cupcakes as my medium.  This isn't that new of a concept though.  There has already been a Willy Wonka!

My inspiration in all that I do is a lot like what Walt Disney did with his brand.  Except Amanda Cupcake is the edible everything is made of sugary sweetness version of something like Disney.

Since I moved out of the cupcake mansion in July, I've had quite a few people ask where I am, where they can buy my cupcakes, if I am going to bring my cupcakes to their town, etc. The reason I moved out of the cupcake mansion in New London, Wisconsin was because I rented the space, it was not my own and because of that Amanda Cupcake didn't have the freedom to grow there.

My business took off really fast 4 years ago when I first started.  There were so many things that I did on a whim because I just didn't know and hadn't learned yet.  I was super excited about all of the fluffy overnight success Amanda Cupcake was getting! If I knew that I was going to be moving out of the cupcake mansion after 2 years of being there and trying to establish my "cupcake mansion" brand, I would have waited for the perfect cupcake mansion! The cupcake mansion that would have been fully owned and operated by Amanda Cupcake and her cupcakeateers where we could fulfill all of the promises that come with the name, "Cupcake mansion" ♥.

The first few years as Amanda Cupcake, I was saying yes to everything and anything because I am a giver and honestly I am a passionate person who wants to do it all! I had no idea that it was ok to say no sometimes, it wasn't how I was wired. People called me the cupcake superhero, after all!  I was pulling 18-24 hour days without sleeping.  I did this for a constant 3 1/2 years.   I figured that eventually things would get easier and that I would be able to get to a point where I didn't have to work those long days or hours if I just worked hard enough and shared my love and passion with others.

What actually ended up happening is that I moved into a transitional church kitchen after the cupcake mansion, had to scale my business way down to be able to fit into the smaller business model I was in, so it ended up being me doing most everything-baking, decorating, delivering, doing the business end of everything, and being the face of the company. I had a helpful and passionate intern that helped me (Kayla), and family members and friends that helped me that I am grateful for too.

In November, I ended up in the hospital ICU because I was doing too much, my body was tired and the doctors told me that I needed to find balance in my life and stop overdoing it. Because the entire business model was based on me and my personality, everything kind of came to a mini halt. I still kept my product going at my retailers.  But this little hospital incident forced me to stop for a little bit and reconfigure my life and my business model. Something had to change. ♥ The people that loved me told me they wanted me to give up, they were concerned about my health.  But I knew that if we did this the right way, that there was something really special about this.

I started working on my business model just as much as I had worked on my cupcakes. I met with mentors, took mini business courses, and read books on how a healthy business runs.

What I discovered during this time is what I am great at.  And that is taking an idea, and turning it into a brand. I am like a Creative Director.  I am an entrepreneur.  The reason that Amanda Cupcake took off so fast wasn't just because of the yummy cupcakes.  It was because of the love and the values behind the brand.  I could probably master almost anything if I put the passion of my entrepreneur spirit behind it. ♥   So it wasn't me that should be stuck in the kitchen behind closed doors trying to do it all. As Amanda Cupcake, I should be out meeting people, being the face of the company, being the "creative director" of my company, "changing lives" through my cupcake brand!

I had already been in the kitchen for several years, and had mastered 4 basic recipes that could sell at retailers.  I already have a relationship with a big box retailer that has several stores that are starting to ask when I am going to expand.

Four basic recipes that my fans love and buy all the time!

The more I learned, the more I saw a clear direction for Amanda Cupcake.  I decided I would simplify my line of cupcakes to best sellers (3 or 4 best sellers + a special seasonal flavor for every holiday) and start working on distributing them to all the different extensions of the big box retailer I have been working with.  I would hire one person and train them to understand my recipes.  And as we grew, I could hire another helper.  And as we perfected our art of production, we could license the Amanda Cupcake brand, train other retailers with fixed kitchens exactly how my recipes are made, and they could help us make the cupcakes too. Eventually there might just be Amanda Cupcake teams everywhere ♥ That would give us the time to do other fun things with the brand. Amanda Cupcake merchandise?  Amanda Cupcake at home parties?  A childrens recipe book that I have already written and is just waiting to be read?  And in the end, we could fund our own "Cupcake Mansion."  You name it. I saw this entire vision in front of me and I knew it could work.  Even if it had to start small and take time!

I knew that I had to ask for funding to back me and help me grow since I would be relaunching my business on a whole new path, after several setbacks.  I don't want a lot of funding maybe just like $5,000 as a boost to get me going again.  I was even offered a commercial kitchen (that is still sitting there waiting for me to move in).
Funny thing is, I was contacted by a potential investor in the midst of all this business planning.  He told me that he had $$ sitting there and he wanted to use it to help a hopeful business with potential. We talked for over a month and a half, and after a whole month of working together on my new business model, he bailed.  And when he bailed, he was one of the people who told me my business plan was "flawed" because I believed that something as small as a cupcake could change lives.

It was super frustrating, I cried many tears behind closed doors. I had thought that this was it, that I had my funding and the chance to relaunch. The fact that he bailed also set me back on moving forward.  I had to start all over again, this had been a new learning experience.  This learning experience was that I had to invest in myself, and lean on the people who actually believed in me. I grew again as Amanda Cupcake.

I went to several banks, but the silly thing about banks is that they won't offer small business loans under a certain amount.  I suppose they want to make sure they are also making money off of the loan they are giving.

I already have this awesome brand just ready to go, ready to do great things. I've tested it in this area, I am stopped on the street everyday by people telling me they love my cupcake brand. It is discouraging that I am on hold.

So after doing more research, I came up with a Kickstarter campaign. Why? All of my fans are the ones that believe in this crazy idea I have of changing lives with cupcakes. Some of you have been following me and supporting me from the very beginning.  So why not launch a Kickstarter and give you the opportunity to be a part of the growth of my brand with me? You are the ones who have been with me this entire time, or who may have never eaten one of my cupcakes and might need one to change your life, if even for the minute that you eat the cupcake!

There's this comedian that I look up to, his name is Olan Rogers. I relate to some of his experiences. His dream was to open up a Soda Parlor and a lot more than that. (You can find him on Facebook or Youtube, his videos make me laugh so hard I cry).  One of my favorite quotes from him was this, I really identify with it.  "There Will Be People That Will Say You Can't Make A Living Out of Something You Love To Do.  But Are you Really LIVING By Not Doing It?"

He sold this poster to his fans to help him fund his dream of opening up the Soda Parlor. And now his soda parlor is open ♥ Go Olan!  This right here, is what inspired me to launch my Kickstarter funding. I have my own posters and other merchandise that I made if you help me fund this, too! Here's the link again:  Amanda Cupcake Kickstarter

I am typically known as this glittery cupcake queen with a smile on her face, so this was something that was hard for me to sit down and reveal. I feel pretty vulnerable right now! Even a cupcake queen is human.  What some may not know is how many long nights, early mornings, sore joints, wet shirts from doing dishes, and frosting splattered pants I've been through and then gone out to make public appearances after the same night so that I can share my passion.   There were many silly mistakes I made as a business owner in the past (oh, don't we all and that is how we grow!) but I also sit down and look at everything I've done in the past 4 years and see what I've done right too.  What I've done right is all there, just ready to do great things now. I also believe  and want to use all of my experiences to help other business owners too in their entrepreneurial adventures! 

If this Kickstarter campaign doesn't work to help fund me, I will have to problem solve again to figure out the right path for Amanda Cupcake. I already am actually. ♥  There are other things I am considering for Amanda Cupcake, I have thought that perhaps my brand should be a non-profit organization? That way we truly would be changing lives through cupcakes.  And perhaps, maybe somehow if I follow this in the right direction, Amanda Cupcake will continue to do really fun and great things.  To do great things, a small business thrives on community support, and then gives it right back ♥.

What I do know is that I won't move into a manufacturing kitchen and turn myself into a single walking cupcake factory again ♥.  I am still in the transitional church kitchen until I receive funding so that I am not moving on a fluffy whim this time, I am moving forward with intention.  I am itching to get out and move forward,  but I must begin with the business model that I have in mind for it all to come together.   

This is my quick youtube video about the story I just told you!

order these rainbow colored cake pops right off of my Kickstarter

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Eggless Sugar Cookie Dough, one of my BFFS.♥

Definition of a BFF in my world:  A cupcake's best friend.
Every cupcake needs a BFF in a world full of fluff.
Yesterday was one of those days for me.

Whenever you put yourself out there like I do, you will be paid in return with LOVE. But when you pour your heart and soul out to the public, sometimes you'll receive the opposite.  It is a risk you take, especially when you blog,  become a business owner, or voice your dreams, wishes, and opinions to the public.  This week I received a statement on my public blog saying that I don't care about my fans because I haven't been on my blog lately.   I won't go into details as to why I've been a bit behind, but I plan on doing some really wonderful things going forward.  ♥   I think their statement stuck out to me more than any other critique could have because I do everything one girl can to share my love of baking with you, I've dedicated the past 4 years of my entire life to do that and want to dedicate the rest of my life to doing amazing things to share the love of what I do with others. I recently told someone I wanted my cupcakes to change lives and I want to prove that it can be done!   I have a whole plan and I want you all here with me ♥ I've already shown that it can be done, little by little.  I've made cupcakes with Girl Scouts of America, the Make A Wish Foundation, the Sibling Network of Wisconsin, and delivered cupcakes to people with leukemia to cheer them up.

So I made a little sign dedicated to moving forward:
(Thanks to T-Swift for the inspiration)

And here's a long awaited recipe for you...
One of my favorites that I created out of an Amanda Cupcake BFF
(Sugar Cookie Dough):

Eggless Sugar Cookie Dough, Recipe:
(You can roll this into balls, poke with sticks, and dip into chocolate and sprinkle with LOVE like I did above, scoop on top of cupcakes with an ice cream scoop like a big ball of frosting, or eat right out of a jar...or a bowl.. or off of a spoon. I could go on and on and on. It's amazing, really):

1 Cup Butter (softened)
1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Flour
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Malt Powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons Milk or Almond Milk
4-6 Cups Powdered Sugar

Cream the butter and milk together in a stand mixer, using flat beater attachment.  Gradually add remaining ingredients (except for the powdered sugar).  When ingredients are creamed together, gradually add powdered sugar until you reach desired sweetness or desired texture.  If you are rolling into balls to dip into chocolate or candy melts, you will want the texture to be sticky like play-dough.  If you are going to scoop on top of cupcakes, you want the texture to be just like sugar cookie dough (as pictured above).  If you are just going to eat it out of the bowl, add just enough powdered sugar so that the dough tastes sweet enough for you!

To make the cookie dough balls:
Roll the sugar cookie dough balls by hand:  Using your hands, roll into 1 – 1 1/2”  balls and set on parchment paper lined baking pan.  Refrigerate for appx 1 hour.  Refrigeration helps harden the cookie dough balls so that they are solid enough to coat with candy melts.

Melt candy melts.  In microwave proof bowl deep enough for dipping, melt candy melts, in 15-30 second increments in the microwave, stirring in between until melted and smooth.  Do not over microwave or candy melts will burn and harden.

"Glue" sticks into truffles using melted candy melts. (I enjoy using mini wooden popsicle sticks for the cookie dough pops).  
Dip the tip of each stick  into melted candy melts, and insert this end of the stick all the way to the bottom of each cookie dough ball. Repeat for all cookie dough pops and let the edible candy melt “glue” set for appx 5 minutes.

Dip sugar cookie dough balls into melted candy melts:  
Holding onto the stick, cookie dough ball upside down,  dip each pop into bowl of melted candy melts and lightly spin, to coat the entire ball with candy melts.  Hold cookie dough pop upside down and let excess candy melt drip off. Stick the bottom of the cookie dough pop onto parchment paper so it can sit flat on a pretty platter.  While the candy melts are still wet, sprinkle with rainbow heart sprinkles or your desired sprinkle of choice. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

How to throw a Cupcake Party fit for a Snow Queen ♥

People always ask me...
"Why do you share your baking tips with others?"
Because I love to teach, and I believe everyone has their own style when it comes to baking and decorating cupcakes.  Every cupcake is an original.  I haven't always been a Cupcake Queen. I was a Cupcake Student at one time too! Some of my favorite online bakers that I learned the most from are I am Baker and Bakerella.  Because I've learned from others, I pass on the knowledge. Pay it forward ♥

This early winter, I taught two cupcake classes at the Royal Palace, Givens Farm in Hortonville, Wisconsin ♥ The theme:  By popular request..Disney's movie "Frozen".  The ambiance was perfect.  Glittery snowflakes were falling both nights I taught classes.

I even wore glittery eye make up and a braid to look like Snow Queen Elsa.

Have you seen the movie yet? I enjoyed watching Frozen because while it channeled my love for classic Disney Princess nostalgia for the first time in a long time (think Sleeping Beauty, Snow White), Frozen empowered Disney princesses in a very different way than any other Disney princess movie has!  
Plus..there is this snowman named Olaf who makes the movie worth watching.  Snow Queen Elsa creates him with her snow queen magic.  It is the first time since Frosty the Snowman that I have wished for a snowman as a best friend.  Olaf is the kind of fun snowman friend that would take a sunny tropical vacation with you. You have to watch the movie to understand!
 I shared some of my Cupcake Queen magic with the class, and we all created our own Olafs.  His huge smile made all of us smile.

His nose was made out of Cheddar Bugles.  They look just like carrots!  Using a clean pair of scissors, we cut them down to fit the size of his sweet cupcake face.

On a pan lined with parchment paper, we poured melted chocolate candy melts into a disposable piping bag or ziploc bag and cut a tiny hole at the end of each baggy.  We piped out the little "branches" for the top of his head onto the parchment paper.  We used the same technique to make the big smiles. While the chocolate "smiles" were still wet on the parchment paper, I centered a piece of Trident gum on each chocolate smile for Olaf's tooth.  Candy melts dry really fast, but I like to "set" all of my pieces in the refrigerator when I am done piping because all the little pieces of handiwork are very fragile and they tend to break if too warm.  The colder the little chocolate pieces are before you handle them, the harder they are and the less likely they are to break apart or melt.

Since I am super detail oriented, I piped Olaf's famous eyebrows on his little edible sugar eyes using the melted dark chocolate candy melts (you can find the sugar eyes at local cake decorating stores).   
Look at how many Olafs I had in the kitchen with me when I was practicing for my class!   Every Olaf will look different, but I think that's what makes your hand-crafted Olaf cupcake charming.

When throwing cupcake party classes, I love using these little painters palettes to put the sprinkles and edible gems in!  You can place your cupcake in the center of the palette as the centerpiece. Some of my favorite sprinkles for a Frozen Cupcake class:  Mini Snowflake Sprinkles, Edible Pearls, Chocolate Covered Blueberries, Disco Dust, Hot Pink Nonpareils, and Lavender Sixlets that look like giant pearls.

As a class we made handmade "Frozen" hearts and princess names by piping them freehand onto parchment paper.  (Hint:  If you're not great at freehanding, you can find any shape clipart you desire on the internet.  Parchment paper works awesome as tracing paper.  You just print the clip art out on a piece of paper, place under the parchment paper, and trace over the art onto the parchment paper with your candy melts).

Elsa, Anna, and Olaf. 

Remember those princess dress cakes from your childhood?  We recreated those princess dress cakes as cupcakes!  ♥  All you have to do is find your favorite picture of your favorite princess..and glue the paper doll to a toothpick.  Once you have frosted your cupcake to look like a puffy ruffly princess skirt, you can insert the paper doll.

The perfect flavor for a Frozen themed cupcake class?
 Blueberry Velvet cupcakes.
Rich, Royal and "Iced" for a Snow Queen.
Recipe for Blueberry Velvet Cupcakes here.
Recipe for Fantasy Rainbow Frosting Swirls and Buttercream Frosting here.

The lavender colored cupcakes remind me of Anna more than Elsa. I used a dot of Americolor Regal Purple Color Gel Paste in white buttercream to achieve this color!

I love using oversized chocolate covered blueberries on top of the cupcakes. Edible gems!

Student Art! Pretty amazing!

Last but not least....
(She who leaves a trail of glitter is never forgotten)...
Each student received a capsule of non-edible glitter as a gift (and a warm hug) from me!  At the end of class, we each opened a capsule of glitter and threw a fistful of glitter into the wind/snow.  If that won't make you feel like a Snow Queen, I don't know what will.  I told the students to feel free to make a wish as they were throwing the glitter.  (I found the glitter in cute little capsules like this at the dollar store-nail art actually, but perfect for this occasion).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Adorable ZOMBIE Cupcakes!

I made Zombie Cupcakes.
You might say this is as "dark" as my dark side gets.

Pink and Green Frosting Brains, sprinkled with sugary bones.
Candy Melt Mouths with little white zombie fangs piped on.
If you didn't notice, the pink zombie has just been bitten by the green zombie.
He is transforming into a Cupcake Zombie.
My little Cupcake Zombies might be more adorable than scary.
..And they are really fun to play with when you are done decorating them.
Perfect for The Kid at Heart.

Cupcake Zombies in a Cake Pop Forest.

There are so many scary things out there in the world.  I thought...if I am going to make Zombie Cupcakes, they should be fun and adorable with a little glob of scary on top. That's my style. Zombie Love.

And this is how you make Zombie Cupcakes come "alive"!

1.  Bake & Fill the red velvet cupcake zombie bodies with strawberry jelly or cherry pie "guts".

2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

For the "X" eyes:  I used multi-colored mismatched M&Ms, and laid them out flat on the parchment paper.  I piped little "X" shapes onto the "eyes"out of a piping bag that was filled with melted white candy melts. The white "X"'s have to dry before you can put the eyes on the zombies.

For the hungry zombie mouths..

I used Dark Chocolate Candy Melts, and cut them in half so that one side of the round candy melt was flat. These were also laid out flat on my parchment paper.

Some of the zombies were just bitten so they don't have fangs yet. Poor things.  They look bewildered.  I piped little fangs onto the candy melt mouths of the hungrier zombies with a piping bag filled with melted white candy melts. 

You'll need to pipe an electric green or electric pink frosting swirl on top of each zombie so you can put their "face" together.  The big fat zombie frosting swirl was made using my buttercream recipe (see below) and a 1A Round Tip at the end of a piping bag.

I added the "brains" on the side of the frosting swirl by "bashing" the zombies in the head with a cake pop stick. (You could also use a toothpick). This indented the frosting on the upper side of the zombie frosting head and made room for me to pipe swirl of contrasting frosting in that "hole" in the zombie's head.  The brains fit perfectly.  Are you getting hungry?

Stick the eyes and mouths on the zombies.
Scary..but adorable ♥

I made these too. Matching red velvet zombie cake pops.
These are a little less adorable and a little more scary.
All the cupcakes and cake pops are completely edible.
even the BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Zombie Unicorn Cupcake, made by one of my Cupcake Students, Natalia.
Made with a Bugle Horn, A Marshmallow, Edible Ink, and assorted candies!

Red Velvet Zombie Cupcake Recipe by Amanda Cupcake:
3 Cups Flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup veg oil
2 1/4 C Sugar
1 1/4 C Buttermilk
2 Eggs
2 T Red Color
1 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 C Water
1 tsp almond extract
1. Preheat oven to 325  and line your pans with 24 cupcake liners.
2. In one large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. In stand mixer, cream Vegetable Oil, Eggs, and Sugar together. After you have creamed these together, add your vinegar to this mixture.
4. In separate bowl, combine/ whisk liquids together: Water, Vanilla, Buttermilk, and Almond Extract.
5. Alternate the addition of dry ingredients & liquid ingredients to the creamed mixture. 
6. Add red color at the very end to make sure red velvet color is vibrant. Like Zombie Blood Red.
6. Fill Cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 18-22 min at 325 or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Buttercream Frosting Recipe by Amanda Cupcake:
1 lb butter (softened)
1 T Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8-10 Cups Powdered Sugar (depending on how thick you want your frosting to be)

Cream the butter in your stand mixer.
Mix well until fluffy and well blended.
Gradually add a pinch of salt and vanilla extract.
Now add your powdered sugar, slowly until the frosting reaches desired consistency.
(The more powdered sugar you add—the more stiff the frosting will be for decorating).