Sweet success: Cupcake makers welcome the competition

With the opening of their new Ellicott City cupcakery in the coming weeks, former principals Bill Kerlina and Adell Cothorne of Cooks 'N Cakes are joining the ranks of several bakeries in Howard County that sell cupcakes.

It has been a trend, with television shows highlighting bakeries and, in particular, cupcakes. Currently, there are several bakeries in the county that sell cupcakes, most notably Touche Touchet and Oh, What a Cake, both in Columbia, and Kupcakes & Co., in Elkridge.

Still, no one is declaring a cupcake war.

"We're not concerned," said Michelle Kupiec, owner of Kupcakes & Co. "I'm not worried our customers will go somewhere else — they can go and try them, and that's fine, but our clients are very loyal. We don't see it as competition, we see it as a complementary thing."

Eric Perlman, manager at Touche Touchet, said his business has been "selling a lot more cupcakes in the past few years than when we first opened."

His explanation: "They're quick, easy to eat and they come in a variety of flavors, so it's more than a nice snack, it's an individualized dessert. People like that it's their own thing."

Added Marcia Thibodo, owner of Oh, What a Cake: "Your mind says you're eating less. It's a small thing — three, four bites and you're done. Then you get another."

When Oh, What a Cake opened in Columbia three years ago, Thibodo said her staff was making about 400 cupcakes a week. Now that number is 1,000. And although cupcakes make up about 80 percent of sales at Oh, What a Cake, Thibodo said most of the revenue comes from cakes. A single cupcake, after all, only costs $1.25.

When Oh, What a Cake opened, Thibodo said her only competition was Cakes Plus, in Laurel. Despite more bakeries and cupcakeries opening, Thibodo has kept her price low.

"Our product is still good; it's not cheap because the price is," she said.

Touche Touchet's real profit-earner is cakes as well, Perlman said. Touche Tuchet charges $1.50 for a standard cupcake, $3 for the specialty varieties and $3.25 for gourmet goods.

At Kupcakes & Co., Kupiec said she and her staff make, on average, 9,500 to 10,000 cupcakes a week for retail in the store, events like weddings, and six local restaurants. Kupiec sells her cupcakes for $2.50 each. That price is directly related to the quality of ingredients, Kupiec said.

"We only use the best ingredients," she said. "You want to have the best, you want to feel really great about the recipes you've created. Suppliers come in and offer discounts and we say 'no.' We're true to heart."

As are Cothorne and Kerlina. When their cupcakery opens, they'll charge $3 a cupcake, and $33 for a dozen. Cothorne said the only non-negotiable in her baking, and in the business, is the use of cage-free eggs and European butter.

As Kupiec sees it, there's plenty of room in the county for other establishments.

"There's no drama," Kupiec said. "Clearly, we all love what we do, and we all make great recipes."

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