Today's cupcake interview is not with a cupcake maker, but a cupcake wrapper maker! We're sorry we missed Carrie when she was in New York, but hope she'll be back so we can meet her in person. Stay tuned for a contest here to win her wrappers soon.
You can find out more on their blog, see photos in their Flickr account, and order Bella Cupcake Couture wrappers here.
Name: Carrie Middlemiss
Location: Newcastle, WA (Seattle)
Occupation: Owner of Bella Cupcake Couture
How and when did you come up with the idea for Bella Cupcake Couture?
For many years I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoyed discussing different business ideas with friends and family. In March 2008, I was working for Washington Mutual as a Division Marketing Manager. I sponsored a women’s small business conference called CRAVE. While at the event I was inspired more than ever by all the entrepreneurs and wanted to find my own “thing” ASAP.
One of my biggest passions in life is baking and entertaining so I started to focus on my strengths and my love of cupcakes. I felt there was already so much out there with kids themes to decorate a cupcake. I wanted to figure out a way to make it elegant and stylish for adults. I could not stop thinking “How can I cover the bottom part of the crinkly, translucent cupcake baking liner and make it even more adorable?” I continually envisioned some very cool designs around the bottom. And voila -- Bella Cupcake Couture was invented.
How did you go about making it a reality?
Once I had the idea I began to research day and night. I would read anything about cupcakes that I could get my hands on. Your website (CTTC) was an excellent resource for me. I also read a lot of business magazines and spoke to different entrepreneurs. I put together a business plan, which really helped keep me focused on my goals and how to achieve them.
Then, in September 2008 I learned WaMu was bought by Chase. I wasn’t certain what the future held with my current career so decided to pursue my dream company (Bella Cupcake Couture) ASAP. I moved very quickly and by December 2008 I had my designer and knew how I was going to produce them. I also learned I would be laid off in June with WaMu. Although I enjoyed my career with WaMu, it felt like this new path I was taking was meant to be. I’m loving every minute of it!
What makes your cupcake wrappers “couture?”
Similar to haute couture, all our designs are custom-created and made from high-quality materials with an extreme attention to detail and finish. The product when assembled into its cupcake shape has a continuation of the pattern with an intent of not showing any “seam”. We also use a recycled linen paper which when viewed closely the grain of the paper looks identical to fabric.
Each design has a ladies name; Lu Lu, Olivia, and Hannah. They all enjoy wearing their high-fashion and cupcake couture for special events.
Your wrappers are sourced locally and use soy-based ink. Can you tell us more about what that means and why it’s important to you?
I’m a big advocate of recycling. So I felt it was very important to do my part when creating my product. I also felt since my product would be near food, I wanted to use an ink which a) generally is food-safe and b) wouldn’t have the smell of toner. Although it doesn’t touch the food and would be ok, I still didn’t like the thought of standard ink to even be near it. Soy-based inks are also better for the environment. I also wanted to support local business and keep it U.S. made. So all in all both are a win-win-win for everyone.
Do you have any special instructions for using them?
They come unassembled flat, which is great for shipping and protecting the shape of the wrapper. In one step you then insert a little tab into a slot on the other end and it becomes a sweet little cupcake wrapper. Then simply bake or buy your favorite frosted cupcake and set inside wrapper for an elegant finish.
Are most of your orders for special events?
Yes, most are for weddings, baby and bridal showers, birthdays, and other celebrations. We also have several “just because” orders. I’ve seen fathers buying our cupcake couture for their cupcake-loving daughters who are off at college across the country. Lots of sweet stories.
Do you have any serving suggestions for getting the most out of your wrappers?
For a clean, elegant look we suggest using one color scheme such as our Lu Lu Black and White with your choice of frosting. Or for a fun vibrant finish a mix and match of multiple colors and designs really make events festive. We’ve been very careful to select colors which compliment each other so you really can’t go wrong here. Personally I like lots of frosting piled high; sort of like a cute “up-do”.
Which of your wrappers is most popular?
Definitely the Lu Lu Black and White. It is extremely popular!
Which is your personal favorite?
That is a tough one, I love them all in their own special way. I really like any of the designs in Chartreuse/Yellow and also the Hannah Citrus/Bright Pink. My husbands favorite is the Hannah Red/White because it is so striking.
Are they available in stores, or only via mail order?
Yes, both. We sell them online and have several retailers throughout the U.S. and now “down under” in Australia as well.
What sizes do you offer?
Currently our wrappers fit standard sized cupcakes. However we’ve received great feedback from our customers on other sizes and even other food-related wrappers they are interested in. We are always looking for ways to innovate. Stay tuned in less than a month we should have another size available.
What’s your favorite use of your cupcake wrappers that you’ve seen?
There were some cupcakes done for a biology student's graduation party. They had a darling frog-themed cupcake stand. The baker used our Olivia blue and chocolate brown wrappers that have a swirl design, which she used to look like waves of water. It was so cool!
How often do you introduce new designs?
We plan to release new designs in line with the fashion world; Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer.
We’d like to ask your readers, What designs or colors would you like to see next? Please send a comment through our website so we can look into offering them in the future.
What’s next for Bella Cupcake Couture?
We’ve had a great launch along with lots of terrific media coverage. As a result of this sweet success, we are producing more Bella Cupcake Couture wrappers than ever before. We will be passing these savings onto our retailers and customers. Therefore recently we lowered both our retail and wholesale prices.
We are also beginning to look at holiday designs and additional offerings as well.
And now for some personal questions…
How often do you eat cupcakes?
Lately, A LOT!! As you know, I was just in NY for cupcake tasting and the Fancy Food Show. Then I went to Austin. I must have had 30+ cupcakes this last month. Generally though, probably 1-2 every week.
What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?
Variety. There are so many different options out there to try. I have a hard time only buying one when I visit a cupcake shop. I’m always wondering how they ALL taste.
What's your favorite type of cupcake?
I seem to be drawn to the peanut butter and caramel flavors. I do still dream about a key-lime cupcake (The Hemingway) I had at Sugar Mama’s in Austin recently.
How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?
Cupcakes are the bomb! I enjoy a macaroon now and again also. Mmmm perhaps a macaroon baked in a cupcake would be good.
Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?
I’m always on a mission to make the cupcake even more adorable. I would love to hear from others on what I can do to bring it to life.
However for my own personal consumption, I’d love to try some of the savory cupcakes I’ve heard about with wine pairings. I heard Sweet Revenge in NY does that and really wish I could have made it to her place during my last visit. Marlo and I also share a similar story of how we got our start in the cupcake community. It’s wonderful to see someone bringing their dreams to reality.
Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?
I do bake my own but I really enjoy trying other peoples creations.
What's your first cupcake-related memory?
Growing up, my mother and I always seemed to be baking. She always made enough desserts to feed an army. However I’d like to share my first favorite cupcake community-related memory. That was the day I decided to go to Cakespy, Jessie Oleson birthday and one year anniversary party held at Cupcake Royale here in Seattle.
I was so excited to meet up with other cupcake lovers and she welcomed me with open arms. She is the sweetest little thing and we have stayed in contact til this day. I even sponsor her fantastic Cakespy.com website right now.
What's the most fun you've ever had with a cupcake?
I really enjoying doing cupcake tastings with friends. I buy half dozen or so and we sit around each taking a little bit and critiquing them. Some of my favorite moments are listening to some of the guys really get into it. They have some serious opinions about flavors, textures, combinations and more. It is quite amusing and enjoyable.
Do you have anything else to add?
We are excited to share that we are on the Knot for all the brides out there and going to be featured in a few magazines later this Fall.
Lastly, thank you for the interview. We always enjoy your posts and are happy to be a part of them. You ladies do an amazing job.