This cupcake interview is with Jenn McKinlay, author of the new cupcake murder mystery Sprinkle with Murder (click here to read my review). Stay tuned for a cupcake recipe from the book and a giveaway!
photo of Jenn McKinlay by Lesa Holstine
How did you come up with the idea for a cupcake bakery mystery series as well as the specifics of Sprinkle With Murder?
I was already writing a decoupage mystery series, so I had mysteries on the brain. Then in the course of one week, I listened as a soon to be married coworker agonized over what flavor cupcakes to have in her wedding cake tower, then my agent’s partner blogged about how she checked out the local cupcake bakery in every city to which she traveled, and finally, a dear friend stopped by my house to tell me that a cupcake bakery had opened nearby and that they sold shots of frosting, which I had never heard of before. Shocking! It was the rule of threes and just like that I knew I had to set a mystery series in a cupcake bakery.
Are there any real-life bakeries you used for inspiration? How much research did you do into cupcake bakeries?
Lulu's Cupcakes is just around the corner from me. When I started writing, I stopped in there and Lisa (one of the bakers) gave me a tour of the kitchen and let me check out all of their appliances. She was lovely and very knowledgeable. I have visited most of the cupcake bakeries in the area, but Lulu's is my favorite.
The heart of the mystery centers around a bridezilla, Christie Stevens, who demands to own the recipes Fairy Tale Cupcakes plans to make for her wedding. Did you hear any similar stories from bakery owners?
Not so much from the bakery owners, but I have been in a lot of weddings so I've had some up close encounters of the bridal kind. It's simply amazing how an otherwise rational girl just loses her mind when she puts on the big white meringue.
There's also a cupcake bakery rivalry going on in Sprinkle With Murder, and Mel flings frosting at a competing bakery owner in a fun, memorable scene. With cupcake bakeries popping up all over, that seemed a realistic element (not the frosting flinging, the competition). Was there a specific inspiration for that scene (other than all of us probably having been tempted to fling frosting at one time or another)?
That one was pure imagination. But wouldn't it be just delicious to give an annoying person a frosting smack down? Pun intended.
You also write decoupage mysteries under the name Lucy Lawrence. How are the cupcake bakery mysteries similar to and different from the craft mysteries?
They're similar in that they are both cozies, which to me means that they are about characters I consider my friends in settings I'd like to reside. They're dissimilar in that I think cupcakes lend themselves to a wackier voice than decoupage, so the cupcake series is a little more out there.
You're part of Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, featuring food mystery authors. Why do you think this subgenre has proven so popular?
We all have to eat! But even more than that, I think this subgenre is like good company and comfort food. It combines good friends and good food which are the joys of life. At Mystery Lover's Kitchen, we have it covered. We've all become very good friends and we each have our own food of interest. Avery Aames shreds the cheese shop, Julie Hyzy serves up the White House chef, Riley Adams smokes the barbecue joint, Cleo Coyle brews the coffee house, and Krista Davis reigns as our domestic diva. With so many of us contributing, there is always something happening at Mystery Lover's Kitchen.
Which is your favorite of the recipes included in the book?
The Tinkerbell! Raspberry buttercream on a lemon cupcake! Yum.
Who do you see as your target audience for this series?
Anyone with a sweet tooth and an irreverent sense of humor.
Can you give us a hint as to what the series' future holds?
Tate and Angie -- I'm just saying.
You just held a contest to name a cupcake in the next book, Buttercream Bump Off, which was won by Mat Matazzoni with "Calamity Cream." Can you tell us about any other notable entries?
Oh, I had so much fun with this! There were some truly great ones. Two of my faves were: Lucy's Liver MORE! Cupcakes for Doggie Divas and Cloudberry, crocodile cupcakes, a cupcake with a snap!
If the books were to be made into films, who would you want to play your main characters?
Elizabeth Banks would make a spot on Melanie Cooper. Jamie Lynn Sigler would be a perfect Angie DeLaura. Bradley Cooper would be Tate Harper with an edge (which he'll need later)! James Franco would be a heart stopping Joe DeLaura.
On your website, you refer to yourself as a "dessert-freakosaurus." Can you elaborate on how that manifests itself in your life?
My college roommate Annette and I would frequently go out to eat in the wee hours of the morning. We usually ended up at a Greek diner where we would order appetizers and dessert. I still think those are the two best parts of any meal and am okay with skipping the entree completely. The first thing I check on any menu is the dessert list and I usually order that first. Lately, I'm having a hankering for creme brulee...hmm.
And now for some personal questions…
How often do you eat cupcakes?
At least once a week, more if I'm on a tight deadline and need to feel inspired.
What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?
Cupcakes are more manageable than a big cake. There's no fighting for the end piece or the sugar flowers. Each one is a self-contained unit. Plus, a perfect frosting to cake ratio is a beautiful thing. Enough frosting for every bite of cake, but not so much that it overwhelms the cake. I lie awake fretting about perfect cake to frosting ratios, truly it keeps me up.
What's your favorite type of cupcake?
Chocolate, always chocolate, cake with vanilla buttercream rolled in coconut. HEAVEN.
How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?
They outrank all others. There is so much variety to be found in cupcakes -- it boggles. Don't get me wrong. I love a good cream pie, but the cupcake is much more portable and, let's just say it, happy. No one ever gets hit in the face with a cupcake.
Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?
The only downside with cupcakes is that they can dry out quickly so they require a knowledgeable person handling them. There's no bigger food bummer than a dry cupcake. It'd be nice if someone invented a cupcake carrier that could keep them fresher longer.
Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes
them for you?
Yes. I have wee dudes so we makes loads of cupcakes. But I also have at least four cupcake bakeries within fifteen minutes of my house, so I always have a back up.
What's your first cupcake-related memory?
My mom makes amazing cupcakes. I remember what a great year it was when she was room mother for my class. She made a lot of cupcakes. No year was ever as yummy as fourth grade!
What's the most fun you've ever had with a cupcake?
My wee dudes went through a mouse phase, so for several birthdays we made mouse cupcakes. It was so much fun to decorate those cupcakes with them, making ears and whiskers out of Gummy Life Savers and Licorice Whips and eyes and noses out of Skittles. It's a treasured memory I hope we'll always share.
Do you have anything else to add?
Just that I am having the best time writing these cupcake mysteries and I hope my readers have as much fun!