Cupcake Baker of the Week: Melissa Ward, Cupcake Friday Project

The problem many cupcake bakers have is finding time to work on new creations, and finding people to test out those new combos. Melissa Ward has tackled both of these issues with her Cupcake Friday project. Melissa makes a new treat every week, and uses her lucky co-workers as taste-testers, making her quite popular at the office. She also shares her experiences with fellow cupcake enthusiasts through her blog. Keep reading to find out more about the Cupcake Friday Project.

Name: Melissa Ward
Location: Philadelphia, PA (metro area)

  1. How did you get started making cupcakes? 
    I learned to bake with my Grandma Betty, but I really got into cupcakes about a year ago when I brought in a batch to work on a Friday. A bunch of my work buddies went nuts and said they wanted every Friday to be "Cupcake Friday." So, the blog was born and I began bringing in cupcakes—or other baked goodies—almost every Friday. For 2012, my goal is to not miss a single week, so 52 different cupcake flavors in a year. 
  2. Do you have any formal training? 
    No, but I have begun a part-time apprenticeship with a local bakery. 
  3. Do you have a signature cupcake or personal favorite? 
    If you ask my cupcake taste testers, that would be my Salted Caramel Cupcakes. However, I'm a big fan of my Orange Cupcakes with Honey Buttercream ... they're so flavorful! 
  4. What inspired you to start the Cupcake Friday Project? 
    Aside from the baking aspect, I wanted a blog to keep me accountable and allow taste testers to leave me feedback—good, bad and ugly—about the cupcakes. This way I learn what works and what doesn't. 
  5. How do you come up with the recipes for your projects? 
    I decide on my flavors first, then I either create a cupcake or frosting off of one of my base recipes OR I surf the web to get ideas from other bakers. I try to be seasonal and tie flavors in to holidays when I can. 
  6. What has been the biggest challenge with the project? 
    There's been a few: keeping up with the regular writing (I work full-time as a magazine editor and freelance on the side for another publication); staying creative; and not beating myself up too much when a cupcake doesn't work out perfectly. I have to remember that I'm still learning. 
  7. Do you have any goals for expanding the project into a business? 
    I would love to either have my own cupcake catering business or a full bakery in the next 2-3 years. 
  8. What’s the biggest thing the project has taught you? 
    To believe in what I'm doing and to keep doing it. This project is my test kitchen, my nano-bakery, and if I keep working my butt off it can become my dream bakery, too.
  9. What’s your favorite thing about baking? 
    The first bite someone takes of a cupcake and the smile that lights up on his/her face. I love making people happy. 
  10. Any cupcake horror stories? 
    Nothing too awful, though early on in the project I ended up with horribly sunken cakes the night before I was bringing them in to work for my taste testers. I had to regroup and try again, which ended up working. I called the first batch Sad'cakes