Cupcake interview with Will Gustwiller, Owner and Chocolatier, Eclipse Chocolat

Starting July 4th, at San Diego's Eclipse Chocolate, it's their Cupcake Extravaganza Weekend, with raffles and prizes and the chance to vote on 36 flavors of cupcakes. It kindof boggles the mind. Plus buy 2 get 1 free! That sounds amazing, but not half as amazing as the flavors Will has concocted (scroll to the end of this post).

Name: Will Gustwiller
Age: 29
Location: San Diego, CA
Occupation: Owner, Chocolatier, Eclipse Chocolat

When and how did you get the idea for the Cupcake Extravaganza Weekend? How long has it been in the works? Why did you decide to go with all Crème Fraîche cupcakes?

I started the cupcake line two months ago, though it’s been in development since January. Creme Fraiche is something I use a lot in the chocolate shop, and it’s a personal favorite of mine, so it seemed natural to settle on a cake formula that would also rely on it for flavor and substance.

You are making a total of 36 different, very interesting cupcakes, among them the most likely never-before-seen Crispy Chorizo-Date, Tarragon Grapefruit, Cherry Marzipan, Balsamic Pink Peppercorn, Salty S’mores, and many more. Where do you get your flavor ideas from? How much trial and error goes into making them? Eclipse is a chocolate café with your specialty being custom candy. How do cupcakes fit into the picture? Do people tend to buy chocolate or cupcakes, or both at once?

All of my cupcakes are filled, and each is garnished with its own unique topping. That means rotating 25 fillings and 36 different toppings. Nothing is decorative, and all toppings contribute to the overall flavor profile. As a chocolatier, baking cupcakes didn’t really make much sense to me…so it wasn’t until I started treating them like truffles (each with a filling, ganache glaze, and unique topping) that they really came together conceptually.

All of the early cupcakes are based on flavor profiles that I am using in my chocolate bar or truffle lines, though about mid-way through development, I started to branch out significantly. The last 8 or so are certainly unusual, often using savory ingredients and settling into a middle ground between plated dessert and a meal!

What kind of feedback have you gotten from customers, aside from asking for a dark chocolate cupcake?

When I debuted “Cripsy Bacon Dulce de Leche,” I was shocked at how popular it was. And not just as a novelty. It’s made with a cocoa-glazed Duroc bacon which is smoky and rich. People keep coming back for more.

Were there any you had ideas for that didn’t pan out?

Yes and no. Four year of being an "exotic" chocolatier has given me a pretty good track record these days on what flavor profiles will work or not. Generally, it’s more significant to do subtle refinements, though some cupcakes are much more successful than others.

How many of each cupcake will be available?

While we’re not explicitly a cupcake boutique (our focus is on truffles and bars), since we launched the cupcake line 2 months ago we've ramped up to selling about 50 or so day during a standard business day. This weekend we expect to do 800% cupcake volume, especially since half will be retired after the holiday is over.

What’s been the most fun part of the process? Do you have a personal favorite out of the 36 cupcakes you’ve concocted?

Salty Peanut Butter Toffee is among my personal favorites and probably the best seller. As a chocolatier, I have a major sweet spot for salt and chocolate combos.

Why do you think cupcakes have become so popular lately?

No clue. I think it’s just timing in artisan foods. Wine, Coffee, Chocolate, Cheese...they are all major players now in the artisan food sector. People are very willing to pay good money for really good hand-made food these days. There have even been a number of articles recently that have listed chocolate companies and the like as being “recession proof.” People will stop buying boats, cars, and even homes, but no one wants to stop treating themselves to that five-minute culinary vacation.

And now for some personal questions…

How often do you eat cupcakes?

Honestly? Seriously? I hate saying this, but very seldomly these days. I really only eat chocolate and pastry in a professional context these days. Since opening the cafe 9 months ago, I've dropped 30 pounds. I LOVE making the food and chocolate. I just don’t crave it anymore. When I do splurge, it’s among friends...I love to share artisan foods with those I love.

What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?

The size. Like doughnuts, it feels pretty damn good to splurge and eat have a dozen in one go!

What's your favorite type of cupcake?

When it comes to sweets, anything salted gets my vote!

How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?

Since they are filled, with a ganache glaze and a topping, I very much view mine more like "plated desserts" rather than a simple pastry.

Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?

Yes, everyday. By myself and my assistant. Fresh all the time. We will begin wholesaling them to San Diego area food places next month.

I could've just included a link, but seeing this list is so...intriguing. They don't "look like" cupcake flavors, at least none I've ever seen, for the most part, and for that reason alone the intrigue me greatly. Follow the links to see photos and descriptions at Eclipse Chocolate's blog: (sorry about the spacing issues! I'm html-impaired, will try to fix later)

Salty Peanut Butter Toffee
Lavender Sea-salted Caramel
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Balsamic Pink Peppercorn
Kentucky Bourbon Caramel

Butterscotch Rum
Lavender-Vanilla Bean
Mixed Berry Merlot
Burnt-Caramel Marshmallow
Goat Cheese and Fig
Chile-Burnt Caramel

Marshmallow Almond


Coconut Caramel

Lime-salted Caramel
Muscavado Caramel
Blood Orange Apricot
Banana Cinnamon

Hazelnut AniseedMacadamia Dulce de Leche
Espresso BananaPomegranate Rhubarb
Crispy Bacon & Dulce de LechePeanut Butter Banana
Lemon Dulce de LecheCocoa Nib Mint
Salty S'moresMarzipan Chicory
Cherry MarzipanPeanut Butter, Banana, & Bacon
Corn-nut Dulce de Leche
Banana-Rum Cigar
Tarragon Grapefruit


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