CakeWalk: A Q&A with Eric Erwin, the Executive Vice President of Marketing & Product Development for Wilton
CakeWalk is a weekly column by Mary Ann Porch dedicated to every baker who has ever struggled to achieve the right consistency with their icing, unsuccessfully searched for the perfect cupcake topper or just wants to learn something new. Because with a few helpful tips, cupcakes are a cakewalk.
As much as I love cupcake blogging, it's not something that really gets the bills paid on my end. So, I'm proud to say that I'm also the Social Media Marketing Manager at Ask.com. I've learned that not only our my Ask colleagues cupcake fanatics too, they love that I write for this blog. You really can't find a better place to work.
While visiting our corporate headquarters in Oakland earlier this week, I learned that one of my colleague's is the daughter of the head honcho over at Wilton. I was thrilled with the idea of doing a Q&A with the company as I'm a major fan of their baking products and as an employee of Ask.com, it's in my nature to ask AND answer questions.
Eric Erwin, the Executive Vice President of Marketing & Product Development for Wilton, was kind enough to sign on board to answer my questions. In even better news, I've been told that I will be receiving some Wilton goodies in the mail, and I will be giving those away to some lucky Cupcakes Take the Cake readers as soon as I receive them! Keep your eyes peeled for future CakeWalk columns to find out about the upcoming contest...
What is your top seller related to cupcakes?
We noticed about 4 years ago that muffin pans started to sell at a much greater rate than other baking pans. That insight lead us to ask the question why? What occurred to us was that cupcakes had become the ‘individual and personalized’ treat for many celebrations. To leverage this insight, we developed a large assortment of truly innovative products that allowed the home baker a chance to truly deliver inspired and personalized amazing cupcakes. To support this we published a book called Cupcake Fun!
Wilton published Cupcake Fun! to celebrate the cupcake and the people who love it.
Have you seen an uptick in business with the cupcake trend in the past 4 to 5 years?
Definitely. For a long time we serviced the ‘personalized cake’ treat market by allowing consumers to use our cake decorating products for cupcakes. Today, we have cupcake decorating kits, kits that have just the right ‘tips’ for decorating cupcakes, sprinkles that are oversized just for cupcakes, and a whole range of cupcake wraps that allow even the most novice of decorators to present their creations well.
In your opinion, is the cupcake phenomenon still growing?
Cupcakes work well in many celebrations and parties where individual ‘cakes’ can be put out and left. They can be handled as ‘finger food.’ We are creating some amazing new products that allow you to present and display cupcakes at many parties: Halloween and Graduation for example. Everyone loves a cupcake because it reminds them of childhood and happy memories. Different types and flavors of cupcakes are still very popular but probably as more of a tradition than a trend now.
Wilton carries everything from baking pans to cupcake liners and holiday decorative toppers - these are just some of the products you can find for Halloween on Wilton.com.
According to your sales and/or gut feeling, what is the next big baking fad we’re sure to see?
We just introduced a whole new line of products around brownies. We supported this with a book called Brownie Fun! Many of the new product forms have done very well and this has developed into a basic line of products within our cake decorating assortments. That said we are very excited about the increased interest in cookie baking. Holiday cookie baking and the rise of ‘cookie exchanges’ is invigorating the home baking market. Maybe it is the economy forcing people to think about giving gifts that they hand make, or maybe it is because you can be very creative making a gift and the presentation box. Both activities are exciting, fun and gratifying. Last year there were more cookie exchange parties happening than ever before. To support this we have just launched our Cookie Exchange program. It includes a Cookie Exchange book with instructions on how to host a party plus more than 150 recipes and project ideas, baking and decorating equipment needed plus a Cookie Memories Contest on Facebook and at Wilton.com.
Wilton has a robust cupcake section on Wilton.com – has Wilton always put an emphasis on this tiny cake or is this a new effort emerging from the general consumer interest in cupcakes?
It is reflective of the broad interests in personalized individual baked treats. We’ve always had cupcake products but we now make it easier for the consumer to find all of the different products and inspirational ideas related to cupcakes.
What sort of MUST HAVE tools would you recommend for a new baker on a budget?
A good aluminum pan for cake so that you get the perfect ‘cake skin’— that is cake skin that doesn’t crumble into your icing. Wilton will introduce Ultra Gold bakeware in the spring of 2010 that really are the most innovative baking pans ever! If you can’t wait until then, try our Performance Pans or Decorating Preferred pans.
Who creates the cupcake recipes featured on Wilton.com?
The Wilton Test Kitchen at our corporate location in Woodridge, Illinois.
This little cupcake vampire is the result of Wilton's in-house team, led by Steve Rocco.
Who comes up with the decorating tips on Wilton.com? (The Halloween ideas are FANTASTIC, by the way)
Steve Rocco, our Director of Cake and Visual Design, comes up with the decorating tips. He has worked at Wilton for over 20 years. Steve is special and world famous for the great fun, color, and sweetness he adds to the ideas for the products that our managers develop. Steve has a staff of 12 highly talented decorators who execute the designs you see in our creative content.
Mary Ann is the founder of the New York City chapter of CupcakeCamp NYC, an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment. She is also the founder of Puff and Choux, a blog dedicated to the pastry and dessert arts. When she's not blogging to her heart's content, she's the Social Media Marketing Manager at Ask.com. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, ideas or just to chit chat. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MaryAPorch and at @Askdotcom.