Interview: Anthony Valerio of Wonderland Custom Cupcakes

Anthony and Vandy
Can you please tell me a little about yourself? 
   My name is Anthony Valerio. I am 28 years old. Originally born in Philadelphia and raised in south Jersey. I now reside in the Los Angeles area. Our store is located at 107 South Fair Oaks Avenue in the historical Old Town section of Pasadena CA. Website:
Hobbies: creating awesome cupcakes of course! … other hobbies would include spending time at the gym, hanging out with family and friends and …since I’m a big foodie, scoping out the new and exciting restaurants in LA!

What inspired your love of cupcakes?
   Truthfully, Cupcake Wars did. Before that, I hadn’t really done much in the way of cupcakes. Of course that’s all changed now….but you know, I was doing specialty fondant cakes. And then this show came along and I thought it would be a blast to try out for it and see what happens. Well, when the producers called to tell us they wanted us on the show….I thought to myself, hmm, better start figuring out how to make kick-ass cupcakes. And so that love was born! LOL

A Cake Fit For The Red Queen!
How did your company begin?
   Well, it’s an interesting story actually…for my birthday a few years ago, I decided I was going to buy myself a huge 3-tier topsy-turvy cake. I designed it to be colorful and whimsical. When I picked it up from the bakery, I thought, I bet I can do that…and wouldn’t it be a blast to try! Well, I did and it was. I taught myself all of the techniques and began practicing in my spare time. It was a challenging transition for me because at the time I was working as a strategic trial consultant and had vast knowledge in graphic design. So this was a completely different and exciting artistic outlet…there was no “undo” button if you made a mistake. Being faced with that challenge, plus structural challenges of creating art out of food and also the challenge of making it taste good really ignited passion in me. And thus my love affair with edible art was born.

Anthony and the Beekman 1802 Boys
What fuels your creativity for such unique flavor combinations?
   I think it has a lot to do with my inner foodie. I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting flavors; bold, complex and unique combinations of ingredients really inspire me. I can’t stand boring. Doing vanilla and chocolate cakes with 900 different frostings isn’t my idea of a “gourmet cupcake”…much less any sign of true creativity. My opinion is, even if it’s boring – you know like vanilla or chocolate – do something different with it to make it shiny and new again. I often like to combine flavors that complement one another but aren’t necessarily flavors you’d expect to go together. Like the jalapeño-carrot cake with sharp cheddar frosting. Whodathunk? But it’s really an incredible palate pleaser.  (And this is coming from a guy who never touched a jalapeño before Cupcake Wars). Another focal point in my cupcake flavors is making them mimic their original flavor. For example, my peach bellini cupcake was developed to taste exactly like you’re sipping on a delicious and refreshing peach bellini cocktail. It’s really irritating when you go into a cupcake shop and see a potentially exciting flavor and then you taste it and have to check the receipt to see what the hell flavor you just ate because it tastes nothing like you expected! My cupcakes are designed to have bold flavors that explode in your mouth and tantalize your taste buds. That’s why I call em “the quintessential gourmet cupcakes”.

The Winners of Cupcake Wars!
I saw the Comic Con themed episode of Cupcake Wars you competed in, what was that like? Is it really as crazy, hectic and stressful as it looks on TV?
   Worse! It’s probably the single-most stressful thing I’ve done to date. It’s extremely intense. And it all goes by so quickly that you don’t even have time to think. One mistake and it will likely cost you your chance at winning! Oh and by the end, you’re completely exhausted. Lucky for me I brought along the world’s greatest assistant. My Aunt Vandy. She’s a one of a kind culinary extraordinaire. Now she’s actually also my business partner so it’s even cooler! But having her as my assistant was truly a lifesaver because of her intuitiveness and ability to get things done efficiently and with perfection!

Superhero Cupcakes
What has winning Cupcake Wars done for you and your business?
   Winning has been incredible! It’s what every competitor dreams of. I was really proud of our win because it was really a triumph … we dominated each round and I am very proud of that. Frankly, winning has helped me realize my true potential and passion in the cupcake/cake artistry world. And, it has literally given us the chance to bring our unique brand to the public by way of storefront: we are scheduled to open our first retail location in Pasadena California on January 14, 2012! Winning has also given me recognition in the culinary industry, allows me to reach out and interact with fans and be recognized by icons like Martha Stewart who put photos of our cupcakes on her personal blog! It doesn’t get better than that 

Royal Red Velvet
What is your personal favorite cupcake flavor to eat and what is your favorite to make?
   You know, I get asked this all the time….I end up liking all of my cupcakes. I love making all of them because they each have their own identity. It’s obvious looking at them that they are part of the Wonderland brand, yet unlike so many cupcake shops where they all look the same, ours each have their own distinct and creative flair. As far as flavors, I keep coming back to my red velvet though. That’s probably my favorite. I never liked red velvet until I developed mine. You can really taste separation of flavors in the cupcake – from the hints of cocoa to the hints of spices like cinnamon that we use. It’s more refreshing and very different from the other versions out there.

What is your favorite thing about cupcakes?
   My favorite thing about cupcakes is that they are so versatile and that one can enjoy their own whole work of art rather than just a piece of one. 

Coconut Cupcake Anyone?
In the spirit of the New Year, what are you looking forward to most in 2012 for the future of Wonderland Custom Cakes?
   2011 was a very roller coaster year for Vandy and me. But all-in-all, it was a tremendous year for us and for Wonderland. As I said, we are opening our first store in January and we really intend on coming out of the gate with a boom! In 2012 we plan on focusing on building our brand as much as possible. Letting the world know that Wonderland really has the best cupcakes. From there, we’d ultimately like to expand our brand into other locations, products, dry mixes and maybe even more tv! We’re open to anything. We want to be a force to reckon with in the culinary industry and in our opinion, we have the brand and the cupcakes to do just that!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
   It was truly a pleasure doing this interview with you. We are huge fans of “Cupcakes Take the Cake” and can’t wait to do more  We ask anyone out there who can make it to our Grand Opening to join us on January 14, 2012 from 10am to 5pm. We will be giving away free cupcakes, coupons plus more! Once we open our store, customers who aren’t so local will actually be able to order online for Nationwide Delivery of our freshly baked cupcakes. And all customers will be able to choose from any of the flavors of the day! Check us out online at our website, follow us on facebook and twitter for updates and sweet news!

If you're in the Los Angeles area be sure to come out to Wonderland Custom Cakes Grand Opening! I'll be there trying some sweet treats so if you can't make it out keep an eye out for my tasting review next week!


StylesXG said…
Do they happen to have a facebook page??? Especially Anthony???