Fame and fortune brings expansion for Katie’s Cupcakes

The day after Katie’s Cupcakes appeared on the season premiere of the television show “Cupcake Wars,” it had to close early.

Customers had cleaned out the shop’s stock less than 24 hours after owner Katie Swanson and her assistant, Kelsey Shafer, were shown on the Food Network winning $10,000 for their cupcake creations. For Katie and her husband, Neal, the appearance brought notoriety, increased business, and of course—prize money.

So, what does a baker do with $10,000?

Expand the cupcake brand.

“We knew we wanted to expand the business,” Katie said. “The money from the show will help us do that.”

Katie’s Cupcakes has launched a new T-shirt line, and within the next couple months plans to publish a children’s book featuring a lineup of colorful cupcake characters.

The T-shirts, which can be seen online at www.wearcupcakes.com, feature cupcakes with names such as “Rocky Road,” “Linda Lemon” and “Perfect Peach.”

Along with the apparel, Katie plans to add new gourmet dessert items to the bakery’s menu.

She said she would also like to eventually open another location, which would be similar in size and character to the Fairhaven shop, either in Whatcom County or Skagit County.

Neal Swanson said his wife had wanted to explore additional retail markets since the cupcake shop began seeing success. Katie’s Cupcakes opened on Harris Avenue in 2009.

Katie said she was inspired to start the business after making visits to Manhattan’s famous Magnolia Bakery while living in New York City.

Magnolia Bakery is often credited as the spark of the late ‘90s “cupcake craze,” which led to worldwide growth of cupcake-specific bakeries, as well as cookbooks and blogs devoted to the single-serving desserts.

After arriving in Bellingham, Katie said she knew the time was right to open shop.

“I knew I wanted to open my own business,” she said. “Something just sparked, and I knew I wanted to do it.”

Though the “Cupcake Wars” episode aired on Oct. 8, Katie flew to Los Angeles to film the show in July.

“Cupcake Wars,” now in its seventh season, pits cupcake bakers from different parts of the country in a three-round bake-off. A panel of judges decides which bakers move forward in the competition, and which ones are eliminated. Episodes typically revolve around specific themes, and each round pits contestants in a race against the clock.

After taping the show, Katie knew the results. Yet she had to stay quiet until the episode aired due to contractual obligations with Food Network.

Katie and Neal weren’t even allowed to grant one-on-one interviews to local press prior to the premiere, even after news broke that the bakery would be featured on the show. Keeping the secret was a challenge, both said.

Neal said the show allowed Katie to put her cupcake baking ability to the test.

“It’s neat to be able to get your business on TV,” he said. “But after being in a town of this size and being one of the only cupcake shops, it was [a chance for Katie] to get honest feedback from quote-unquote expert judges.”

Katie said while elements of the show’s competition were played up for theatrical effect, the tension and stress evident on “Cupcake Wars” were familiar feelings.

“I would say that it is actually similar to working in the shop on a busy day,” Katie said.

Contact Evan Marczynski at evan@bbjtoday.com or call 360-647-8805. 


Photos courtesy of Katie’s Cupcakes

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