Starting from scratch
Toppling over the edges and swallowing it almost completely, the melted chocolate slides over the cream-colored frosting. After the final touch — a pinch of colored sprinkles and a single maraschino cherry — the cupcake is complete.
Life is sweet; that’s senior Caitlin Cornwall’s motto as she bakes and decorates cupcakes from scratch, topping them with homemade frosting and filling each of her creations with a sweet surprise inside.
What started as a few cakes for close friends, roommates and family eventually led Cornwall to the creation of her very own business, CC Cupcakes.
Cornwall established the business in her hometown, Olympia, about a year and a half ago. Cornwall said the spark came when the mother of a friend suggested it after tasting cupcakes Cornwall had brought over.
Even cupcakes made with boxed cake mixes have won her compliments. She’s since developed her CC Cupcakes recipe, experimenting with different ingredients until perfecting her own recipes, Cornwall said.
“I made this one batch and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh this actually tastes like a cupcake you’d have in a bakery. Bing! I have a winner,’” Cornwall said.
Customers request a theme and flavors, and Cornwall bakes cupcakes to match. Oftentimes, however, they won’t have anything specific in mind, which is when Cornwall can really get creative with it, she said.
“I kind of get bummed when people just order regular chocolate or vanilla,” Cornwall said. “Like, you don’t want anything in the middle or anything crazy? I like the fun stuff.”
Cornwall, an elementary education and psychology major, balances two or three orders a month with her schoolwork and her job teaching Zumba. Baking is her time to relax, but her competing obligations force her to be organized, she said.
Most orders take about three to four hours, including cooling time and about five trips to the fabric store for inspiration, she said.
Candy-filled cupcakes are her specialty, though she also fills her sweet treats with cream, cookie dough or fruit, she said.
“Basically any kind of candy I can put in the middle of a cupcake; it’s a little surprise inside,” Cornwall said. “It’s very exciting. Especially if you don’t tell people.”
Cornwall loves being creative and trying new things, and works hard to make each order perfect, she said.
“She has this personal touch to it,” said Alex Burrows, Cornwall’s classmate, who ordered some cupcakes for her wedding. “She thinks outside the box with her cupcakes. It’s not just a chocolate cupcake with some frosting.”
Burrows’ wedding was Cornwall’s favorite order because she got to set up the dessert table with peanut butter cups, caramel apple pops and jelly beans to go with the cupcakes, Cornwall said.
“I saw kids and adults alike running around eating candy and cupcakes,” Burrows said. “It was just a huge hit.”
Cornwall’s peanut butter chocolate cupcakes are her favorite and they played a big role in deciding to start her own business, Cornwall said.
When her friend’s birthday came along, Cornwall thought to incorporate her friend’s favorite candy, Reese’s peanut butter cups. She stuck the candy right into the center, she said.
When her friend’s mom tasted the cupcake, she told Cornwall it was the best cupcake she’d ever had, Cornwall said.
Creating specialty small batches isn’t the only task Cornwall has undertaken. This past August, one order required 800 Seahawks-themed mini cupcakes for a church and took Cornwall two days to bake. All the cupcakes were stored in her apartment.
“You don’t realize how small 500 square feet is until you make 800 mini cupcakes,” she said.
Joli Scott ordered the mini cupcakes for a treat between church services. The cupcakes were the favorite treat of the summer and she got lots of compliments on them, Scott said.
“What I loved about it was I had no idea what I wanted,” Scott said. “I trusted that she would come up with something great. They turned out wonderful.”
Cornwall has also won over fans at the Wade King Student Recreation Center where she works as a Zumba instructor, bringing them to staff meetings for her coworkers said Ron Arnold, fitness coordinator at the rec center.
“It’s rare that I really think that I have a cake where the cake is just as good as the frosting, but I would say hers are that way,” Arnold said.
After she graduates in fall 2016, Cornwall plans to move back to Olympia to substitute teach and expand her cupcake business, she said. The endgame however is to become a home economics teacher.
“Kids really need to learn how to make good food, but also fun stuff like cupcakes,” Cornwall said. “I think being a home economics teacher could really combine my love for teaching and my love for cupcakes and baking and cooking in general.”
In the meantime, Cornwall will continue to experiment to see what kind of candy will make it into a cupcake next.