Guest Blogger: Laura DeVries, Cupcakes-A-Go-Go, Madison, WI

I came across some photos last night of a cupcake business that catered SIX THOUSAND CUPCAKES for a corporate event. As I read a little further, I realized that this was no unknownbaker -- but Madison, Wisconsin's own Laura DeVries and the gang at Cupcakes-A-Go-Go!! Although Laura and I have never met -- we have several mutual friends -- and I know that we WILL meet sooner than later. I dropped her a note and asked her to tell the story of SIX THOUSAND CUPCAKES (insert Dr. Evil voice when saying that). Below is how it happened. At first I was going to edit to be shorter, but this is one heck of an accomplishment -- and she deserves the limelight -- even if it is on MY blog! Job well done, Laura!!

When Epic (the medical software company located in Verona, Wisconsin) contacted us this winter about providing cupcakes for one of their biggest events (after seeing our Facebook ad!), we were thrilled! "What is the largest order you have done for a client?" they asked. "1,325 cupcakes, in two different flavors" we proudly responded. Little did we know that the answer to our next question, "how many will you need for *your* event?" was 3,000 full-sized - which seemed very do-able, really - which then became 6,000 mini cupcakes. We were still thrilled - albeit a little nervous! And so, as one former business owner used to say we stated to Epic, with absolute certainty, that we could absolutely fill that order! And then we went home and tried to figure out how in the world we were going to make that happen. I mean, that's a tall order. For anyone. And we're a small company. But we knew we could count on our good friend Kandy Watson, who has been with me the entire 5 years I've been baking cupcakes - and taking on challenges. She was there when we made 225 monkey cupcakes and had to stay up literally all night, and she was there for the formerly biggest job ever, 1325 cupcakes. She is awesome. And our staff photographer too! She shot the photos at the Epic event.

We did 2 flavor tastings with Epic. The first was with a small group, including the president, who walked into the room and exclaimed to Wade, "So, you're the cupcake guy!" That was awesome. The second tasting was MUCH more daunting - 8 of Epic's chefs tasting and evaluating our cupcakes. Our nervousness was quelled right away, though, everyone there was so complimentary of our cupcakes and so friendly. We walked away smiling, proud on the fact that we did our best, and even if we didn't get the job, we had been invited to give it a shot.

But we *did* get the job.

The secret to pulling off making *and delivering* 6,000 cupcakes in a word? Logistics! Not to under-romanticize the idea, mind you. Cupcakes are lovely and fun and cute. But 6,000 is a LOT. And never having made that many, there were lots of unknowns. However, we put on our math hats and coordinated with our vendors and created projections and spreadsheets to try to calculate what kind of supplies we were going to need.

A few of the items we went through during our Epic week:
  • 264 eggs
  • 44 lbs. of sour cream
  • 30 lbs. of cream cheese
  • 30 lbs. of chocolate decadence cookie dough - which had to become 3000 pieces of cookie dough that would be inserted into the cupcakes
  • 10,000 mini-cupcake cups
  • 500 12-pack mini-cupcake travel containers
So we ordered our supplies, lined up our helpers, purchased more mini-cupcake pans than we ever thought we would, crossed our fingers, and set out on our journey. We figured it would take about 4 (long) days to complete the job.

Let me digress for just a moment and admit to everyone that *that week* probably was NOT the week to get involved in a fundraising project. That did not stop us, however! The week of March 22-28 was Purple Week - with Friday, March 26th being Purple Cupcake Day - an effort launched by the Anita Kaufmann Foundation to promote epilepsy awareness and education. We're proud to report that the event was a huge success, which resulted in our sales at Java Den (a coffee shop on the UW campus) selling over three times as many of the purple cupcakes as their usual order. Add to that a wonderful partnership with Jon Lancaster Toyota, who ordered 5 dozen purple mini cupcakes to be delivered *every day* that week, plus purple cupcake sales at our Sun Prairie location. Now, you might think that THAT was enough on the to-do list. Except that doesn't seem to be our style. We did a promo video with WKOW, demonstrating how we made purple cupcakes, and then, the Thursday of the EPIC job, well, we got up at 4:00 so that we could do a morning news spot about The Great Purple Cupcake Project. After having baked cupcakes until midnight the night before. Sanity was clearly in question at this point.

So why not provide cupcakes for a National Association of Wedding Planners event that Wednesday night? Oh yeah, we sure did.

So, back to the Epic job.

We prepped as much as possible the week before the job, but full-on production began on Tuesday. We baked 20-dozen at a time, starting with the triple-chocolate decadence cookie dough, and then moved on to the lemon cupcakes that would later be filled with raspberry mousse. We wanted to wait to frost until the last possible moment, because frosting is a temperamental thing. So Thursday night we finished baking. My brother Chris came and helped us that night. We finished at midnight. But it was such a great feeling to have baked over 6,000 cupcakes! We actually baked about 6200 - we baked extras because some would get damaged along the way. We mixed the batter 4-recipes'-worth at a time, and mixed frosting in 5-pound batches.

So, cupcakes baked, mousse prepared, frosting whipped and ready to go, purple cupcakes, NAWP event and TV spots in the bag, Friday we frosted. Well, and filled the little lemon cupcakes with raspberry mousse. And frosted. And frosted some more. Kandy's son Luke and his lovely wife Tria joined in on the fun and by the early hour of 10PM we were d-o-n-e. The cupcakes were packed - 8 dozen to a container - in our travel containers and stacked, ready for the courier company to come and get them. With pallets and a pallet jack. 4 pallets worth! We had them scheduled to pick up at 11 on Saturday and we embarked on the final leg of our journey! We worked with one of Epic's amazing chefs, Andy Kelly, before and during the project. Andy was so great - as were all of the chefs we worked with (Kim and Luke!).

Once the cupcakes were delivered, our team met at the venue - Epic's *stunning* facility. We were going to be in the S-shaped building, at 5 different dessert stations. We had to then unpack all 6,000+ cupcakes and put them onto beautiful silver platters. There would be 2 trays of each flavor at each station, plus cupcakes on the cupcake trees that were provided. Three hours later, all of our hard work had been released from the confines of their containers and proudly displayed on the trays. A very quick break to eat and change clothes and we were back at Epic to finish set-up and work the event. We were running on pure adrenaline at that point! The excitement of being there, though, to see the expressions on the faces of the people sampling our wares was the best part of the job. Some people might not have wanted to work the event, but we definitely wanted to. We wanted to see it through! And we were SO glad we did. The whole evening was fabulous, with wave after wave of Epic employees stopping by our respective stations to grab a cupcake. Or two. Or four. And there were the ones who came back SEVERAL times. That was a hoot. That's the best compliment you can get, I think. Well, we don't mind the all-out verbal accolades either, lol. The evening ended on a high note as we said good night to the chefs and went home, completely and utterly exhausted, but high on the fact that we DID it. We feel like there's no challenge we can't meet!

In the end, we made some great friends, met some wonderful people, worked super-hard and made a little money to boot. The only thing we have left to do is to take our crew out to celebrate, and, well, look forward to the next challenge!

Laura DeVries
Co-Owner, Cupcakes-A-Go-Go, LLC

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heather said...

that is incredible on it's own! add in the additional jobs and it's nothing short of amazing! good work and man those look yummy!! :-)

Nancy said...

This is wonderful! I knew the purple cupcake week was a big success but man, all this stuff too?? Just goes to show that bakers are a special and wonderful breed!