Interview with The Hello Cupcakers Part 2

April 24, 2010 at 6:29 PM | Posted in interview | Comments Off on Interview with The Hello Cupcakers Part 2
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I don’t know about you but I’m ready for Part 2. Hit it!

How often do you bake/eat cupcakes?

We bake, decorate, or eat cupcakes almost every day. Besides for our books and classes we are constantly making them for friends and family, special events and parties, or just for fun. They also come in handy if you need a favor like an extra garbage pick-up or if you want to soften up a teacher at school. Karen’s mom always says ‘kill them with kindness’ but we’ve changed that a bit to ‘kind them with cupcakes’. It really works. How can a cupcake not make you happy?

What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

Just to persevere and keep the cupcake ideas coming. When we hear how much folks love making our cupcakes it really inspires us. It is like having the audience in the stands cheer you on “Go, Cupcake!”

Do you have professional training?

Karen attended culinary school at the CIA and has been baking since she was a kid. Alan has been a photographer and visual artist for over 20 years. We have been creating desserts for photography together for magazines and books for close to twenty years. Our skills overlap and blend perfectly for creating cupcake designs.

Where do you get ideas and inspiration?

Our inspirations come mostly from everyday things. Things we love, things we think are beautiful, and things we think are funny. We love goofy cupcakes like silly fake food. We wake up with cupcakes on the brain and often find that one project will spark three more ideas. And so on. And so on. The ideas never seem to stop. Right now this keyboard is starting to look like a cupcake.

What is your favorite cupcake from What’s New, Cupcake?

It really depends on the day of the week. We love the mum cupcakes when we are feeling sweet and we love the cockroach cupcakes when we are feeling a little naughty. We love the string monster cupcakes when we are feeling lazy and we love the Chinese Take Out cupcakes when we are feeling hungry! The broccoli is really a hoot to make from green taffy and we get a charge every time we fold the caramels to make the fortune cookies for the cupcakes.

What is the craziest ingredient you have used?

Does it get crazier than fruit chews with pretzels and Twinkies? We think sugar loves sugar, you can never have too much, and it’s all so zany and fun together!

What piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without?

We call ourselves the laziest cupcakers in town. That’s because we are always looking for things that make cupcaking easier. There are three things that we use all the time to make cupcaking simpler: the offset spatula, freezer-weight Ziploc bags, and McCormick neon food coloring. We find the offset spatula to be completely essential to cupcaking. It helps us get a perfect top on our cupcakes whether we are going for smooth or whirled, and it even comes in handy for buttering toast. We use the freezer-weight Ziploc bags to get batter into the paper liners without dribbling it all over the place as well as working as a disposable piping bag for all of our techniques. The freezer weight keeps the frosting in the bags and not all over us. And McCormick neon food coloring is so bright it makes it easy to get the vibrant colors we love without having to go to a specialty store for paste food coloring. Those are the things we use regularly to make cupcaking easy. And while it’s not an ease thing, we love having pretty liners for our cupcakes. We have been using colorful opaque liners that don’t let the cake color show through. Fancy Flours web site has a great selection of solid colors and Reynolds has a selection of foil-lined stand-alone liners in a snazzy array of patterns (they are so rigid you don’t even need to put them in a baking pan).

What design haven’t you conquered yet?

The Eiffel Tower! We really hope to create that in cupcakes one day.

Best cupcake memory?

For Karen it has to be her memories of lobstering with her mom as a kid. They call her mom the Lobster Lady because she was always pulling in lobster traps. We created the Red Lobster Cupcakes as an homage to her mom and their wonderful summers lobstering in Montauk. Alan loved designing Old Swampy because he is from South Mississippi. Every time someone down South sends us a photo of their Old Swampy alligator cupcakes it puts a big smile on his face.

Does anyone ever get tired of you always bringing cupcakes?

Who could ever get tired of cupcakes? Especially when they are decorated to look like things like Ketchup, Koi, or Karaoke. At this point if we don’t arrive with cupcakes they don’t let us in.

What are your favorite cupcake flavors?

Karen-carrot cake
Alan-red velvet

Best part of making the books?

Free candy…and meeting so many artful and creative cupcakers. What a wonderful community cupcakers are.

Will you ever write a book about something other than cupcakes?

Yes, but please don’t tell anyone!

Do you see the cupcake craze ending?

Craze? We think cupcakes have become an American tradition like apple pie and chocolate cake. America now has four baked goods categories: Cookies-Cakes-Pies-Cupcakes.

How do you organize and store all those candies and sugars?

We created a cupcake pantry filled with clear airtight containers to keep everything fresh and visible. You want to keep it out of direct sunlight and give yourself room for growth, there is always more candy to discover!

Your favorite found ingredient?

The marshmallow. We have found more ways to use marshmallows, both mini and regular, than anything else in our pantry. They are just so versatile. We have turned them unto ears, snouts, feet, flower petals, walrus tusks, alien necks, and even charcoal brickets. Maybe that could be our next book…The Marshmallow.

What design started this whole thing?

The terrier cupcakes on the cover of Hello, Cupcake! We made them to look like our dogs Lucky, Bunny, and Scout. They were our first cupcakes and will always be our favorites.

If your cupcakes had to duke it out, which one would be the last cupcake standing?

Definitely the Cockroach Cupcakes in What’s New, Cupcake? They will survive us all.

What is your favorite holiday for cupcakes?

April Fool’s Day, but we celebrate it every day. Really, is there any day that wouldn’t benefit from a Carton of Cracked Eggs cupcakes?

What cupcake gets the most oohs and aawwws?

In What’s New, Cupcake? It seems to be the Apples. They have a great shape and are really sparkly. And then you get that Aha! moment when you realize that the apple shape comes from a donut under the frosting! We live for the Aha! moment.

Which famous person would you like to make a cupcake tribute to and what would it be?

Julia Child…and we would make our Red Lobster cupcakes for her, but we would give it a string of pearls (white gum balls), and serve it with an herb butter (Laffy Taffy with green sprinkles) and a glass of Sauterne. Julia Child was all about enjoying cooking and sharing that joy, we couldn’t agree more.

Were there any cupcakes left out of the books?

Yes, but if you keep an eye on our blog and website and our newsletter which starts next month, we are sure you will eventually see most of them make an appearance. You can find links to everything, including the newsletter once it is available, on our web site

Scratch vs. Box mix?

We love a good scratch cake and make it all the time. But when we are busy, or when we need to make lots of cupcakes (which is often) we turn to our favorite box mix. We have a recipe in both books for doctoring a box mix with buttermilk and an extra egg. Try it, it makes a great cake. Same goes for frosting. We have an Almost Homemade Buttercream in the books that is amazing. But we also use canned frosting because it works so well. We happen to use Duncan Hines because we like the flavor and the way it holds up. Just be sure to avoid whipped frosting or ones that don’t have the body to hold your candy in place. And if you happen to be melting frosting like we do for dipping, canned is the only way to go.

What do you think of the whoopie pie?

Whoopie! Love it! It’s like a mixed up cupcake, hiding the frosting in the middle and not wearing pants!

Is it just you two or is there a team of developers and kitchen staff?

Wait, is that possible? Can we get that? Nope, it’s just the two of us. We create the designs together, photograph them together, and work out the books together. We each feel we have found the other (missing) half of our brains.

What is your favorite medium?

Van Gogh loved oil on canvas, we prefer candy on frosting on cupcakes.

How do you feel about cupcake wedding cakes?

We made beautiful white chocolate leaves for our wedding cake in Hello, Cupcake! We love cupcake wedding cakes. If you are looking for a more traditional design why not make small bride’s and groom’s cakes and then create cupcakes with a matching design for everyone else. It’s so much easier to portion and serve (and take home) and makes a beautiful presentation on the cake table.

Do you design for brick and mortar bakeries?

Not yet. But we have some friends who we hope will ask. We design principally for our books, web sites, and magazines.

Do your designs get drawn first, or do you go straight to the frosting?

We go to the computer a lot to find photographs that might help us design. We usually draw a design first, even scribble in the names of candy we think might work for the design. Then we roll up our sleeves and start playing with our candy. Often we already know we want to use a specific candy, so we will start with that and build on it to create a design. It is a really fun process.

What dessert do you eat on your birthdays?

It is our day off. We’ll eat whatever dessert gets put in front of us, especially if there’s frosting involved.

What do you say to cupcake haters?

Is there such a thing? Never met one.

Are there any films that have inspried cupcakes?

Yes, several. The movie JAWS was on Karen’s mind when she came up with the idea for the sharks in Hello, Cupcake! The penguins were inspired by March of the Penguins. Alan had been watching Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby when he dreamed up the race car. And it’s not a film but American Idol inspired us to make the Karaoke Cupcakes in Whar’s New, Cupcake?

What is your favorite event for making cupcakes?

We love cupcakes for any kind of party or get-together They are a perfect way to make any celebration a special event, even lunch! We ate several while answering these questions and it felt really special.


Special THANKS to Alan Richardson and Karen Tack for allowing me (and readers) to interview them. It’s even more impressive since I know they are currently on the road promoting their new book, What’s New Cupcake, and all their answers came via Alan’s iPhone. Now you all know how much I love my iPhone but my fat thumbs can barely spell 140 characters without misspelling more than 50% of the words much less 50 interview questions+answers. What rockstars!

Come back tomorrow. I’ll be announcing Cupcake Hero::March winner (FINALLY!) and posting the new and improved Cupcake Hero rules. Thanks for your patience.

Until tomorrow cupcake freaks… don’t skimp on the frosting.


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