In cupcake couture, looks count. Theresa Deliberto finds winning looks with Cupcake Cuties, her themed kits for dressing up any cupcakes.
by Bakery Boy
It started with turned heads, double takes, and comments like “Oh, how cute” and “They’re almost too pretty to eat.” As anyone who brings treats to share at parties will tell you, those are welcome reactions. Theresa Deliberto saw those kinds of positive responses to the cupcakes a friend dressed up with festive paper wrappers—to make them look like, say, red-striped movie popcorn boxes sprouting tiny marshmallows as faux popcorn—and was inspired to launch Cupcake Cuties.
The Pasadena, California, resident—herself a veteran of many cupcake-making sessions with her two children—oversees a growing line of Cupcake Cuties decorating kits (32 designs and counting). The business, at just over a year old, has expanded from her home to a nearby warehouse, introduced the kits at retail shops, and created buzz at trade shows in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago. All while garnering appreciative oohs and aahs for the attention-getting products.
Each Cupcake Cuties kit comes with 24 self-adhesive paper sleeves to wrap around cupcakes, plus toppings appropriate to a chosen theme. Actual cupcakes and frosting are not included. Whether you bake your own, pick some up at a supermarket, or ask a cooperative neighborhood bakery to put cupcakes and a kit together for you, the end result is a visual treat. Either way, you don’t have to be an accomplished pastry chef to pull it off.
“The quirkier themes sell best,” Theresa says. “Cupcakes made to look like fireworks with a flag and streamers on top (great for the Fourth of July) or hamburgers (when you’re cooking out) or little boxes of movie popcorn (for movie-themed parties) are popular.”
Holiday themes sell well seasonally: Santa heads for Christmas, champagne bottles for New Year’s, hearts for Valentine’s, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter baskets for Easter, jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and more. Others suit special interests such as baseball, football, and basketball, or evergreen subjects like weddings (topped by matching rings), birthdays (confetti and candles), baby showers (tiny strollers), a jungle theme (toy lions and gorillas), and sushi (I’m fairly sure those are gummy candies standing in for seafood and coconut flakes simulating rice).
“Part of the fun is finding materials to fit each theme,” Theresa says. “That’s shoe-string licorice for edible hair on the baby-face cupcakes. The ‘olives’ in the martini-glass theme are disguised chocolate-covered almonds.”
The kits sell for $16.95, $19.95, or $23.99 each, depending on how involved the decorations. A Cupcake Cutie of the Month Club promises regular deliveries.
So far nobody has accidentally baked the decorative wrappers and toppings. “The instructions are very clear,” Theresa says. “You bake or buy the cupcakes first, then use these kits to decorate. Some people measure and tape the wrappers first and then plop a cupcake down into each. Others wrap the paper around the cupcakes and apply the tape. Either way works. Not much can go wrong.”
Cupcake Cuties isn’t Theresa’s first commercial venture. She was in the printing business for many years and helped launch and run a senior care services company known as Just Like Family Care. “In those businesses, I learned to surround myself with a good team and incredible friends,” she says. “That philosophy has worked well for Cupcake Cuties too.”
Inspiration for this enterprise is rooted in motherhood. “Making these with my son and daughter was a fun family project we could do together,” she says. “They’re teenagers now and help with every aspect—creating new designs, setting up photo shoots, helping with packaging and marketing, and doing whatever else needs to be done.”
Turns out plenty of busy people appreciate quick-and-easy Cupcake Cuties. “I’ve always been a working mom. With this I just connected the dots and found a niche to fill. These kits simplify the process and get a good reaction.”
CUTIES FOR THE CURE
Theresa supports the breast cancer fighting organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure by partnering with its Komen Los Angeles County affiliate for all kinds of events, including an annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. “Five percent of proceeds from the sale of Cuties for the Cure, a design we make plenty of, goes to the organization,” she says. “My mom is a breast cancer survivor, I lost a good friend to the disease, and I know at least 30 people battling it, so it was the first organization I thought to support with this new business.”
WHERE TO FIND
Cupcake Cuties are available via mail order from www.cupcakecuties.com. Early ventures into retail stores include:
A Store for Cooks, Laguna Niguel, CA (near Los Angeles), www.astoreforcooks.com
B. Candy, Costa Mesa, CA (near Los Angeles), www.bcandy.com
Carmody & Company, Pasadena, CA (near Los Angeles), www.carmodynco.com
Cookin Stuff, Torrance, CA (near Los Angeles), www.cookinstsuff.com
The Copper Pig, Dunwoody, GA (near Atlanta), www.thecopperpig.com
Gabby’s Gifts, Galena, IL (near Dubuque, Iowa), www.gotitatgabbys.com
Lets Get Cookin, Westlake Village, CA (near Los Angeles), www.letsgetcookin.com
Lulu’s on Main, Morton, IL (near Peoria), www.gottalovelulus.com
M2 Boutique, Chicago, IL, www.mboutiquechicago.com
My Sister Kate, Hinsdale, IL (near Chicago), www.mysisterkate.com
Pink Ribbon Shop, Porter, TX (near Houston), www.pinkribbonshop.com
Theresa recently showcased her creations at the Chicago Merchandise Mart (sharing display space with Patti White & Co.); the Dallas Market Center (sharing space with J. Brandes, Inc.); and the L.A. Mart Gift & Home Market in Los Angeles (sharing space with Kitchen Concepts. “We made a lot of new connections at those big shows and expect a lot more stores will be wanting to stock these kits soon,” Theresa says.
“People ask me all the time if I have fun doing this,” Theresa says. “Like any business, it’s hard work and sometimes you get overwhelmed by day-to-day details, but yes, I’m having a great time.”
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