March 11, 2009

Behind the Scenes – Flirt Cupcakes

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When I stepped into Flirt cupcakes on a chilly March morning, the seductive smell of warm sugar, cocoa and butter hit my nose. It was clear that there were cupcakes in the oven.

Soon I was in the kitchen, watching as co-owner Michelle piped buttercream frosting onto puffy cupcakes and chatted with me about the challenges of opening a new business.

One of the best parts about being a journalist is that you get to go places you normally wouldn’t. It’s like you have a license to explore – to find out how things work and who does what. And you get to take your microphone and camera along with you.

I recently got the chance to explore Flirt Cupcakes when I did a radio story on the shop. The reason I thought Flirt was interesting is because Michelle has such a storied past. She played drums in a punk band in high school, started her own clothing line, and is an avid hockey player. When you meet this perky, blonde girl selling cupcakes, you would never suspect her of doing all of those things.

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The first germ of an idea for Flirt actually came after a hockey game, when Michelle and her teammate Rick Krupa were talking about cupcakes. It turns out they both had the same idea – why not open a cupcake shop in Edmonton?

Months of research and preparation later, Flirt opened its doors on Valentine’s Day. By then, Michelle had tested more than 100 cupcake recipes. The pair had visited cupcake shops, made lists of the best ones, and compared every tiny thing.

Flirt is on Whyte Avenue, in a small storefront near Gateway Boulevard. They have a couple of tables and chairs in the store, but they sell most of their cupcakes to go.

The kitchen is small too, but highly efficient. There are big bins of flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and baking soda stacked under the stainless steel countertops. On the shelves above sit bottles of Madagascar bourbon vanilla, food colouring, and sprinkles. They have three Kitchenaid mixers that are whirring all the time, mixing cupcake batter and icing.

Michelle and Rick start the day around 6 a.m. with a batch of chocolate cupcakes and a batch of vanilla cupcakes (they plan on having more cupcake flavours soon). Then they mix all eight of their icing flavours, including lemon, peanut butter and raspberry.

So far I have sampled chocolate with vanilla icing, vanilla with cream cheese icing, and chocolate with raspberry icing. The two chocolates were my favourite. The cupcake is moist with a wonderful chocolately flavour. I think the vanilla had too much icing for my taste, but since I ate that one they have increased the size of their cupcakes. The raspberry icing was divine, and I would love to try the lemon one as well.

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What really struck me about this business was how friendly and warm Michelle and Rick both are. They welcome every customer who comes into their shop, and they make sure everyone leaves satisfied.

It looks as though the cupcake trend has hit Edmonton, and I hope it doesn’t die down anytime soon. Flirt is determined to succeed. And so far, it’s doing well. Business is steady, and they are baking hundreds of cupcakes every day.

And now for a little shameless self-promotion: You can hear my radio piece about Flirt tomorrow (Thursday) morning on CBC (93.9 fm or 740 am). It will be on at about 8:15.

4 comments:

Sharon said...

I have yet to visit Flirt, but I've read lots about it. Your pictures may have put me over the edge; I'll have to stop by soon!

Maki said...

I too don't like a lot of icing on my cakes or cupcakes but the flavored icings make me think twice about it. I'll have to try it out sometime.

Chris said...

Ah, I would have liked to hear your radio spot! I'm not sold on over icing as well, as I take sweet justice from a moist, fluffy cupcake so it's nice to see these aren't 'totally' loaded.

Cheryl A said...

Hey I heard the spot on Friday afternoon, I didn't know it was you! I;m glad you posted, because I never caught where Flirt was located.