Living the cupcake dream

Jul 7, 2011 at 1:37 p.m. ET

From cupcake shops and cookbooks to countless cupcake decorating accessories, cupcakes are currently fascinating the nation. Arleen Scavone, known as the banker turned baker, loves cupcakes so much, she opened a bakeshop called Sweet Arleen’s and took the ultimate cupcake challenge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. She not only won, but she is competing again in the upcoming super challenge against other winners on July 12. We asked Scavone to share the secret to her success in following her cupcake dream and her favorite cupcake recipe.

Sweet Arleen's - Arleen Scovone

Arleen Scovone: Banker turned baker

When Scavone realized she could use her business skills to make her dream of being a baker, she didn't quit her job as a mortgage services specialist, she decided she could be a banker and a baker. "Baking and cooking have always been my true passion," says Scavone. "The idea of combining my business knowledge and experience with a dream come true product like cupcakes, cakes and bread puddings was a plan I started to build." The result was Scovone's bakeshop Sweet Arleen's in Westlake Village, California.

Follow your food dreams

Scavone's success with Sweet Arleen's and her championship-earning cupcakes on Cupcake Wars are inspiration for many of us food lovers who daydream about opening our own bakeshops, cafes, or gourmet food stores. Scavone says to get off the fence. In addition to taking advantage of small business services, such as SCORE, in your community, the cupcake maven recommends seeking out advice from other successful entrepreneurs and to team up with someone who is business savvy on both start up and operating. And don't forget to test your wares before you spend time, energy, and money to start your business.

"I tested on friends, family, and people I didn't know for over a year to lock on a product that had a wide appeal," Scavone explains. "My youngest son today will rarely eat a red velvet cupcake as he had to taste so many recipes for months - every night we had a different red velvet until we had the best!"

Cupcakes are about elegance not abundance

Scavone is to the go-to gal for cupcake baking tips and she was more than happy to share her secrets for cupcake success. She says "simple, elegant, and relevant" are her guiding principles when it comes to baking and decorating cupcakes. Monster cupcakes coated with heavy décor is not Scavone's goal. "I believe the beauty of a product with potential icing, drizzles, sauces are decor enough - but if you choose to add additional decor, ensure it has a purpose," says the baker. She also warns against adding too many flavors to a cupcake recipe because an abundance of flavors will end up tasting blurred.

Gluten-free goodies

Scavone aims to please and in response to the need for gluten-free goodies, she and her head baker Julia San Bartolome created a tasty array of scrumptious gluten-free desserts, including caramel apple walnut bread pudding, red velvet cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes,  and a peanut brittle. "There was such a high demand for gluten free items, even from before we opened Sweet Arleen's, and we were anxious to accommodate this growing need for our clients," says Scavone.

Up next: Sweet Arleen's recipe for Carrot Walnut Cupcakes >>

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