Interview With ‘Cupcakes Take The Cake’ Blog
What do you do when your child is born with multiple food allergies? If you’re Debbie Adler of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes, you learn a whole new way of baking, and start a national business in the process. Based in Los Angeles, Sweet Debbie’s provides made-to-order allergen-free cupcakes and sweets, shipped all over the country. Read the full interview to find out more about her business, how she started baking for celebrity clients including Gwyneth Paltrow, and how she almost gave birth while delivering cupcakes.
How did you get started baking cupcakes?
My initial idea was to create a sugar-free bakery using all natural sweeteners, since white refined sugar is really so poisonous to your body. The cupcake craze was just beginning and people were lining up outside bakeshops all around the country to eat sugar-laden, saturated fat-filled cupcakes. So I thought by making mine healthful, I could save the world one cupcake at a time.
Do you have any training?
Yes, the Culinary Institute of Trial & Error Sugar-free, Allergen-free Organic Baking.
What other kinds of products doyou offer?
We also offer allergen-free, sugar-free organic brownies, muffins and cookies.
What inspired you to go organic and gluten free?
We are actually completely allergen-free, which means we bake with no dairy, no casein, no eggs, no wheat, no nuts, no tree nuts, no soy and, of course, no sugar. I was inspired to do this because a gun was put to my head. The gun was called food allergies. My son was born with multiple and life threatening food allergies and I had to learn how to bake safely for him. I soon learned there are millions of other children and adults with this same fate, and my goal was to make treats that everyone can enjoy safely and deliciously no matter what their allergies.
What are the biggest challenges to allergen-free baking?
The biggest challenges to allergen-free baking are you have no eggs to help the dough rise and you have no gluten to keep it together. The no dairy is not that big a deal because there is rice milk and othermilk substitutes that stand-in nicely. The other big challenge was finding a great all natural, low-glycemic sweetener that would lend a moist crumb as well as a pleasant sweetness with no aftertaste. That bill was filled with agave nectar and stevia. I have learned to successfully bake with stevia and I would say that was the biggest challenge of all.
Is there any ingredient you just can’t find a substitution for?
There’s no substitute for hard work and a belief in yourself that it can be done. I learned 189 ways how not to make allergen-free cupcakes. On the 190th try, I finally learned how to do it.
Do you have a signature cupcake, or a personal favorite?
I’d have to say my personal favorite is the Chocoholic Cupcake. Like any self-respecting woman, I have a one track mind when it comes to chocolate.
Where are you doing your baking? Do you use a rental kitchen space, own a commercial kitchen, or bake from home?
We rent a commercial kitchen.
Have you ever considered opening a store asopposed to the shipping method?
Maybe one day.
Anyone you’re dying to bake a cupcake for?
I’m dying to bake for anyone with food allergies or sensitivities that hasn’t had a good cupcake, brownie, muffin or cookie in a really long time and is really chomping at the bit to have one.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Everyone has the will to win, but it’s only those with the will to prepare that do win.” – Bobby Knight
Any advice you wish someone had given you before you started?
To be patient.
What’s the most difficult aspect of running your own business?
How to be a full-time mommy and full-time entrepreneur in the same time zone.
Do you work with original recipes?How do you come up with those?
I had no choice but to come up with original recipes because what I wanted to do was almost non-existent at the time. I came up with the allergen-free, sugar-free organic recipes by substituting one thing at a time until each element worked in conjunction with the other. It was a long and arduous process.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to teach others how to bake allergen and sugar-free, so if they can’t buy baked goods from an allergen-free bakery, for whatever reason, they can do it themselves.
How do you market yourself? Is it largely word of mouth?
Our website is our greatest marketing tool and, yes, good old fashioned word-of-mouth plays the largest part.
How does social media play a role in your business?
Social media is a great way for us to be seen and heard universally.
Any cupcake horror stories?
I had to deliver 350 cupcakes to Annaheim for Stonyfield Farm’s 25th Anniversary Celebration while I was in labor. Contractions every 7 minutes and it was an hour in each direction to the convention center. I made it without incident, but it was close.