Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smallcakes is ready for the big time

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 11:15 AM

click to enlarge The Drumstick -- an ode to the ice cream treat -- has vanilla cake with fudge icing, buttercream and sundae nuts.
  • The Drumstick -- an ode to the ice cream treat -- has vanilla cake with fudge icing, buttercream and sundae nuts.

In a world of oversized portions, it might just be the smallest cakes that are making the biggest noise. Or, to be more accurate, Smallcakes.

The Overland Park cupcake bakery -- which opened a sister location in Olathe in February -- is set to debut on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars tonight and celebrate its first anniversary Saturday.

The Drumstick -- an ode to the ice cream treat -- has vanilla cake with fudge icing, buttercream and sundae nuts.
  • The Drumstick -- an ode to the ice cream treat -- has vanilla cake with fudge icing, buttercream and sundae nuts.

When Jeff Martin and his wife, Brandy, moved here from Atlanta, they noticed that the cupcake craze hadn't really hit Johnson County. So they decided to help. After six months of testing recipes, the Martins opened Smallcakes (14383 Metcalf, in Overland Park) on July 10, 2009. 

"Cupcakes are bigger in bigger cities," says Martin, who graduated from Johnson & Wales University before being a chef at Morton's and Capital Grille in Atlanta.

click to enlarge Jeff Martin brings out a batch of peanut butter cup cupcakes.
  • Jeff Martin brings out a batch of peanut butter cup cupcakes.
The shop opened with eight flavors, including Brandy's grandmother's recipe for red velvet cake (Jeff's favorite). Today, Smallcakes rotates through 15 flavors daily.

"We usually have a couple flavors of cake, but now you don't have to buy the whole cake," Martin says.

The name is their 2-year-old daughter Lily's nickname. She also serves as the store's model. It's her icing-covered face that smiles at customers from framed prints. Smallcakes expanded to a second location in Olathe (14150 West 119th Street) in February. A month later, the Food Network called and asked if Martin would be interested in being on Cupcake Wars.

"I thought it was a joke. I sell cupcakes, and the Food Network is calling me?" he says.

But he sent in an audition video -- shot at Kauffman Stadium -- and was selected for the show. In April, he flew out with an assistant to tape the episode. The food competition has four bakers compete in three rounds of challenges. The winner takes home $10,000 and the right to have their cupcakes at a celebrity event. 

"Hopefully we'll get called back for season two," Martin says.

In the interim, he intends to keep experimenting with new flavors. Smallcakes has tried a bacon-topped cupcake, what Martin terms a "breakfast cupcake." He also draws inspiration from ice cream with the Hot Fudge Sundae (chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, nuts, hot fudge and a cherry on top) as well as the Drumstick (vanilla cake, fudge icing, buttercream and sundae nuts).

One of the store items that pushed the boundaries was a Guinness cupcake for St. Patrick's Day. And did it work?  

"It was..um...very flavorful," Martin says.

That's cupcake-speak for no. Although that hasn't deterred Martin from dreaming of a line of alcohol-infused cupcakes. He envisions a Johnson County wine cupcake.

"Then you wouldn't have to get a bottle of wine and a cupcake. You'd have it all in one," he says. 

As he prepares to celebrate the first anniversary, Martin is looking to open a third location possibly in Lee's Summit or Olathe.

Jeff Martin and Smallcakes compete on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars tonight at 8. Smallcakes' first anniversary party is at the Overland Park location on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. A dozen cupcakes will be $16 (a dozen regularly costs $33). There will also be a snow cone machine, free cupcakes and door prizes.

For more information see smallcakeskc.com. Both stores are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. 

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