Simply Sweet Cupcakes: Having Fun and Seeing Success

When you walk into Simply Sweet Cupcakes in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, you’re immediately taken by the sweet smell of cupcakes. With friendly faces behind the counter, your experience in the bakery begins happily. The owners of the shop, Jacquelin Ciaburri and Gina Ciaburri, are likely to be laughing in the kitchen, which further proves the existence of the easygoing, friendly atmosphere.

The cupcake case is filled with a variety of flavors from Tiramisu to Strawberry and they all look magnificent and as the owners said themselves, “pretty.” The shop workers were busy decorating cakes and talking to customers, while Gina and Jacquelin were individually wrapping their popular High Heel cupcakes for a party.

As I walked around the shop, I saw two little signs hanging on the walls. Both boasting cupcake-related sayings like “Life is short…eat more cupcakes.” At Simply Sweet, I’m almost positive it is easy to eat more cupcakes. After taking a break from wrapping their cupcakes, Gina and Jacquelin came over to talk to me, coffee in hand, trying to maintain their level of energy to continue with the rest of their day.

As they sat down, I took another quick glance around their shop and was intrigued to know why they decided to open a cupcake bakery. Often, small-business owners are “inspired” to open their business so I asked them what their inspiration was. “Nothing,” Jacquelin said with a laugh. “We were looking to just rent a kitchen, and then one of our customers recommended for us to come down here and take a look and we saw the place and I said no, and she said ‘yeah’ and that was that.”

Located in Egg Harbor City’s downtown section, the shop is surrounded by a plethora of little stores, giving the area a very cutesy, Main Street vibe. “The town needs help, businesses are closing because of the economy. It adds another business to the road so that’s what we decided to do instead of just renting a kitchen,” said Gina.

After only being open for about a year, their business, like many other cupcake businesses, has seen large success. They attribute this success to a few things like their creative style of baking, “We never write down our recipes,” said Jacquelin, their dynamic, “People come in here because we fight and they think it’s entertaining,” Gina explained, and the popularity of cupcakes in general “They’re cute and you can do so much with them. They’re individual. Instead of sitting down for an entire cake you can sit down and just have one,” said Jacquelin.

Gina and Jacquelin are sister-in-laws and they make quite the duo. They each agreed that if it were not for the other, they would not want to work in the shop. “I wouldn’t like working here, I’m going to regret saying this, I wouldn’t work here if she didn’t work here,” Jacquelin said with a laugh. “I think the main focus of what we do is we have a lot of fun and we laugh a lot, people think we’re nuts.” Their have-fun attitude gives their bakery life and when you bite into one of their delicious cupcakes, you can tell they are made with love.

Their advice for anyone thinking about opening their first cupcake bakery is, “Have fun, and you should probably know what you’re doing,” said Gina. As Gina said this, Jacquelin looked at her quizzically and said, “We didn’t know what we were doing. We still don’t know what we’re doing!” They both laughed. As an outsider, I think their success proves they’re doing something right.

Visit Simply Sweet Cupcakes online at their Facebook page or take a drive down to Egg Harbor City. They’re located at 132 Philadelphia Avenue, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.

home SWEET home: Q&A with at-home baker, Jacki Chinosi

Jacki Chinosi in her kitchen

Jacki Chinosi in her kitchen

Dreams are often formed in the comfort of one’s own home. For Jacki Chinosi, her home is where the dream has stayed. Five years ago, Chinosi realized she had a knack for baking cupcakes, really good cupcakes, that her friends and family alike could not stop complementing. “Every time we had a family gathering, I’d experiment with a different kind of cupcake,” she said. “And each time someone would come up to me and say that it was the best cupcake they’d ever eaten. It kind of got the wheels turning.” Chinosi formulated her own recipes and techniques and now bakes cupcakes for parties out of her home.

Have you always been interested in baking?

Yes, as a kid my mom and I used to bake together all the time. She was always making things for church functions and for holidays and I always remember wanting to help. It was fun. I also really liked putting ingredients together and seeing how they created something delicious.

When did you start experimenting with cupcake recipes?

It really started about five years ago when I was pregnant with my second child. I was constantly craving cupcakes and so I figured instead of spending lots of money on gourmet ones or going through the hassle of trying to find a good place to go, I’d make them myself. So I went online and looked things up and added my own spin on recipes I thought I’d like and it kind of just worked. I made my husband and my sister-in-law try them and they loved them and they’re my harshest critics so I knew if they liked them, others would too, which is why I started bringing them to functions and things.

Do you plan on opening your own cupcake bakery one day?

I mean, would I love to do that? Yes. Do I see that happening any time in the near future, no. I only say that because I have four kids now and I’m constantly busy with them and I can’t imagine opening a bakery because that’s like another baby. Honestly, baking out of my house is easy and just as efficient as having my own business. I get to choose when I work and who I work for and I can make sure that whoever needs me to make cupcakes for them gets exactly what he or she wants because I am able to focus on only that specific order.

So for people who dream of owning their own bakery one day, would you advise them to start off at home?

If you have this dream and you don’t have the opportunity to open your own place, starting at home is great. You obviously don’t get to reach out to as many people as you would if you had an actual bakery but it’s a great way to get experience and learn the tricks and trades of cupcake baking because you get to do it at your own pace. You always have to start somewhere and I think that there could be worse places to begin than at your own home.

Any at-home tips for novice cupcake bakers?

My best and easiest tip is a trick for box mixes. They usually call for oil and water in the recipe but if you substitute the oil for butter and the water for milk, it ends up much more moist and rich and it tastes like you made it from scratch. I hardly do this because I make all of my cupcakes from scratch but when I want to whip up something quick for the kids, I’ll do this. It’s a great secret.

What makes your cupcakes unique?

Everything I bake is made in my own home. Not many other bakers can say that! Also, they’re delicious and relatively cheap. Since I make them mostly for my friends and family, I don’t charge that much. I do it because I love it, not to make a profit. I think that could be considered pretty unique too!

Do you think the cupcake craze is here to stay?

Well, all I know is that everyone I talk to about cupcakes talks so much about how “obsessed” they are with them so needless to say, I think they’re here to stay. There’s so many varieties, there is literally one for everyone.

What do you think most people would say is the hardest part about cupcake baking?

For me, it was frosting! Frosting a cupcake is so difficult the first few times! Maybe it’s because I’m a perfectionist, but I messed up a hundred times before I got one right. For people just starting out, I would definitely think that making them look pretty is the most difficult thing ever. Watch a lot of videos and read things about frosting and just do as you see, that’s the only piece of advice I have. Practice makes perfect!

What is your favorite part about cupcake baking?

The smile on the faces of the people who eat them. There’s nothing like seeing someone bite into something you made and smile. It makes it worth it.

Chinosi does not have a website nor was she comfortable with listing her phone number on the blog. As of now, she only accepts orders from friends and family or referrals. She hopes that one day, she can have a bakery and really test her skills.