Ahh, the humble cupcake.
Sweetness in a wrapper piled high with colored frosting and sprinkles. “Sex and the City” may have inadvertently ignited the craze when New York City’s Magnolia Bakery showcased cupcakes on the TV show in the 2000s. Then Sprinkles became the first cupcakes-only bakery when it opened in Los Angeles in 2005 and cupcakes took center stage across the country.
Billings now has its first cupcake-only bakery in Tipsy Cupcake, which opened last month next to Shiloh 14 at Shiloh Crossing.
Named for its signature cupcake, Pink Champagne, the shop has been drawing crowds from day one. Owner Kari Jones said opening the bakery fulfills a childhood dream.
Tipsy Cupcake rotates 20 different cupcakes, with five or six varieties available daily. Pink Champagne, which has real champagne in the frosting, and Red Velvet, made with cream cheese frosting, are available every day.
Last week, Jones rolled chocolate cupcakes topped with white frosting into pink and red hearts and sprinkles.
“I just love this white frosting,” she said, offering a visitor a taste.
A tiny woman with a cheery disposition, Jones said she samples everything she makes all day long. Her secret to not packing on the pounds: hard work.
“My advice to anyone who wants to lose weight — open a business. You are so busy zooming around all day,” Jones said.
Jones remembers as a kid visiting “granny’s house in Michigan” every summer and spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother. When Jones was 8 or 9, her grandmother brought in a professional cake decorator to teach her how to frost a cake. Jones was fascinated with the idea of designing with frosting.
So, when Jones decided to open a catering business in the 1990s to spend more time with her daughter Vanessa, she opted for baking and ran Kari’s Bakes and Cakes for several years. When her son Parker, now an eighth-grader, was a toddler, Jones closed the business and eventually went to work as a music secretary at West High School.
“I never thought I would bake again,” Jones said.
But a year ago, Jones and her husband, Danny, were in Las Vegas for a Super Bowl party when they spotted cupcakes at the Monte Carlo.
Jones said only twice in her life has she had an epiphany. That was one.
“I said to Prince — that’s what I call my husband — ‘Maybe I could quit my job at West High and open a cupcake shop.’ I’ll call it Tipsy Cupcake.’ A couple weeks later, I was looking at spaces.”
Tipsy Cupcake opened on Jan. 10 and operates Tuesdays through Sundays. Jones and some of her six part-time employees tested the market by operating a kiosk at Rimrock Mall during the Christmas season. They discovered Billings was ready for cupcakes.
“The Pink Champagne was the most popular cupcake at the mall,” Jones said. “Now, I think it’s the Crazy for Chocolate or the Red Velvet or the Snickers, which has Snickers in the batter and the frosting.”
On Saturdays, Tipsy Cupcake may go through 500 cupcakes. Weekdays aren’t that busy, but every day is different. Jones said she never knows when people will show up and buy a dozen or two.
“I try to have a good selection every day,” Jones said. “I usually bake throughout the day so I can have an ample amount.”
And when there are leftovers, Jones has delivered them to the Women’s and Family Shelter and St. John’s Alzheimer’s Cottage.
“I love old people and children,” Jones said.
On a typical day, Jones arrives before dawn to start baking and often doesn’t return home until after 7 p.m. When the shop opens at 11 a.m., there are several kinds of cupcakes available, including one of her favorites, the lemon cupcake.
That’s the fun part — conjuring up new cupcake recipes and ideas for decorations. Jones hopes to branch out in coming months to offer birthday parties and open a small shop or kiosk downtown later this year.
“It’s an interesting challenge and it’s been so much fun. The exciting thing is there are oodles of things you can do.”