Cupcakes have always been one of our guilty pleasures, and stepping into Trophy Cupcakes is like entering a world of delicious temptation. Jennifer Shea opened the Seattle cupcake shop and vintage party supply retailer in 2007, and her mouthwatering treats garnered immediate attention — her cupcakes are consistently regarded as the best in Seattle. Aside from expanding to five additional locations in the area, Jennifer’s book Trophy Cupcakes and Parties! is now on shelves. We couldn’t wait to get a look at her gorgeous shop and offices, and pick her brain about baked goods and business!
Check out Trophy Cupcakes on Facebook to see if Jennifer will be doing a book signing in your area soon!
Photography: Rina Jordan Photography
Can you tell us a little about Trophy Cupcakes?
My husband and I opened Trophy in 2007 after years of planning and recipe testing. I’ve been a baker and party-maker my whole life, so opening the shop was truly a dream come true. Trophy was met with immediate fanfare and it wasn’t long before our cupcakes were featured in Vanity Fair, Sunset and Seattle Magazine. I was even invited to appear on The Martha Stewart Show, another absolute dream come true. Since then we have opened 5 more locations around the Seattle area, and have been named Best Cupcake Shop in Seattle year after year. And my first book just came out, it really is the cherry on top of it all! I pinch myself all the time because it’s just so amazing that I get to do what I love every single day!
What inspired you to open a boutique bakeshop?
I’ve been crazy about baking since I was little. To me, there’s nothing more magical than taking a little flour, sugar and butter, and creating delectable confections! I had an “a-ha” moment in NYC in 1996 when I stepped into a cupcake shop with some friends. In that moment I realized I could turn my passion into a career. I’d been the go-to baker for my friends and family for years, and I loved how happy it always made them. The idea that I could bring that happiness to everyone was a dream come true. That’s why I love our new book so much. While our shops are only in the Seattle area, anyone — no matter where they are — can now plan Trophy-perfect parties and bake their very own Trophy Cupcakes.
Can you share a day in the life of Trophy Cupcakes?
A day in the life of a bakery starts before the sun comes up. Batters are made, cupcakes are baked and buttercreams piped all before most people are up for the day. By 8 a.m. our shops are bustling with customers lining up to get dozens for birthday parties, business meetings and any number of celebratory events. Our specialty is custom cupcakes, whether it’s girly glittery cupcakes with mini tiaras, Darth Vader cakes with hand- frosted details or a fully custom logo, precisely piped, our decorators do the most amazing work! We frost all day long to keep about 14 rotating flavors stocked. On the weekend our party room is packed with festivities and our decorators are busy frosting hundreds of wedding cupcakes. Trophy is a super fun environment because basically we are helping people party all day long!
What sets Trophy Cupcakes apart from other bakeries?
I am a quality freak and believe that “good isn’t good enough” when it comes to cupcakes. Our whole team is incredibly passionate about making sure we are raising the “buttercream bar” every single day at Trophy. We start with the finest ingredients, like French cocoa, Madagascar Bourbon vanilla and local butter, then craft them into miniature works of art.
You sell vintage party supplies too — what made you want to add that side of your business?
I am a just as much a party-maker as I am a baker. I grew up crafting and creating elaborate parties — it’s just what I love. When I was planning Trophy Cupcakes and Party, I loved the idea of a one-stop shop for everything party related, from cupcakes and candles to cards and decorations. Vintage items are part of our offerings because I’m just obsessed with one of a kind, retro party supplies. They are so charming and the colors are perfection: I’ve been collecting for years and years!
How would you describe your decorating style?
My decorating style for entertaining is similar to what you’ll find in my office and shops: fun, colorful and chic without being too fussy. Decor should be inspiring and make people smile without being overwhelmingly difficult to execute. Simple DIY projects, such as some of the ones found in our new book, make a big impact with little work. Think tissue paper pompoms and classic honeycomb clusters in every corner, pops of gold, confetti in the air and garlands strung here and there. My goal is to inspire more celebration, to “Make Every Day a Party!”
Where do you get ideas for your cupcake flavors? What’s the most popular, and which one is your favorite?
Flavor inspiration for our cupcakes comes from a lot of different places. Anything from my favorite cocktails (our Pina Colada cupcake with coconut rum buttercream is one of my all time faves!) to favorite childhood treats (Raspberry Macaroon is our twist on the Hostess Tiger Tail) to seasonal ingredients (our October special is Caramel Apple Cupcake made with Washington apples).
Red Velvet and Salted Caramel with French sea salt are our most popular flavors by far. It’s a bonus that we also offer them in gluten-free varieties. As far as my personal favorite, I have a really hard time choosing just one because I really do love them all. But if stranded on a desert island, I would choose Chocolate Vanilla. It’s the 1st recipe I created and I never get tired of it: it’s classic and super yummy!
How do you sparkle?
Doing what I love makes me sparkle. People thank me all the time for bringing joy into their lives through our cupcakes and community efforts. That makes me sparkle for sure! I am constantly amazed and humbled that what I truly love to do makes other people happy and inspires them to sparkle too!