“Courtney has a lot of unique pairings with her cupcakes,” said Hollister resident Jessica Riggle. “One I really thought I would hate is a meyer lemon with lavender buttercream. It sounded kind of crazy to me. But it was actually really delicious and really complimentary. When you eat them together, it forms a new flavor that I really enjoyed.”
The lemon and lavender cupcake that Riggle liked is just one of the unusual and rich flavors created by home chef Courtney Lopez for her business, The Chaste Cupcake. Other recent specials have included gingerbread cupcakes with orange zested vanilla buttercream, espresso chocolate cupcakes with peppermint mocha buttercream, and churro cupcakes with cinnamon.
In August, Lopez began baking cupcakes out of her home in Hollister and selling them.
“I decided to start selling cupcakes because of COVID, basically,” Lopez said. “I have been baking for about eight years but I really got into it over the last year when COVID hit. I have a three-year-old who has cerebral palsy and I had to stay at home and not work because of her therapies. So this was a way of making an income on my own terms.”
Being a caregiver for her daughter did not present an obstacle to running her business.
“It actually made it easier,” Lopez said. “When I had a full-time job it was more difficult to schedule doctors appointments and therapies around my obligations. With my own business, I can make my hours around what I have going on.”
Lopez had been making cupcakes for her husband and three children when a neighbor asked her to make some for a child’s birthday party.
“I started experimenting with different flavors and styles,” she said, “and then I started looking into what the requirements were for cottage food businesses. It did not look too difficult, so I just decided to go for it. I figured if nobody liked my stuff I would not be out very much.”
To work out of her home, certain requirements had to be met, including giving the city a list of all the ingredients in her cupcakes. Regulations forbid the use of fresh fruit, custards, or anything that has to be refrigerated.
Riggle, Lopez’s next-door neighbor, was the first person to sample potential cupcake flavors.
“I was her taste-tester when she decided to start selling cupcakes,” Riggle said. “She used me to help figure out how sweet, how moist. I tasted a lot of cupcakes and she has really grown in developing flavors and what pairs well. I know she pays a lot of attention to detail and she doesn’t cut corners. It is important to her that they taste good and now that she is selling them I have ordered several times.”
Doing all the baking out of Lopez’s home kitchen limits her production at the moment.
“The most I have made at one time is 13 dozen cupcakes,” she said. “I have been trying to organize things so I can do mass deliveries, like for Valentine’s Day. I offer to deliver them and I have gone as far as San Jose. I can usually get people interested, then they call their friends and they order some too.”
Lopez started producing special cupcakes for holidays right from the start, with Halloween-themed chocolate mummies and pumpkin monsters, both with buttercream. Thanksgiving brought pumpkin cupcakes with brown sugar buttercream and gingerbread cupcakes for Christmas. For New Year’s Eve, Lopez offered sparkling cider cupcakes with apple pie filling and a cinnamon cider buttercream.
For Valentine’s Day, The Chaste Cupcake will serve a trio of new cupcakes: real vanilla bean with strawberry buttercream; espresso chocolate with bright red vanilla buttercream; and red velvet with vanilla buttercream.
The Chaste Cupcake operates by delivery and pick-up only. Customers can order from a regular menu of seven cupcake flavors and six different frostings. Lopez is currently looking into sugar-free and gluten-free options and has been experimenting with chive and cheddar cheese biscuits, as well as sourdough bread.
For a cottage business that is only a few months old, the community support has already been a blessing for Lopez.
“I have been selling by word of mouth and Facebook postings,” she said. “When I do my posts, people who have ordered from me jump on there adding comments saying they have had them and they are amazing. Everyone has been really great. I don’t think I am going to be a millionaire any time soon, but it definitely helps at a time like this.”
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