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Party is ‘sugar high’ for cupcake business

Best of Baltimore

(Alissa Gulin/The Daily Record)

For breakfast this morning, I had a cupcake, a luscious chocolate morsel infused with Old Bay, slathered with salted caramel buttercream icing and topped with a chocolate-dipped Old Bay potato chip. Never mind that it was slightly smushed from its ride home in my purse after Baltimore magazine’s “Best of Baltimore” party Thursday night — the recipe (aptly called “The Baltimore”) would make anyone in Charm City proud.

My breakfast was one of 1,600 cupcakes on display at the party courtesy of Towson-based La Cakerie, which was honored for “Best Cake” in Baltimore magazine’s annual “Best of” issue and served as the party’s official dessert sponsor.

La Cakerie’s table was one of the most popular stops for the hundreds of partygoers who roamed the Hippodrome Theatre on a multiple-floor, food-grazing circuit. Turned out it was a great way to show off the new bakery’s yummy goods.

The bakery opened its first and only retail location just eight months ago, in Towson, after co-owner/pastry chef Jason Hisley took first place in Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” If Marylanders haven’t heard of La Cakerie yet, they probably will soon. Hisley said he and business partner Adam Klein plan to open two to three more stores within the next five months and expect a food truck to hit the streets within a few weeks.

With expansion on the horizon, establishing a larger following is even more crucial, and Hisley said he feels more confident than ever thanks to exposure in the magazine and at the event.

“We had several people call within the first day of the magazine being out,” Hisley said. “And then people kept calling saying, ‘I just saw you in the magazine, and I want to order something.’ We never expected that. It brought so much business to us, which is incredible. And this morning, I woke up to a ton of emails from people at the party last night just thanking us or wanting to order stuff. You can’t beat the publicity from things like that.”

(To watch Hisley, a 24-year-old Baltimore native, prepare the dazzling Old Bay-themed dessert, check out this YouTube clip.)

The annual “Best of Baltimore” party lived up to its billing as an over-the-top summer social fest that attracts much of Charm City’s see-and-be-seen crowd. With a speakeasy theme, many were dressed in colorful costumes from the roaring ’20s, complete with feathers, boas and long strands of pearls to honor the magazine’s 171 businesses, people and organizations that won 2013 honors.

A lively folk band (The Bumper Jacksons) played ragtime and jazzy music, and dozens of restaurants from all across Baltimore offered nibbles like crab cakes, summer salads, chicken liver pate, sushi, surf and turf and even chips and fresh salsa. Booze, wine and beer flowed generously.

But La Cakerie hit the sweet spot. In addition to “The Baltimore,” three other cupcake flavors were on display: red velvet, chocolate vanilla and orange crush (a nod to a popular Baltimore drink). La Cakerie also brought two towering, three-tier cakes with intricate sugar details, brownie bites, coconut macaroons and sugar cookies-on-a-stick emblazoned with an edible image of the shop’s logo — “like an edible business card,” Hisley says.

La Cakerie wasn’t compensated for the showcase; a percentage of the “Best of Baltimore” party benefited The Family Tree, a nonprofit working to prevent child abuse. All told, Hisley estimated the bakery spent about $1,300-to-$1,500 on ingredients, display materials, transporting the goodies and other expenses.

“It was a quite expensive little project, but if you get the right publicity and you promote it well, it’s totally worth it,” he said. “At events like this, where people are paying $80 or more for a ticket, you’re meeting people who have disposable income, who enjoy fine food, fine drink and just going out and partying — people who have that spirit of enjoying themselves. So all these people are potential clients who could come to our store or place orders for corporate events.”

Hisley said the face-time and networking opportunity with other business owners was valuable, because they might be interested in buying wholesale.

“So if they see us, and they like what they tried, we made another customer,” Hisley said.

[Committed partygoer and Daily Record reporter Melody Simmons contributed to this sweet report.]