Kelly Bowdoin expected to be slow the first week of January.
Her new Elkhart business, called Mini Delights, involves a lot of sugar.
Bowdoin was wrong. "We have been slammed," she said.
Maybe it's because people didn't make resolutions not to eat cupcakes. Maybe it's that most of the cupcakes she sells are two-bites big.
"They're little. You don't have to feel quite as guilty," she said.
Even when she named the business, she didn't expect that it would describe her most popular item. She offers cinnamon rolls, muffins and small coffee cakes, but what's selling best are the mini-cupcakes.
But the most likely reason she's busy is because word is spreading fast that her stuff is good.
Bowdoin has been catering for business events for a couple years. She wanted to expand and so she and her husband, Jeff, purchased the building at 217 S. Main St., Elkhart. The front is office space for his non-food business. The back is the former Allen's Cake Shoppe, a longtime Elkhart business that closed several years ago. The family remodeled the bakery and opened Mini Delights on Dec. 1.
Kelly prefers to be in the kitchen, working on a meal for a business or the latest batch of baked goods. Her daughter, Ashley Krieg, left banking to oversee sales and marketing. She's making deliveries and selling items to customers who walk in.
It's not hard to figure out they're having a blast together.
They're bringing the cupcake craze to Elkhart. It's been raging on the U.S. coasts for a couple years and has crept to middle America where dessert is often delivered atop a pie crust. Bowdoin said she and her husband saw the popularity of cupcakes as they traveled or visited a daughter in Indianapolis. As an afterthought, she added it to her business. And it's working.
She's decorating and arranging them to form centerpieces for weddings or retirement parties. For Valentine's Day, Mini Delights plan to fill pretty boxes with $15 or $30.
She's baking from scratch, using real butter, Mexican vanilla and ingredients she gets from King Arthur Flour, which specializes in baking supplies.
"I've always been a baker," Bowdoin said. She and Krieg work on new flavors weekly, but so far the red velvet, chocolate cream and black bottom mini-cupcakes are what's selling best.
She tops her baked goods with a variety of icings, including buttercream, cream cheese and variations on cream cheese that include peanut butter or brown sugar.
The only yeast-raised item are the cinnamon rolls. Everything else is based on a quick bread. And they're good.
The black bottom flavor with cream cheese in the batter is dialed in and doesn't need any icing on top. The applesauce spice has the right blend of sugar, cinnamon and icing. The baked items aren't overly sweet and the icings are well matched to the flavors. The minis are $6 a half dozen, $10 a dozen.
The cinnamon rolls ($2 each) have a nice balance of cinnamon and are topped with cream cheese frosting. The blueberry coffee cake topped with crumb ($2) comes in a small wrapper and would make a nice breakfast with a piece of fruit and cup of coffee.
The Bowdoins worked hard to fit into the fabric of downtown Elkhart and add to the mix, not compete with what's here, Kelly said. "We're excited about being downtown. We think it's coming back," she added. They're buying Blue Moon Coffee from nearby John's Bagels. They sought a niche and tend to offer items not carried by other nearby businesses.
Their catering is centered around light fare for breakfast or lunch and can be customized to what someone needs. They keep some cupcakes and other baked items on the shelves, but if someone wants more than a few, Bowdoin hopes they'll call ahead. She said a morning phone call can result in afternoon cupcakes.
Bowdoin said cupcakes may not be popular forever and she can change. The way she can bake, and the way that she and her daughter both understand customer service, I expect they'll be around a long time. I'll happily eat their baked goods as long as they're here.
What: Mini Delights Bake Shoppe
Where: 217 S. Main St., Elkhart, facing the rear alley in the former Allen's Cake Shoppe
Fare: Baked goods and corporate catering
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and Saturdays by appointment
Details: Custom catering available; call ahead for large orders; credit cards accepted; public restroom available; stairs inside door
* Downtown Elkhart Inc. is having a pub crawl from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday in downtown Elkhart. Nine downtown restaurant/bars will have drink specials and door prizes. Municipal lots will have free parking and overnight parking is allowed. Discounted cabs and limo rides home will be available. The event starts at Mad Anthony's, 528 S. Main, at 8 and will also include 523 Tap & Grill, Bowly's Crystal Bar, Brownstone Lounge, Crimaldi's, Harrison Landing, Olive or Twist, the Vine and Stirred.
* Kelly Jae's Cafe won the Fire and Ice Festival chili contest on Jan. 2. Several hundred people tasted chili at nine locations and voted on their favorite. In addition to Kelly Jae's, I really liked the offerings at the Electric Brew and Maple City Market.
* Chef Greg Beachey of the Elkhart Area Career Center started his second term as president of the American Culinary Federation South Bend Chefs and Cooks Association. Chef Alan Seidler of Notre Dame won the Chef of the Year award at an event late last year. Sue Ellen Reed, a culinary student at Ivy Tech State College, won the Student Chef of the Year award.
* Applebee's has five new entrees, all with calorie counts less than 550 calories, according to a press release. According to Ron Fiscus, vice president of operations for northern Indiana, the entrees haven't sacrificed taste and gives diners more options. The new entrees are grilled shrimp and rice, Asian crunch salad, grilled Dijon chicken and portobellos, Asiago peppercorn steak and spicy shrimp diavolo.
* In my year-end column, I referred to Lucky's Donuts as being in Goshen. The location that served pad thai and other Asian food is at 700 W. Bristol, Elkhart.
* Martin's Super Markets' schedule of winter classes includes a three-part cake decorating series and classes on making shrimp, Indian and Chinese food, according to a press release. The classes, which range from $15 to $100 for the three-part series, take place at the Heritage Square store in Mishawaka. For more information, go to www.martins-supermarkets.com
* The episode of "Dinner and a Book" I filmed with Gail Martin airs again at 5:30 p.m. today on WNIT-TV. The book at the heart of the episode was "Secrets of the Tsil Cafe."
Marshall V. King is news editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 296-5805 or on Twitter @hungrymarshall.