I take cupcakes very seriously. To me, the most important part is the frosting. I think that most people can pull off a decent cake, but very few people can produce a swoon-worthy frosting. The crew at Love Cupcakes has nailed it. The frosting is decadent, but not sickly-sweet, and they don’t skimp on it. It is piled high on a rich, moist cake. On my visit to their Outer Congress location, I grabbed a variety of cupcakes including a vegan chocolate raspberry, gluten-free German chocolate and chocolate sea-salted caramel cupcake. Normally, I don’t gravitate towards anything labeled gluten-free, nor does the word “vegan” get my blood pumping, but I was extremely surprised by both options. I was hard-pressed to pinpoint any differences between these offerings and the “traditional” cupcake.
I was so enamored with these cupcakes that I had to ask majority owner, Amy Alward, some questions about how this sweet machine came to be and where do she and co-owner Hannah Watson plan to go from here.
1. What first attracted you to the food business?
This desire to create artisanal fare coupled with striving for only the highest quality ingredients has been instilled in me from a very young age. I want to share with everyone the edible art that our culinary artists present and make fresh each morning. The fact that we offer vegan, gluten free and regular all natural cupcakes means that nearly everyone can enjoy them. To hear people say “I haven’t been able to eat a cupcake in years- thank you for baking one that I can not only eat, but that I can sincerely enjoy” is what makes everything worthwhile.
2. What shaped your decision to sell the kind of food you sell?
With an acute emphasis on quality, we wanted to focus on presenting something in it’s simplest form, and enjoyed by all.
3. What interested you about launching your business in a truck, instead of a traditional restaurant?
It just so happened that the cupcake business I was buying had a vintage truck and vintage trailer and I thought okay…so now I own a food truck, what now, brown cow? I’m laughing now writing this, but when I bought this business it was in January, and working out of a truck or trailer can be a little chilly sometimes, to say the least…
4. What unexpected challenges have you encountered since you started your business?
You can never really determine how many cupcakes or savory sliders people are going to buy on a daily basis. (We are now offering savory sliders off the truck and we will also offer those at the market house as well.) The sliders will consist of a weekly rotating variety of grass fed lamb, beef, pork and free range chicken.
5. Do you plan to try and transition your truck to a more traditional restaurant someday?
We recently finished construction on the second floor in the Public Market House in Monument Square of a food stall that looks like our food truck. You can find us there Tuesday through Sunday. It is where we bake our cupcakes these days. We will also be offering savory sliders from the market house, which we’ve started selling at the truck out on Outer Congress at the Portland Racket and Fitness Center.
6. Would you share one funny anecdote about the perils of working in a mobile kitchen?
Working in a mobile food unit requires being adaptable to extreme heat and cold. It also requires wearing clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or torn (a work hazard in a small space) and being super organized!
7. How have Portlanders (and the city) responded to (finally) having a food truck scene?
The people of Portland are extremely supportive and our fans are great. The city tries to work with us as best as they can. They have a lot to balance and Food Trucks are relatively new enough that I think it may take a few more years to find the perfect balance for everyone involved. What is best is how Food Truckers help each other out. We have become a community who supports each other and invites each other to events. We seem to thrive when we are all together and although there is some healthy competition, I remain amazed at how nice and friendly all the other Food Truckers are to us newbies.
8. What is your most effective marketing tool?
I would have to say that our food truck and trailer themselves are the best marketing tools. They are so fun in their green and pink vintage styling and the beautiful cupcakes that leave the window are nothing short of a work of art. What keeps people coming back for seconds is our cupcakes, which are out of this world. The vegan and gluten free cupcakes do not even taste different from our regular all-natural cupcakes!
9. Is operating a food truck more conducive to creativity and menu changes/development?
In some ways, yes. Because our menu is a chalkboard, we can adapt our menu daily without reprinting menus. Additionally, because there is such limited space, we have to be very smart with what we plan to make. We want to be able to make a variety of foods while being able to multipurpose ingredients to help save space.
10. Any words of wisdom for potential food truckies, or anything else you’d like to add?
There are many bumps in the road, but there are also lots of events in Portland to make it an attractive option for someone who likes to showcase their culinary talent.
Thank to the fabulous team over at Love Cupcakes for whipping up my favorite chocolate sea salt caramel cupcakes and for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To check on the daily menu or to learn about upcoming events, visit Love Cupcakes on Facebook or Twitter.