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Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Victory Is Sweet in Cake War

In retail, a good location can make or break a shop. And by that measure, Dreamy Creations Cupcake Café seems to have the odds stacked against it. Tucked away in a Northridge warehouse complex, the cupcake store is far from prime Ventura Boulevard space. Still, the bakery, run by Crystal Schaffner and her daughter Jenica Braddock, has achieved hard-won success in a business where there aren’t exactly too many barriers to entry. Customers line up for the duo’s exotic offerings, including the Elvis, a banana cupcake layered with peanut butter icing topped with chocolate buttercream and chips, and the Campfire, a vanilla cake with caramel icing and toasted marshmallows. But it has taken more than unusual flavors to stand out. Try a never-say-die attitude. Today, the duo is reaping the rewards of being the season three winners of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” It was redemption after the pair were eliminated in the first round of the show in 2011. “People have to know we’re great bakers, not losers,” said Schaffner, 52. The business has its origins in Schaffner’s passion for baking, which prompted her daughter during high school in 2008 to suggest that her mother start a business – the first cake job was for the wedding of a classmate’s older sister. The pair baked pies, cakes, cupcakes and cookies and sold them at farmers markets. They opened their store in 2010, a tiny spot with a walk-up window and café chairs in the same industrial warehouse they are now. Starting a bakery from scratch was not all frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Braddock, 22, said there were many days that ended in tears, barely scraping by to make ends meet. Even so, they decided to renew their lease and expand a bit. “Cupcake Wars” then came calling soon after in 2011. “It was like God saying, ‘Way to stick in there and not give up,’” Braddock said. And while they got eliminated at first, enough viewers saw the show to seek out the business, which they changed to a cupcake-only bakery. The second time around on the show last year, their winning menu included a blueberry pie cupcake, a rocky road skateboard cupcake with marshmallow wheels and a chocolate-covered banana cupcake with a gold star and a ‘T’ for Tony Hawk, the celebrity judge for that season. Sales have taken off and they used the $10,000 prize money to buy a delivery truck. – Jacquelinne Mejia

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