Sweet Little Things! Metro Detroit Cupcake Shops

By: Toni Cunningham | November 20, 2012

Some people crave French fries or Fritos. I, on the other hand, have a sweet tooth that rivals Duncan Hines himself. Cupcakes, in particular, are my all-time favorite confection.

Luckily for me—and personal-sized cake lovers alike—the gourmet cupcake craze is here to stay. Over the past several years, mom and pop cupcake shops have popped up around Metro Detroit with a vengeance.

As a cupcake enthusiast, I turned to a few local cupcake shop owners and aficionados in order to learn how they got started and why exactly they love these pint-sized cakes.

My ultimate cupcake quest began with Jim Ohngren, owner of Rockin’ Cupcakes in Rochester Hills.

Nearly two years after opening its doors, Rockin’ Cupcakes offers 14 flavors per day, all of which are made from scratch and baked fresh daily. Combining cupcakes and rock n’ roll, each cupcake is titled after a song, artist or band—including The King, The White Stripes and Yellow Submarine.

“The biggest challenge once we opened was building a customer base, getting the word out that we’re here and getting people to come in and try our cupcakes,” Ohngren said.

In addition to selling in-store, Rockin’ Cupcakes caters weddings and graduations, and will custom-make any cupcake, whatever your theme or décor.

Ohngren believes that cupcakes are a beloved dessert because they offer variety, and everyone can pick his or her own flavor. At the weddings they cater, people typically pick eight or nine flavors, and cupcakes are cheaper than a wedding cake, so they’re the economical choice.

“We marry rock n’ roll with cupcakes,” Ohngren said, noting that Rockin’ Cupcakes’ best selling flavor is the Rolling Stone, which is the store’s version of the bumpy cake.

The next stop in my metaphorical journey led me to Royal Oak. Michelle Brown, co-owner of Taste Love Cupcakes, and business partner, Yolanda Baston, were featured on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” this past spring—and took home the $10,000 prize.

“I’ve always loved to bake,” Brown said, noting that she and Baston decided to open their own bakery as a second career and after being stay at home moms for several years.

Brown said they took the time to study other cupcake shops and instantly knew they needed to set themselves apart. In order to succeed in the business world, she says you need to do your own work, and make sure you really have a passion for your subject. In her case, it was cupcakes.

“The sweet potato (cupcake) was one that the judges on ‘Cupcake Wars’ really loved,” Brown said, adding that the top bestsellers at Taste Love Cupcakes are Red Velvet and the aforementioned Sweet Potato.

The craziest flavor they’ve ever concocted was a Caramel and Salmon cupcake, which unfortunately was just done for the show and won’t be featured on the menu anytime soon.

Whether simplistic or eccentric in flavor, Brown believes cupcakes are popular because they’re cute, they’re bite sized, they bring you back to when you were a kid, and best of all, you can grab one and go. They’re also portable, delicious and people are just enthralled by cupcakes.

Lastly, my search led me to Laura Wier, owner of Nom Nom’s Cupcake Factory in Westland, who decided to pursue cupcakes with her daughter, Jennifer, the store’s manager.

“Our bakery is successful because my daughter and I work very hard at it. We have employed people that do the same and have the same passion for the business that we do. We take pride in giving customers a good product,” Wier said.

Wier describes the perfect cupcake as moist, dense, flavorful and sweet. And while the shop offers unique flavors such as Banana Rum, Irish Car Bomb and Maple Bacon, the shop’s bestseller is the simplistic Peanut Butter Cup.

“I think the allure of cupcakes is because people don’t feel as guilty with one cupcake as opposed to an entire cake,” Wier said. “That plus you have the option to mix flavors. Reality TV and Hollywood are part of the reason they’ve become so popular. I love cupcakes because they’re fun!”

Personally, I love cupcakes because they are, in a word, delicious. If you’ve made it to the end of this article without running out to any of the aforementioned cupcake shops, congratulations! Now, go treat yourself with a pint-sized cake. I know I will be!