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Q&A with Jamie Fahey

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Jamie Fahey, professional confectioner of cupcakes and owner of the critically acclaimed Atlanta Cupcake Factory, fell into her career as if by happenstance. One day, a food journalist wandered into the humble cupcake shop and asked to try a cupcake and the next, the AJC was calling the establishment “the only recommended cupcake bakery in Atlanta.” The secret of the trade is in the quality, love and meticulous care that goes into making each cupcake.

 

Nexus: What did you want to be before you realized you wanted to bake?

Jamie: An Interior designer.

 

Nexus: So what made you choose cupcakes?

Jamie: Well, I kind of stumbled into this backwards. I knew that I wanted to get into food, but not necessarily baking, so I spread the word around my friends that I was willing to do some catering for free, and someone requested cupcakes. I said ‘No, I don’t do cupcakes; I hate cupcakes.’ She insisted, and I had some free time, so I decided to go ahead and do full recipe development, because that’s just kind of how I do things. So I made these cupcakes, and there was a person from the press at the party that they were served at. They ended up doing a dedicated press piece on them. That’s what launched the business.

 

Nexus: What troubles did you run into when starting your business?

Jamie: My story is kind of unusual. There was an email newsletter called DailyCandy that went city to city and did email blasts on what was current and hip in each city. They ended up doing a dedicated email blast on me. DailyCandy was read by a lot of corporate gift buyers, so the morning that this email blast went out, my phone started ringing. It was crazy! The business launched as corporate gifting and it grew organically, so I didn’t really have the normal startup problems that normal businesses do.

 

Nexus: Can you walk me through the everyday workings of the business?

Jamie: Sure! There’s two different facets of this business: the kitchen and the retail. My kitchen staff gets here around 5:30 in the morning. The first thing they do is start their baking. Once things start coming out of the oven, they start frosting for the retail case for the day. From there, they’ll put together the special orders.

 

Nexus: Special orders? For ordering cupcakes ahead of time?

Jamie: Correct, but there’s a larger umbrella than just cupcakes. We do cakes, brownies, and all kinds of stuff.

 

Nexus: If you could only eat three flavors of cupcake, what would they be?

Jamie: Today I ate the chocolate peppermint. The coconut almond is my all-time favorite. Coconut almond, chocolate peppermint, and … sweet potato bourbon.


Nexus: What’s the most popular flavor?

Jamie: The sugar cookie salted caramel. It’s that salty sweet combination that people really are attracted to.

 

Nexus: What’s the most unique or interesting cupcake flavor you’ve ever sold?

Jamie: Well, for the last two years, it’s been named best in the country by the Today Show and the Daily Meal. It’s a sugar cookie cake with a browned butter, rosemary and pine nut frosting.

 

Nexus: Do you have any baking “horror” stories?

Jamie: Yeah! The sugar-cookie salted caramel on the first day that we made it. My head baker had never baked before and her English was not great at the time. I had told her that I wanted to have salt over the caramel on this cupcake. Often times,for our sanding sugar decorations, we’ll roll the edges of the cupcake’s frosting in colored sugar so it has a pretty border around it. Well, she rolled the edge of the cupcake in salt. That’s a lot of salt! And she put it out to sell! I happened to be walking up to the front counter as the first customer to buy this cupcake actually took a bite out of it at the front counter. The look on her face when she bit into all that salt was pretty horrific.

 

Nexus: Where did you first learn to bake?

Jamie: In my grandmother’s kitchen. She was not a professional; she was a home baker, but she was a master at pastry. She baked every single and day and she had the most amazing kitchen. Her kitchen was my most favorite place on Earth. It was all pink. All of her appliances were pink, like Pepto Bismol pink, and I thought that was the most amazing thing ever. I would hang out with her all day long from the time I was born, watching her do pastry. My knowledge of baking came from her and those years spent in her kitchen.

 

Nexus: Anything else?

Jamie: I think it might be interesting for you to know about the growth of this bakery. We’re nationally known. We’re considered one of the best in the country at what we do, and we have achieved that without any PR or marketing people helping us. It’s strictly word of mouth. We’ve been in Wall Street Journal, CNN has profiled us, we’ve been in Southern Living, we’ve been in People Magazine. There’s a lot of press. Also, I have the most amazing staff in the world and I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

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The arts, cultural and news magazine of Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia