Back in 2003, Suzanne Cooper decided to return to work. She had left the workforce to raise three kids and those child-rearing years turned out to be excellent experience for her next career: cupcake making.
Ms. Cooper says many of her children's friends had peanut allergies, which made classroom snacks a challenge. That's when she decided to open The Cupcake Shoppe, located in Toronto's Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood, and sell only peanut-free cupcakes.
Nearly 10 years later, Ms. Cooper is again breaking new ground – with a new store. A second location of The Cupcake Shoppe opened in Vaughan, Ont., just north of Toronto, on July 12.
But this savvy business lady is more than a lover of petits gâteaux. When she's not working with her bakers to create new flavours, she can be found enjoying the fruits of the sea. (So far, there are no plans for a seafood-inspired cupcake.)
The Vaughan location is exclusively offering your new white-chocolate blueberry cupcake. How do you come up with new flavours?
We take inspiration from our customers. That's how our red velvet cupcake started out – a lot of Americans were asking for it. Another idea is when we [Ms. Cooper and her bakers] start taking the icing off one cupcake it and putting it on the cake of another. That's how we came up with Pink Lemonade. My daughter came up with the idea for our Vaughan Berry White cupcake. It was based on one she had in Montreal. My kids and their friends really act like my taste testers.
Have any of your cupcake experiments ever gone wrong?
Our first attempt at filling a cupcake was a black-forest flavoured one. Ugh, no. It was so bad. It just wasn't working out. It was the centre that didn't seem to bake properly. That was a long time ago! Yeah, that was probably back in 2006.
I have to ask: What's your favourite cupcake flavour?
I really like them all. But right now, I really like the s'mores-inspired cupcake. I like how it has the marshmallow inside and the chocolate frosting. I also like the little marshmallows on top. And it's a graham-cracker flavour cake. It truly tastes like a s'more.
Beyond cupcakes, what other foods do you enjoy?
I love sushi and seafood. Lobster is my favourite. It doesn't need any butter, just steamed with a bit of lemon.
Have you ever had a surprise when you've ordered from a menu?
Well, once with seafood. We were eating at a restaurant in Toronto when we ordered this tuna tower thing that looked really good when it came out. But when they brought it to the table, they mushed it all up. The tower was flattened into this big pile of mush, like a pancake. It was so disappointing because it had looked so appetizing. I thought it was going to be a tower where we could just pull things apart – you know, finger foods. Well, we had to eat it with a fork. It really looked like canned tuna by the end.
Are there any foods you can't stomach?
The only thing I don't like is pasta shells. It's the texture – I don't know, just that big thick piece. It doesn't matter if it has ricotta cheese and tomato sauce in it. I just don't like it. It was actually a meal I couldn't stand as a child. My father used to make us stay at the table until I finished it. Now, I don't even bring shells into my house.
What's the strangest pastry you've had?
Once I ordered this cake that was almost like a croissant, but it was made into a rectangular cake. I though it had chocolate inside. At least that's what it looked like. But it turned out to be poppy seed. I was little disappointed and was like "what's this?" It really looked like chocolate. I guess it was the glaze.
Hamburger or hot dog?
Greasy spoon or Zagat-rated restaurant?
Yeah, not the greasy-spoon type.
Sparkling or still water?
I love sparkling.
Chinese or Indian cuisine?
This interview has been condensed and edited.