Cupcake Camp LA at Los Angeles' Music Box Theater. This delicious event, devoted to celebrating the cupcake, brought together more than 50 of the city's bakeries and independent bakers to give the public a sample of their goods. Great way to spend an afternoon, right?
Upon entering the venue, I was taken away to a land of happiness! Balloons, pastel doilies, glitter, and everything frilly. Gorgeous cupcakes were everywhere, many labeled with cute names meant to entice people into tasting them: Root Beer Float, Marshmallow Hot Chocolate, Lemon Tart. Marketing at its best!
For your admission ticket, you were allowed five cupcakes. I wandered around, trying to decide on my five when I heard an announcement that there were more bakers located upstairs. So, upstairs I went.
On the very dark second floor there were about eight businesses represented. I squinted to see the cupcakes better, but the lighting was terrible (it was a theater, after all, and not an auditorium). At the last table, one without any decorations and a chicness rating of zero, I saw a messy looking cupcake. Something that looked so homemade that I thought it had to be good. I surrendered my ticket and took the cupcake.
To my delight, that homely little goodie was the best thing there! So amazingly chocolaty, moist, and flavorful, I heard myself moan a little. I went back to the booth to ask for a business card because this cupcake will undoubtedly be on the menu for my next soiree. (Yes, I throw soirees! Or at least I want to.)
The teenager at the booth handed me an old looking card that had creases in it. Looked like a GI had carried it in his pocket through the Gulf War. I asked her who did the baking and she told me her aunt did, but she had gone downstairs for a minute. She said they were from Compton (a gang-riddled community ranked the 15th most dangerous city in the U.S. by the FBI in 2008) and I got the impression the woman baked in her home.
As for the fancy cupcakes I selected from bakeries in elite cities such as Beverly Hills, Studio City, and Burbank, they were mediocre. Heck, two of the beautiful cupcakes from the main floor I didn't like at all (one was so dry, I simply opened my mouth and let the cake tumble out before it sucked all the moisture from my tongue!). The woman from Compton with the sad little table up in the dark got my vote for best cupcake! As a matter of fact, I went back and used my last ticket to get another one of her delicious delights!
Now, some fancy pants baker downstairs with a table glamorous enough to be in Vegas won "Best Cupcake" at the event, as voted on by attendees. But I suspect many of those people didn't venture upstairs, into the dark, to the plain little table to taste a little bit of heaven. If they had, my favorite baker would have won; hands down. (I'd link to her in this post, but she doesn't even have a website.)
So, what does this teach us? I suspect this talented, but underrated, baker was simply sticking with what she knows: baking. Granted, she couldn't do anything about the theater's lighting, but the table presentation was within her control. Maybe not her area of expertise, but could she have brought in a friend with a keen eye to help her frilly up things and make everything more inviting? On the flip side, were some of the other bakers more about flash than substance? Their tables and cupcakes were beautiful, but the product itself was unimpressive.
So, I ask, is your product and your marketing in sync? Do they both represent your absolute best? Are you losing customers/clients because you're skimping on the quality of your product/service or the way you promote your business?
A more polished presentation could have drawn in more attendees for our Compton baker. And, for better or worse, appearance matters in this world. You can make the best cupcake on the planet, but what good is it if no one comes by to taste it, right?
* Thank you to the lovely Claudia Yuskoff of Mmm, Me Gusta - A Little Cooking Show and Babette Pepaj of Bakespace.com (the event host) for the tickets and the lovely day at Cupcake Camp LA!