When it comes to what people want from their bakery confections, there’s a number of ways that a retailer can try to track and benchmark their various sales to measure what’s trending and what’s climbing in popularity. One of the easiest ways, however, may be through cupcakes.

Though past their peak when it comes to the storm of obsession that surrounded the little dessert a few years past, cupcake sales still remain strong at Chicago’s Creative Cakes, says Beth Fahey, owner of the store and a speaker at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas. They’re strong enough, she says, that she can measure what flavor profiles, trends in decoration, and most profitable times of year are working best to keep her business running tip-top.

Time of Year

“We track from week to week how many of each we sell,” Fahey says, “and it is something that is a leading indicator for us on trends. They’ve been pretty stable for a long time.” Sales primarily peak on Fat Tuesday, she said, with P?czkis (a traditional Polish doughnut) being her biggest seller then. “We also sell a lot of them at Christmas,” she says, “which is always something to kind of remember, because you’d think it’s going to be cookies, but I think people are in a different mode for dessert at Christmas. It’s not like Easter. I mean, leading up to any holiday you’ll sell a bunch.”

They also do daily specials in the store, she says, so if it’s a buy-one-get-one day then they’ll sell a lot as well. And just like holidays, there are other times of year that are easy to take advantage of with cupcake sales, like graduation season. “That’s an easy one, especially if it’s like a high school graduation, you can just do them in school colors and be done, and no one has to cut a cake.”

Nostalgia is key

Nostalgia has long figured heavily into the equation, and still does — though now it’s nostalgia with a gourmet flair, so that both the child and the adult within you gets a burst of flavor. For example, Fahey makes banana-Nutella cupcakes, which use banana batter, a hazelnut mousse filling, Ganache icing, and is topped with a roasted hazelnut and chocolate fan.

“We also do a ‘dreamsicle,’” she says, “where we use pure orange oil in our buttercream batter and color it orange, with a little white dollop on the top and vanilla bean mousse filling, so it’s got the same flavor profile of a creamsicle. Raspberry lemonade has been a favorite for summer for years now, too. Peanut butter cup, again, is nostalgic, and we do a ‘Hostess with the Mostess,’ which is our take on a Hostess cupcake, but we say it’s better because we use Ganache icing, vanilla bean mousse and scratched chocolate.”

Classics like red velvet will always sell well, she says, but the newer ideas that play to many customers’ childhood memories still hold the top posts.


Want to know more about what Beth Fahey has to say about retail sales and marketing? Check her out at this year’s International Baking Industry Expo in Las Vegas. Her seminar, Selling and Marketing Dessert Bar Packages, will be from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9.