Jennilin Alcain, the owner of the Cupcake Ladies Catering Company, is a sweet, bubbly person who’s enthusiastic about sharing her delicious creations. Her small company creates artisanal cupcakes that are as creative as they are delicious. We met up with her at the Shops at Wailea farmers market during one of her cupcake tastings to sample her Ladies and talk story.
“People always think that we are the cupcake ladies, but the Ladies are actually the cupcakes,” she said. “They’re named for ladies who have influenced my life.”
Her Ladies cover a variety of tastes; the original nine feature flavors like the Karen, with lemon and Kula strawberries, the Kassie with peanut butter frosting and the Hannah, with Kahlua cream filling and a Maui Grown coffee bean garnish. There is also a “Uniquely Maui” tropical menu, with flavors of li hing mui, Haiku banana, coconut, lilikoi and guava flavors, and simple classics for simple tastes, such as carrot cake, red velvet, vanilla and chocolate.
The company’s most popular cupcake, the Maya, is named for Alcain’s daughter, who was also one of the motivating factors for starting the business. Six years ago, Alcain was working at a resort and getting home late, and as a new mom, wanted to find a way to spend more time at home with her baby girl. She started out baking for family and friends from home, and created a tower of cupcakes for her daughter’s first birthday party. “It took off from there,” says Alcain, as more and more people heard about and tasted her delicious cupcakes.
Alcain’s Hawaii baking roots run deep. “My grandpa owned and operated a bakery on Oahu,” said Alcain. “My dad was a baker his whole life, and I always liked being in the kitchen. Baking just seemed natural.”
When she brought her Ladies to the Made in Maui festival, the word about her cupcakes was out. After the demand outgrew her small origins, Cupcake Ladies became a part of UH Maui College’s Food Innovation Center, a resource center for “Foodpreneurs” that aims to support local business and reduce dependence on imported food. Cupcake Ladies uses the commercial bakery there.
The Cupcake Ladies now cater weddings, corporate events and other events. They can also deliver a dozen cupcakes–“like a dozen roses!” said Alcain. “It’s delivered to wherever people want. We use local and organic ingredients when possible.”
We tried a few cupcakes, and they’re as good as they sound. The Maya is a chocolate cake with dulce de leche inside, vanilla buttercream and is topped with sprinkle of toffee bits and balsamic sea salt from Molokai. “I named it after her because it was my favorite,” Alcain said.
It was my favorite, too. It had a fantastic balance of dense with chocolate and light with buttercream. The taste reflected the careful ingredients, and the flavor of the toffee and balsamic salt really popped.
“I like the Mona,” said Alcain’s mother, who was helping her at the market the day we dropped by. The Mona has caramel cake, vanilla buttercream frosting and a balsamic Molokai Sea-salted caramel drizzle.
We also tried the Claire, a lavender cupcake with honey cream cheese frosting and made with Ali‘i Kula lavender. The flavors complement each other perfectly.
“It’s about quality ingredients and about the flavor,” said Alcain. The Ladies are also very beautifully presented. The company does not do custom decorating or special orders, which keeps the turn-around times quick and the focus on the sweet simplicity of their cupcakes. They can do adjustments to make them gluten-free, though Alcain stresses that their facility is not gluten-free. They don’t currently do vegan orders.
Cupcakes Ladies does not have a retail spot, but orders can be placed through the company’s online “cupcake boutique” at Cupcakeladieshi.com. You can also find them at the Shops at Wailea farmers market pop-up shops, where cupcake enthusiasts can sample the wares and buy just a few cupcakes.
“We’re all about celebrating life’s special moments,” said Alcain. “That’s why I created this. If you don’t have cake, it’s not a celebration!”
Photos courtesy The Cupcake Ladies Catering Company