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When Tiffini Soforenko first told her husband, Nik, that she wanted to open a cupcake bakery, his response was, “You don’t bake.”
But Soforenko, who worked as director of operations at Universal Studios Hollywood for more than 15 years, says she knew how to bake, she just didn’t have the time. That changed when she created Yummy Cupcakes in 2004.
Soforenko has been devoted to baking ever since and now has more than 400 proprietary cupcake recipes, including 94 vegan and 23 sugar-free cupcake varieties.
“I went into this as a business venture and decided on a cupcake-only bakery because it was a good business idea,” Soforenko says. “At the time, there were not a lot of bakeries in Los Angeles. If you wanted something sweet, you had to go to the grocery store or make it yourself.”
With the hundreds of recipes Soforenko has created, each Yummy Cupcakes location has a rotating menu of 26 flavors each day, including two vegan flavors, a sugar-free flavor, and a gluten-free flavor. Those flavors range from classics like chocolate and vanilla, carrot with cream cheese frosting, and red velvet cupcakes to more unusual varieties like Pancakes and Bacon or Tea and Jam.
Founder/CEO: Tiffini Soforenko
HQ: Burbank, California
Year Started: 2004
Annual Sales: $890,000 per unit,
excluding online sales
Total Units: 11
Franchise units: 9
Soforenko created cocktail-inspired flavors like Margarita, Apple Martini, and Mudslide. There are also kid-friendly flavors like Root Beer Float, Worm in the Dirt, and Cotton Candy. Some cupcake flavors are based on other foods, like Buttered Popcorn, Chocolate-Covered Pretzel, and Banana Cream Pie. This month, Yummy Cupcakes is rolling out a line of savory cupcakes in flavors including Turkey Dinner and Apple Blue Cheese.
If the flavor a customer wants is not being baked on the day he or she wants it, special orders can be placed, as long as the order is for a minimum of two dozen and is placed four days in advance. About 60 percent of Yummy Cupcakes’ sales are preorders, typically for office parties, birthdays, weddings, and baby showers.
“We did our first wedding in 2004, and people thought it was crazy to have cupcakes instead of a traditional wedding cake,” Soforenko says. “Now it’s a constant part of our business year-round.”
Initially, Soforenko says, she didn’t want a retail location for her cupcake business.
“We were working out of a commercial location for about a year,” she says. “But we had so many customers who would say things like, ‘My husband worked on ‘Spiderman 2’ and loved your cupcakes. Now where can I get a dozen for my son’s soccer team?’”
To meet the demands of soccer moms and other cupcake lovers, she opened her first retail store in 2005. “We opened in Burbank to a line of people and had to shut down every day for two weeks to re-bake,” she says. “We’d have somebody out front handing out samples saying, ‘Sorry we’re out, but please come back.’ We called every friend and family member we could and had them come in to help.”
A second and third store opened in Santa Monica and Brentwood, California, respectively. Internationally, there are Yummy Cupcakes units in Istanbul, Turkey, and Doha, Qatar. A location is also opening in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Yummy Cupcakes began aggressively franchising in the U.S. in 2013, opening a store in San Diego. Soforenko says there are plans to open six stores in the next year, and as many as 10 each month after that as the concept expands outside California to other parts of the country, including Connecticut and Michigan.
Yummy Cupcakes products are available in three sizes: classic, mini, and jumbo. Classic Cupcakes sell for $3.25–$3.50 eachor $37 per dozen. Vegan and sugar-free cupcakes are $3.50–$4 each or $40 per dozen. A variety of other cupcake variations, simply called “Treats,” are also available. They include Cupcake in a Jar, Cupcake on a Stick, and Cupcake Truffles, a combination of cake and filling dipped in hard chocolate.
“Cupcake in a Jar is our most popular treat,” Soforenko says. “It’s an 8-ounce glass jar layered with cupcakes, filling, and frosting.” A Cupcake in a Jar sells for $6.50–$7.50. It is eaten with a spoon and keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator.
In addition to cupcakes and treats, Yummy Cupcakes sells bottled sodas, sparkling water, coffee, milk, and apple cider. Despite a menu limited to desserts and beverages, the Yummy Cupcakes stores have an average per-person ticket of $14.25. “People don’t mind spending $3.25 for a cupcake, as long as it’s a good one,” Soforenko says.
And that, she says, is why Yummy Cupcakes is thriving and growing. “I’m very proud of our cupcake and how it tastes,” she says. “Once you taste it, you know the difference. If someone makes a cupcake with cake mix and frosting that’s half shortening, people know. There are a lot of inferior cupcake stores going out of business. Consumers are smart.”