27 November 2013

Giving and Thanks!

With Thanksgiving just on the horizon, I wanted to take a moment to talk about giving.... giving your product in exchange for publicity -- a common practice used by companies as they seek new ways to grow their market share or build brand awareness.

As a company providing delicious and beautiful sugary creations, Sugar Daze is approached on an almost non-stop basis to provide cupcakes for free for various events. When I was just starting out, I saw the merit in these types of situations - it gave me the opportunity to put my name and my product out there to grow my business. Over the years, as my business became more established, I had to turn down many of these proposals -- I'm not a charity and there's no way I could support my infant business if I said yes to everyone who asked. I developed a set of guidelines to determine whether or not I wanted to get involved. My key criteria for many years now is whether there is a benevolent or charitable mission involved, i.e., Sugar Daze has provided cupcakes for events supporting breast cancer research (Odessa race/Gustave Roissy Institute), the further development of the arts program for youth (Centre Pompidou), clean-up after Hurricane Sandy (the Red Cross) and many others, not forgetting the annual fundraiser I co-organize: Cupcake Camp Paris which benefits Make-A-Wish France. It's important to me to give back. From time to time, I will also consider events that I just think are really cool or to thank other businesses who may have helped mine in the past.

If you are a business looking to get involved in an event where your products are to be given for free, do it for the PR, do it from the goodness in your heart for a good cause, do it to have your brand associated with one that is meaningful to you/cool or do it to give back to someone who has given you a hand along the way.

A key consideration for these types of "collaborations" is to fully understand who will be there, what the event is all about, and what is required of you. This is important in determining what opportunities your particpation will bring. There's not much point in investing the time and effort in providing free product if the people attending have no regular interest in your products, or the means to afford them. And it's difficult to negotiate the details of your participation if you agree straight away and later find out the quantity needed, or the time you need to spend getting ready for/being present at the event is totally unrealistic. Oh and one of the key lessons I have learned is how to interpret the wording of the proposals. Oftentimes, you are told the editor from Marie Claire, the food stylist from Zeste, the head buyer from Galeries Lafeyette, etc. is on the guest list. This may be true, and they very well may attend, but unless the organizer can confirm their attendence, this is all just marketing speak to get you interested in the event too.

If you have been promised the distribution of your logo in event communications, make sure to provide one straight away, spell out your company name and make sure to send direct links to your website, social network pages, etc. The number of times I have seen my company spelled as Sugardaze (one word) is baffling. And don't get me started about the time an event promoter linked my company name on their event page to a competitor's website! Also it may be a good idea to stipulate that your name and logo can be used in connection with the specific event only.

If you are offering a product that is delicate, fragile, or in my case perishable, it is also a good idea to communicate how it should be stored before the event and under what conditions it is to be served. I'll never forget a two-weekend long event I was invited to when I was just starting out and the promoter thought they could take delivery of my cupcakes on a Friday and still serve them the following Sunday (9 days later!!!!). These days when I attend an event such as this, I will arrange to make delivery shortly before the event starts and always spell out how they products are to be kept, and when they should be thrown.

Which leads me to this final point, if possible, you are going to want to attend the event itself or at least set-up your products to guarantee they are being presented in their best light. The event organizers are there to ensure an excellent event, not the promotion of your products. Once you have delivered your products, that's just one thing they can cross off their to-do list. They are not your PR Agency or representative of your company. If you are doing an event such as this to gain exposure to new people, you're gonna want to make sure you have done everything possible to make your products stand out and be remembered. If possible, you may want to stick around and talk yourself and your product up.

This past week, I broke several rules in my playbook. For the first time in a long time, I gave cupcakes to a company celebrating an important milestone in the hopes of reaching a new client profile. I didn't ask about what other businesses would be there because I was so excited about the names I heard on their guestlist. Everything went fine up until the product delivery where I was informed they weren't ready for me yet and could I just drop off my cupcakes in boxes and my cake stand -- they would take care of the display set-up. Not ideal, but what could I do? The next day, I was shocked and disturbed to learn that while all the guests were told they'd be eating Sugar Daze cupcakes, another baker's cupcakes were also served at the event. It was not a bakery I knew and so I researched them. I subsequently met the "owner" at Cupcake Camp which happened this past week as well. Let's just say the differences in our businesses are like night and day -- I am a professional business and I take my job and my legal obligations very seriously. This means I am declared with the Chambre de Commerce, I pay my taxes, I work in a safe food handling environment and have undergone the training required by law to practice in my industry.

So final lesson of the day -- always ask what other businesses will be present at an event, and make sure you get product exclusivity if this is important to you. Many manufacturers have the benefit of putting a label or other tag on their products but this isn't always the case. You don't want to get involved in an event where there is a chance that your product can be confused with someone else's and leaves you with a potentially tarnished reputation....or worse!

Speaking in the most general terms and based on my experiences, there are very few events of this nature that have brought me measurable new clients/new business. Which is why I evaluate them with a great degree of time and reflection. I'd be curious to hear opinions from others who donate product for events. I have had wonderful feedback from attendees on my cupcakes at the event itself, and sure I can think of a few new clients, and friends, I have met via these events. But on the whole, I haven't seen the returns equal to the time/effort/investment made.

Which brings me back to giving thanks....event organizers -- show some gratitude. Recognize that even though you have given this other company something favorable in exchange for their participation, they have invested time, money, effort, etc. to give you something and a little thank you would be nice. Hold up your end of the bargain, show them some respect, and don't screw them over. A one-off event could lead to a beautiful, long-term partnership where each company continues to support the other for a whole host of shared benefits and events.

I don't say it enough but just wanted to thank you all for your support and encouragement over the years. May you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

All accompanying photos are from orders prepared this past week at Sugar Daze!

20 November 2013

We're Back...Back in a Cupcake Groove

Are you baking? Are you coming to eat? Cupcake Camp, the biggest celebration of the cupcake in the Hexagon, returns this Sunday for its 4th edition. We are sooooo very excited to be organizing this event once again for our favorite charity: Make-A-Wish France.

We outgrew our space last year so this year Cupcake Camp will be taking place at a new venue:

Café A
148 rue du Faubourg Saint - Martin
75010 Paris
Sunday November 24

If you'd like to participate as a baker -- we can use the extra cupcakes -- please sign up here. We'll also be running some fun contests for those who feel like competing. If you'd just like to come to eat, you can RSVP to the event on our facebook page here.

As always, entry to this event is free. But if you'd like to eat cupcakes, you will have to buy tickets (which are available on the site colunching.fr, or for purchase at the door).

More injformation about the origins of this event, our partners, etc., can be found on our blog.

Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

29 September 2013

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend!

Finally! Here are the pictures from our shoot with Cyrille Weiner for Standard Magazine. It was quite a shoot with our cakes and cupcakes glitzed out with jewels from Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel, Bulgari, etc. And yes, there was even a bodyguard present all day at the shop to make sure no one made off with the bling!

02 September 2013

Back on the Chain Gang....

We're baa-aaack! After a lovely 3 week vacation in the South of Spain, I'm back at the shop and boy did I hit the ground running. While our official re-opening was the 30th August, I was fast and furious in my kitchen the day before on a baking marathon ... I managed to churn out 175 cupcakes, 4 3-layer 10-inch cakes and 2 6-inch layer cakes for 2 different weddings! It was definitely not what you'd call a "rentrée en douceur" but I was happy to supply some delicious baked goods to the happy couples!

This Fall, we'll be trying out lots of new things in the shop. We love cupcakes and they will continue to be front and center, but we're also looking to offer up a larger selection of more traditional bakery items. If you came by this past weekend, you would have found 2 types of whoopie pies, blondies and a Victoria Sponge made with vanilla marscapone and fresh strawberries in the case. If you're in the neighborhood, come discover what we're baking up, and please let us know if there are any American baked goods you're especially dying to find on this side of the Atlantic! We'll have new surprises in store every weekend....

A special thanks to Meg of De Quelle Planéte Es-Tu? -- one of the Bake Shop's biggest fans, and one of our favorite Parisian bloggers, for this amazing shot of our Raspberry Beret cupcake!

28 July 2013

Vacation...Had to Get Away

Wedding Cake by Sugar Daze
Wedding Cake, a photo by Sugar Daze on Flickr.

And we are officially closed for the summer! The Bake Shop will re-open at noon Friday, August 30. Enjoy your holidays wherever they may take you!

We're running a cupcake give-away while we are closed. Send us a postcard from your far off, exotic holiday destinations - or if you are staying in Paris, that is totally cool too! - and when we're back we'll pick two winners who will each receive a box of 3 cupcakes. Send your postcards to:

Sugar Daze
20 rue Henry Monnier
75009 Paris

Bonnes vacances!

In photo: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Wedding cake

17 June 2013

Go Shawty, It's Your Birthday....

Sweet Thai O' Mine by Sugar Daze
Sweet Thai O' Mine, a photo by Sugar Daze on Flickr.

The Sugar Daze Bake Shop turns 1 this Sunday!!!! What a ride it's been so far. We thank you all for your fidelity and invite you to come celebrate with us:

Date: June 23, 2013

Time: 2PM-6PM

Where: The Bake Shop, where else? 20 rue Henry Monnier, 75009

We'll have 1 euros cupcakes, some great prizes and from 3:30-5:30, a face painter for the little kids (or big kids!). Hope to see you there!

21 May 2013

Cupcake Couture Blog Party & An Exclusive Sugar Daze Recipe!

Last month, German-based baker, Betsy Eves, best known as Jave Cupcake, put out a call to her fellow bakers with two of my favorite words: CUPCAKE and PARTY!!!! Yup, Betsy needed bakers for a CUPCAKE PARTY! And not just any party, but a CUPCAKE COUTURE BLOG PARTY!!!

What's that you say? Cou-Ture? You gotta trill the "r" as you say that as we do here in Paris (another trill -- Parrrr -eeeee).... The Cupcake Couture Blog Party is all about creating delicious cupcakes and showcasing them in a simple, beautiful manner. Luckily we have Carrie Middlemiss of Bella Cupcake Couture to help out on that second part! I gotta admit that once I heard we would each be receiving a set of her gorgeous, unique cupcake wrappers, I was in. I have been following her company for years and love her products!

And then my package arrived....I wondered was Carrie psychic? Had she seen pictures of my store? Does she know me? Are we cupcake soul sisters? How exciting to receive a package of cheetah-printed wrappers! I literally opened the package while sitting in my store next to my zebra-print wall while wearing my snake skin trousers. How cool is that? And so I figured it only appropriate to continue on this "thème sauvage" by sharing with you for the first time ever the recipe for our Slow Cheetah cupcake.

But wait....there's more!!! As if that wasn't enough, there's a second treat in store for you -- a prize package for one lucky winner of the Cupcake Couture Blog Party! Check out these amazing prizes....

* $200 store credit to Cupcake Stand
* A prize pack from Sweets & Treats Boutique
* A set of every cupcake wrapper that was used in this party from Bella Cupcake Couture ($200 value)
* Polish Pottery Cake Stand from Poland from JavaCupcake.com ($100 value)
* Cupcake Vinyl Decals for your stand mixer from Lil’ Punkin Creations

You'll also want to check out the blog posts from the other bakers participating in this blog party for more cupcake awesomeness.....

An American Cupcake in London

Bella Cupcake Couture

Chronicles of a Foodie

Crazy for Crust

Creative Food

Cupcakes Take the Cake

Diary of a Mad Hausfrau

Eat Your Heart Out


Hoosier Homemade

In Katrina's Kitchen

Inside BruCrew Life

Java Cupcake

Love From the Oven

Make Bake Celebrate

Not Just a Mommy

Sugar Daze

Sugar Swings! Serve Some

The Baked Equation

The Baking Cup

The Decorated Cookie

Thanks to our amazing Prize Pack sponsors for their generous donations! Please, visit their websites to see more of their fabulous products!

Bella Cupcake Couture

Cupcake Stand

Java Cupcake

Lil' Punkin Creations

Sweets & Treats Boutique

To enter to WIN this Prize Pack, simply fill out the entry form below.

Contest opens 21 May 2013 at 7:00AM PST and closes 27 May 2013 at 23:59PM PST. One winner will be chosen and announced within 24 hours of the contest ending. Winner will be contacted via email to claim their prize.

This contest is open to residents of the USA and Europe only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A cupcake couture blog party...a cupcake prize pack....and dozens of mouth-wateringly yummy cupcake recipes?! Seriously folks, it doesn't get much sweeter than this! Good luck and Enjoy!

Slow Cheetah Cupcakes (an original Sugar Daze recipe, name inspired by The Red Hot Chili Peppers):
For approximately 15 cupcakes:

4 ozs. softened, unsalted butter
1 cup castor sugar
1 egg
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup crème fraiche (sour cream)
1/2 pod vanilla
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup white chocolate chips or chopped bar
1/2 cup chocolate covered toffee bits, chopped

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake baking tins with paper liners
2) Cream softened butter and sugar together until smooth. Add egg and mix until light, homogenous and pale yellow
3) In a separate bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add half of this mixture to the egg mixture and blend
4) In a measuring cup, mix milk and crème fraiche. Use a sharp knife to scrape the beans from the vanilla pod and add to mixture. Pour over the butter-sugar-flour mixure and mix again being careful not to overwork the batter
4) Add in the remaining half flour mixture, and mix
5) Lastly stir in hot water and mix until just incorporated - you don't want any large clumps of flour but again be careful not to over-mix batter
6) Add in toffe bits and chocolate, and mix slightly to incorporate throughout the batter
7) Using an ice cream scooper, fill cupcake cases 2/3 full and fill and bake in 350 degree minutes for about 12-15 minutes or until a skewer placed in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.
8) Remove from oven and leave on baking rack to cool

Salted Caramel Frosting :

8 ozs. softened butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar
2-3 tablespoons salted caramel spread

Here in France we get a product called crème de caramel au beurre salé which I use for this frosting. If you can't find this locally, you can make your own. Here's a delicious recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

1) Whip butter and sugar with a hand-held beater or in your mixer until pale in color. If too liquidy, progressively add more sugar until firm enough to pipe.
2) Add in caramel and mix slightly to combine.
3) Decorate cupcakes using a pastry bag or palette knife. Then open up and say "ahhhhhh!!!!!!"

Cupcake Wrappers: Bella Cupcake Couture
Cake Stand: Habitat
Cupcake Tablecloth: Sassy Aprons

31 March 2013

Say Cheese!

Mmm Cheesecake!

By popular demand, we will now be offering cheesecake in the shop with a new variety each week.

For Easter this week, we have created a mile-high cake that combines 2 layers of carrot cake with a layer of cheesecake in-between. It is guaranteed to put you in a Sugar Daze!

What's your favorite flavor of cheesecake? What would you like to see us make next?

17 March 2013

Going to the Chapel .....

Blush & Ivory Wedding Cake by Sugar Daze
Blush & Ivory Wedding Cake, a photo by Sugar Daze on Flickr.

2-tier wedding cake with hand-made gumpaste flower and petals. It's our 4H Gouter (Nutella) covered in white (vanilla) buttercream. Our heartfelt congratulations to L & S who tied the knot yesterday. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness and LOVE!!!!!

10 March 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted....

She Wore Lemon by Sugar Daze
She Wore Lemon, a photo by Sugar Daze on Flickr.

Sugar Daze will be closed for vacation starting Sunday, March 10 through Thursday, March 14. We will reopen at noon Friday, March 15.

Hope everyone is enjoying the school vacation!

24 February 2013

Wanna Make the World Dance, Forget about the Price Tag

Plane Cupcake
I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet concerning some customer feedback we've had recently and I'd like to address that in this post. So I'm warning you that I'm about to get on my soapbox. If you're not interested, you can just look at the pretty pictures that accompany this post!

First off, I am 100% interested in what you have to say -- both the good and the bad -- as I know there is always room for improvement, and I think it's important to take every customer comment into consideration. I am absolutely delighted by the comments we've received via social media outlets (facebook, tripadvisor, yelp, etc.) and in store; I am amazed by the number of familiar faces I see walking through our door -- I consider it the highest compliment that our customers keep coming back for more. But....we seem to get criticized frequently about our prices and I've grappled with how to respond to this without coming across as overly defensive.

Rolo Over Beethoven

I worked in advertising for about 10 years as an account planner. One of the biggest parts of my job was knowing at any moment how the brands I was charged with fared in the marketplace -- via both customer tracking studies and competitive analyses. I have carried much of what I learned to Sugar Daze; I keep a strong focus on my business and I try to keep abreast of what other cupcakeries in Paris are doing -- it just makes sense. Based on our research of similarly sized products available for sale in brick and mortar shops in Paris, our prices are competitive and totally in-line. The highest price you will pay in our bake shop for a cupcake is 3,80 whether you eat-in or take-out; our chocolate and vanilla cupcakes are priced at 3,65. We know of several shops where the standard price for a cupcake is 4 euros and above. We've also been running a promotion since November that effectively brings down your cost to 3,50 per cupcake (a box of 6 cupcakes is 21 euros). There are very few shops selling the same size cupcakes as ours that match this price. (PS if you are a regular, you may have noticed an extra cupcake or two magically appear in your box from time to time -- it's just our way of saying thank you! AND we offer further price reductions on large volume orders.).

Now let's talk about added value. So many customers tell us our cupcakes are moist and light, not dry and dense like other cupcakes they have tried. Do you know why? It's no big secret... we bake our cupcakes FRESH on-premises EVERY MORNING. That means when you buy a Sugar Daze cupcake, it hasn't been sitting around for days on end getting hard and dry -- it's been baked in the past several hours. I will also personally guarantee that you will never get a cupcake that has been refrigerated or worse, frozen and thawed, to increase its longevity in our shop. This is something we are quite fanatic about.

Love Me, Love Me, Say That You Love Me!

Something else we are fanatic about? The quality of our ingredients. We don't take short cuts, we don't use mixes, or buy industrial pre-made genoise, we don't buy bottom-shelf brands, and we don't use preservatives. Nielsen-Massey vanilla, Callebaut chocolate, Fererro-Rocher Nutella, Lotus Speculos cream, Oreo cookies, President butter, St Louis sugar -- these are just some of the products that go into our cupcakes. We try to avoid synthetic flavorings (though our I Want Cotton Candy cupcake has become quite the belle of the ball!) preferring natural ingredients, real nuts, fresh fruit, home-made infused syrups -- those specks of yellow in your She Wore Lemon cupcake? Lemon zest! The crunch in the Raspberry Beret cupcake? Those are real pistachios in there -- you can actually see them -- check it out! Oh and don't get me started on eggs. We ONLY use those laid by free-range hens. The practice of battery caging hens is cruel and makes my skin crawl, and I absolutely refuse to support the producers who do this. All this may make the cost to produce our cupcakes higher than some other places but I honestly believe you can taste the difference. As my old boss used to say : GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out).

Lastly, we believe that the look of the cupcake is just as important as the taste. We like to dress up our cupcakes and have fun with the design. If you've come in the shop on a quieter day, you may have noticed Chris or I behind the counter hand-making decorations. This is one of the things that I think really sets our cupcakes apart. We're not content with store-bought decorations or unadorned cupcakes. We continually look to surprise and delight our customers, and I think the number of people alone who stop to photograph the cupcakes in our window, or in the shop case, proves we're doing a pretty good job. I've been to cupcake shops where you'll pay more for a cupcake that's been topped with a small fondant heart or duck cut-out. Not at Sugar Daze! It's part of our everyday presentation, and if it's not too busy, we're been known to make and add a customized decoration on the spot for no extra charge.

Je T'Aime

With all this said, I am sure we will continue to have customers who think our prices are whack. That's okay -- I also know from my advertising days that you can't please all of the people all of the time. Bottomline, my feeling on this is that we offer an outstanding product for the price AND we continue to keep our prices competitive. On the opposite side of the coin, I'm thankful that we also have customers who believe we offer an excellent value equation (we hear this frequently too). Okay, I've said my piece. Thanks for listening and have a good Sunday!

06 February 2013

Love is in the Air

It's Almost Valentine's Day. And what sweeter way to celebrate than with cupcakes!?

This year, we are delighted to offer you the following Valentine's Day boxes:

1) The 6-pack with the following assorted flavors: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (red velvet), Lovefool (champagne, red fruit), Wonderful Tonight (almond, raspberry and chocolate), Welcome to the Pleasuredome (ginger, cherry and spicy chocolate), Rapture (chocolate and salted caramel), et Did It All for the Cookie (vanilla and cookie dough), OR,

2) The 3-pack (please select from the flavors listed above) + a Liberty fabric bracelet with star charm and small crystal hand-made by La Fée Poulette

Each of the above boxes is available for 22,50 euros. To pre-order please call us at the Bake Shop on or send us an email at info@sugardazecupcakes.com

We'll have Valentine's Day cucpakes in the shop starting next Wednesday but to guarantee you get the perfect selection, we strongly recommend you reserve one of these boxes in advance. BISES.........

26 January 2013

11 January 2013

Be Still My Beating Heart...

New Year and lots of new stuff going on at the store...

While we've been romancing some old favorites like our red velvet cupcakes ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang")

Some new-fangled flavor combinations have sprung out of the kitchen ("Purple Rain" white chocolate and violet cupcake)

We've also had the occasion to experiment with some gluten-free; sugar-free and even savory cupcakes (these bacon-carrot-parmesan cakelets were made for a client function)

Our shop design will be undergoing some changes based on consumer feedback and we're also contemplating introducing a brunch menu for the weekends. What do you think about that? Oh and don't forget....our new opening hours.

If you haven't been by in a while, stop in and let us know what you'd like to see at Sugar Daze in 2013.

05 January 2013

Just Another Manic Monday

Well, it should be less manic in my case...

The Bake Shop has been open for about 6 months now and we're slowly figuring out what works and what doesn't. For the next few months, we're going to be changing up our hours and trying some new things. So as of this coming Wednesday, January 9 until further notice, please note the shop will be open at the following times:

Wednesday 12PM - 7:30PM

Thursday 12PM - 6:30PM

Friday 12PM - 7:30PM

Saturday 12PM - 7:30PM

Sunday 12PM - 6PM

We will be closed to walk-in clients on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, if you want to place a custom order in advance for one of those days, please get in touch to see if it's feasible. We do a lot of corporate catering on Tuesdays and so we are always happy to fit in special orders when possible.

Photo: Kim Petyt, Parisian Party