July 15, 2010
Posted: 03:38 PM ET
Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis are sisters. They also make some of the best cupcakes you’ve ever tasted, and we know, because they sent us some. But that’s just the beginning of their story. TLC is telling the rest of it. “DC Cupcakes” premieres Friday night at 10pm ET, and if the show is nearly as good as the cupcakes, TLC has a huge hit on their hands. The LKL Blog spoke recently with Sophie and Katherine about cakes, cooking and the stardom that is headed their way, and check out the EXCLUSIVE preview clip below.
LKL Blog: What made you want to open a cupcake shop?
Katherine: We’ve been baking since we were little girls with our grandmothers, and it was a dream of ours to one day have our own bakery and use her recipes. We talked about it for the longest time, but we went our separate ways after we graduated from college. Sophie’s background was in venture capital, and I went into the fashion industry, but it was always something we wanted to do. It was our dream.
Sophie: We talked about it and talked about it. Then we got to a point in our professional lives where we said ‘if we don’t do this now….” So we just took the plunge. And it was a little scary at first, to give up very steady, predictable jobs. We opened in February 2008, during the recession, and people thought we were crazy, especially our family. We really thought it would be a small bakery with just the two of us working there, and we’d sell 100 cupcakes a day. If that’s all we did, we’d be happy. We thought, sell the cupcakes to pay the rent. Bake, have fun, and hang out together. That’s all we wanted, but that’s not what we got. It ended up being a lot crazier. But we love what we do; we love our customers. We’re really thankful.
LKL Blog: What is the secret of a good cupcake?
Sophie: I think for us it’s the fact that we bake them fresh every day, throughout the day. So when people come in, they’re getting cupcakes literally just out of the oven. The other thing for us is the ingredients.
Katherine: We use premium ingredients. The cocoa that we use in our shop is from France, it’s very good. Varun Vanilla, from Madagascar. Everything is fresh.
Sophie: When you use fresh ingredients and really let your ingredients shine, that makes a huge difference. The other thing is, baking is very precise, it’s all about technique. And we really care about what we do. We pay attention to process and take our time. We bake them in small batches to preserve the taste. We also decorate them so they look special too.
LKL Blog: I’m on a diet, so how many calories are really in your cupcakes?
Katherine: The Washington Post did a caloric analysis of the chocolate gnash cupcake, and it’s 196 calories.
Sophie: That one won best cupcake in Washington D.C. Granted, that one has very little icing, but it’s a good cupcake, and if you’re going to splurge and have a desert, 196 calories isn’t so bad. We don’t have breakdowns on the other flavors, but I would say each one is within about 30% of that. We frost them individually, so they vary, but they’re probably around 250 calories each. But we don’t try to make them huge.
LKL Blog: Why do you think cupcakes have become so popular the last few years?
Sophie: I think people have become more aware of them in the last couple of years. I think part of it is the individuality aspect of it. You give someone a cupcake and it’s just for them. It’s something kind of special. We do a ton of wedding orders and special events, and I think people go to cupcakes instead of cakes because you can do all sorts of special flavors and can satisfy everyone’s preferences. At our baker you can get up to 17 different flavors a day. I think they also like the fact that it’s a single portion.
Katherine: And we do one thing and we do it really well.
Sophie: Specialty bakeries are the places to go for baked goods. When you do that you’re doing one thing, and you’re making it awesome, and you’re not trying to do a million things mediocre. For us, we do one thing and do it exceptionally well.
LKL Blog: Let’s talk a little bit about the show. Why would you agree to do it?
Sophie: It was a big decision for us. One of the executive producers of the show came into the bakery one day, and he kind of saw us running around, packing cupcakes, frosting them, lugging flower, and I think he witnessed it and said, “man, this is a circus. You guys are running around like crazy. This would be a good show.” So they filmed a little bit, took it to TLC, and they loved it. For us, we love the food programming on TLC, it was just a good fit.
Katherine: We’re a family bakery. It never gets into our personal lives. The cameras don’t come home with us. It’s more about two sisters who started a business together and what it’s really like running a day-to-day business with your sister. We get a lot of letters and emails from people across the country, saying they’re thinking about quitting their job, and going into business with their sister, or their family, and they want to know what it’s like. This show is a great way to get a glimpse of what it’s really like.
Sophie: We get a lot of calls from people about this, and we always say go for it. And we hope this show will show people the ins and outs, what it’s like working with your sister every day and running a business. It’s not always easy. We have big orders to fill, and it’s real life. It hopefully helps people understand what running a small business is like.
LKL Blog: How often do the two of you fight?
Katherine: Well, to be honest, every day. We’re a year-and-a-half apart, Sophie’s older. We fought growing up our entire lives. We’d fight over our Barbie’s, then 10 minutes later we’d be playing again. I think that’s helped us start this business together. We can be candid with each other, we can have a very honest conversation about stuff, where I don’t have to sugar coat it, or filter it, and it’s not going to hurt her feelings, because we’re sisters. We don’t agree on a lot of things, but at the end of the day, it’s because we love the business so much, and we want what’s best for the business.
Sophie: I think being sisters sometimes really helps us a lot. Running a small business is really tough. It’s like a support system. Having Katherine here kind of calms be down a bit, you know you’re in it together.
Katherine: There’s really no ego attached because she’s my sister, if she says something to me I’ll say something right back to her.
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