A sweet spot in town
Behind the zebra-print partition and lime-green walls are ovens hard at work, baking nearly 30 different varieties of cupcakes from “Coconut Snowball” to “Brooklyn Black Out.”
The House of Cupcakes, which opened in late August, already has a steady base of customers. Owner and chef Ruthie Bzdewka said that frequent customers include members of the University community, mothers with their children and high school students.
“We’ve been here about three weeks, and business is going good. We have a lot of repeat customers,” Bzdewka said.
She explained that she thinks cupcakes are a niche that has been underserved. Since the store’s opening, she said, eight individuals have already approached her about expanding and franchising the store in other locations such as Boston and Florida.
“I see it as a long-term wave,” Bzdewka said. “I think it’s something that was just overlooked for a long time.”
All of Bzdewka’s cupcakes are baked fresh throughout the day and made from scratch with ingredients such as sweet cream butter, Belgian chocolate, Madagascar Bourbon vanilla and fresh fruit.
Bzdewka said she had been making cupcakes for her family for a long time, but she decided to open the shop in Princeton because of the trendy atmosphere and traffic from tourists and residents.
“It’s trendy, it’s classy, and it has everything to support a business,” said Bzdewka, who lives right outside Princeton noting that there are “cupcake shops all over the place like New York City, and I thought Princeton has the same type of atmosphere.”
Bzdewka described the shop as a “family thing.” Her husband helps with maintenance and construction, and her sister aids in advertising and runs the front of the store while she bakes all of the cupcakes herself, starting at 10:30 a.m. and closing the ovens at around 7 p.m. The shop is open until 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it closes at 7 p.m. It also offers free on-campus delivery.
Beyond the more than two dozen flavors available to humans with sweet teeth, the House of Cupcakes also provides treats for dogs.
In fact, one of the first varieties of cupcakes customers encounter as they enter the store is “pupcakes,” or cupcakes for dogs, made from ingredients appropriate for canine consumption.
One customer walked into the store and spent several minutes deliberating which cupcake to purchase, bewildered by the array of choices in front of him.
“I’m just overwhelmed by all the indecision,” Wilson School lecturer Dean Spears GS said. “Sometimes decisions are hard to make, and this is one of those moments in life.”
He finally settled on a Peanut Butter Delight, which he said was “yummy,” and a minute later regretted his decision when another cupcake caught his eye.
“I was paralyzed by my indecision. Oh my heavens, there’s a chocolate peanut butter!” Spears said.
Rachel Lieberman ’10, who purchased a chocolate fudge truffle cupcake, said she was pleased with her choice.
“[The cupcakes] look really good with so many different flavors,” she said. “They’re cheaper and look more exciting [than Bent Spoon cupcakes], so I think [House of Cupcakes] will be the new cupcake spot.”
Though she has never had a Bent Spoon cupcake, Bzdewka said customers have told her that they find her gourmet cupcakes superior. At $2.25 each, they are among the least expensive gourmet cupcakes she knows of.
“I don’t even consider Bent Spoon competition,” Bzdewka said.
Madeline Stark, a Princeton High School senior who works at the store, said she liked her job but has difficulty resisting its many temptations. Thursday, she started her shift by purchasing a coconut snowball cupcake.
“I love it,” she said. “I used to work at Witherspoon Bread Company, and I like this better. It’s difficult to resist [cupcakes] at times, but it’s great.”