Posted: February 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
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What do you do if you have 45 minutes to come up with a cupcake made from convenience store items?
If you’re Kim Thurman and Kim Aeck of Valencia’s Bake You Happy, you create a licorice cherry coke pretzel cupcake and take the top prize on Food Network’s popular “Cupcake Wars” TV show.
The high-pressure reality series pits four teams from bakeries across the country in three competitions, culminating in a 1,000 cupcake bake-off based on a specific theme, usually for an event held by a company or nonprofit organization.
“It was an awesome experience. We were lucky to be picked. We were fans before we got on the show,” Thurman said.
When it was revealed the final two bakers would create a display and cupcakes for the exclusive preview night of the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, held Nov. 18, Aeck and Thurman were thrilled.
“I’d been to the auto show a few times, so I could totally picture what our theme would look like,” Thurman said.
Decorated with clever car icons such as license plates and odometers, their vision impressed the judges and scored Bake You Happy the “Cupcake Wars” win.
Yin and yang
The Kims credit teamwork as key to their victory.
“She has good ideas, and we really work well together,” said Aeck.
“Her strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa. We balance each other out,” said Thurman.
Not that it was by any means easy.
“‘Cupcake Wars’ is very stressful. Making a thousand cupcakes in two hours is intense and when that timer goes off, that’s it, you have throw your hands up,” Aeck said.
Along with the recognition, Aeck and Thurman received $10,000, which came in handy to open their brand new cupcakery on Valencia Boulevard, in the Barnes & Noble-anchored shopping center.
Launched on Jan. 28, shortly after their episode of “Cupcake Wars” aired, Bake You Happy offers more than a dozen cupcake flavors each day, including such favorites as Heavenly, a “grown up version of the Hostess cupcake,” with rich chocolate ganache on top and creamy marshmallow filling inside.
The Magic Mountain is a fun confetti cupcake topped with a peak of vanilla icing and sprinkles, while the Highway 126 appeals to citrus lovers with its lemon cake, curd and icing. There’s even a Cream Soda Toffee, described as “your favorite old time fountain drink made into a cupcake.”
There are also gluten-free and vegan choices. Each Bake You Happy Cupcake is $3 or $33 for a dozen.
So far, business has been sweet for Aeck and Thurman, with customers coming as far as Santa Monica, Palm Springs, Arizona and even New York to sample their cupcake creations.
“Some people from Idaho were visiting in the area, and told us they had seen us on TV. They were so excited,” Thurman said. “It’s crazy.”
Word of mouth and social media have also helped create a buzz about the business.
“Facebook has been a huge presence for us,” Thurman said.
“One lady told us, ‘I saw my friends talking about you on Facebook. I was in bed but I had to come out and get a cupcake,’” Aeck added.
When asked why cupcakes are currently such hot commodities, she didn’t hesitate.
“It’s your own little cake, you get to pick. The kids want sprinkles, but you can have red velvet. Everyone’s happy,” Aeck said.
“And they’re fun,” Thurman chimed in.
The Kims, both Castaic residents, met in 2008 at a 5 a.m. kickboxing class at their gym. As mothers with young children, it was the only time they could fit in a workout.
Soon, they began exchanging e-mails and phone calls. Eventually, the conversation turned to baking. The Kims discovered the each had been baking for many years.
Two months later, Thurman, an aesthetician for 16 years, called Aeck with a question.
“She said, ‘Do you want to open a business?’ I said, ‘Um, OK ...’” Aeck recalled.
Bake You Happy was born, christened in a Castaic commercial kitchen. The duo specialized in cupcakes and also offered special occasion cakes to corporate and private clients around town.
When they got the call to appear on Cupcake Wars, the Kims decided to open a storefront.
Support poured in. Kelly Privett designed the charming interior at no charge, while Denise Ballard washes dishes or works the counter in her spare time. Thurman’s mother-in-law also frequently comes in to help.
“Our friends and family have been unbelievable,” Thurman said.
Daughters Jordan Aeck and Chloe Thurman want to be part of the action, too.
“When they saw us on TV, they just thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Thurman said.
However, the second-graders are just a little too young to help out at this point. Thurman isn’t ruling out a family dynasty, however.
“I tell them, you’re going to own Bake You Happy one day,” she said with a laugh.
In order to accommodate busy family schedules, Bake You Happy has a full-time employee, Nicole Call, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School, in addition to the owners.
“She’s an incredible baker,” Aeck said.
After conquering cable, the Kims are ready to bring Bake You Happy even more to the masses in the form of talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
“We would love to be on Ellen. We want to take her some cupcakes for her birthday,” Thurman said. “Oprah has her favorite cupcake. So should Ellen.”
Bake You Happy is located at 23628 Valencia Blvd., Valencia. For more information, call (661) 255-5100 andwww.bakeuhappy.com.