Down home treat

[attach]6997[/attach]After a successful career as a lawyer and financial executive, Jean Blacklock set her career goals on something a little sweeter.

“I started working on this idea that I had for a long time of having a business in the food area and cupcakes have made people smile and laugh for 50 years,” Blacklock says. “I felt it was a really great opportunity especially given that downtown Toronto didn’t have any cupcake stores what so ever.”

Since launching Prairie Girl Bakery in 2011, which by name pays homage to her Saskatoon roots, Blacklock’s cupcake emporium expanded to a second location within its first year in business. As of Apr. 26, the bakery also has a home in Yorkville on the corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road.

“My background, the type of cake, the type of icing, are exactly the type of cake, the type of icing that my mother and my grandmother made,” she says. “They’re butter based cakes, they’re not sponge cakes, they’re not fancy cakes. My mom made chocolate cake just like this, she made a vanilla cake just like this so they’re very much traditional, down home baking.”

The bakery offers a selection of 15 regular flavours and two changing weekly specials, which are also offered as gluten-free and in mini sizes. The baked fresh daily goods are also available for catering for weddings and events.

“The beauty of the business is our customers start at two-years-old and they go to 80 or plus,” she says. “And we make the minis so no matter what the appetite level is or the dietary concern, there’s a little treat there.”

Although the shop’s bestseller is Rebecca’s Red Velvet, which is named after her stepdaughter whose favourite cupcake at the time she launched the business was red velvet (she now prefers the carrot cake), Blacklock’s personal favourite is a toasted coconut with vanilla bean icing.

[attach]6998[/attach]“When I opened the bakery in my business plan I committed to two goals. One was to have the very best quality cupcakes anywhere and the second was to provide excellent customer service and make people smile when they came into the store and make people happy,” she says. “I think we’ve achieved both of those.”

Prairie Girl Bakery, which has filled big orders like 98 dozen cupcakes and on Valentine’s Day last year sold 11,300 cupcakes, donates all leftover goods to charity at the end of the working day.

“Personally I will take home cupcakes and leave them on the counter and I’ll eat them three days later and they’re absolutely delicious but I knew I didn’t want to sell them as a day old and I’m too much of a prairie girl to throw cupcakes in the garbage,” Blacklock says. “With an agency like Second Harvest that helps us find agencies and shelters where it makes their day, I think it’s absolutely priceless.”

Another satisfying part of running the business over the years has been developing her team, she says, such as working with Yorkville’s customer service manager Amy McIntee, who started off behind the counter and grew into the role of manager and co-leader of the shop’s social media program.

As a follow up to the bakery’s successful gluten-free menu, Blacklock would like to soon offer equally delicious vegan cupcakes, but in the meantime hopes to continue making customers happy through baked goods.

“I hope we make their day,” she says. “I hope if they’re having a tough day or if their friend is having a touch day they have one bite of our cupcake and they feel better, or if they look at our cute little box and the cute cupcake in it, I hope it makes them happy. It’s all about that, that’s what cupcakes do. That’s what’s magical about them.”