Just three years after opening the doors of her Witherspoon Street shop, Ruthie Bzdewka’s cupcakes have become the cupcakes of the stars. At the end of this month, she has been invited to be at the MTV music awards so she can personally hand out her delicious creations to the celebrities.
The House of Cupcakes is a success story that Bzdewka couldn’t have imagined even last summer, when she received an email from the Food Network asking if she wanted to audition for the Cupcake Wars, a national bake-off featuring the country’s top bakers of the tasty delicacy.
“I thought it was spam, so I ignored it,” said Bzdewka (whose name is pronounced Bez-duke-ah). Then I got a phone call saying did you get our email? Then I knew it was the real thing.”
It was the second season of the popular show. “They told me we’ll send you two copies of the tryout tape so you know what it’s all about,” said Bzdewka. “My husband, Ron, and our two sons, we all watched and then went out and bought a camera and shot our own audition tape.”
The family’s talent for movie-making seems to rival their talent for making cupcakes. “They told us they loved it,” recalled Bzdewka. “We were shocked.”
The Food Network flew the Bzdewkas out to Hollywood –well, technically Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles – where they filmed their portion of the Cupcake Wars. Long story short: they won.
The grand finale showing their victory aired this past year on the Food Network.
“That show made it possible for so many new people to find us,” said Bzdewka. “People who didn’t even know we existed now come from all over to try our cupcakes. And they love them.”
Before their sweet success, Bzdewka and her husband, Ron, owned two retail party stores. She did the heavy lifting when it came to raising their two boys, ages 6 and 10, as a stay-at-home mom.
But she always baked cupcakes, whether it was for her son’s birthday parties, or for school events.
“My maternal grandmother was German so she baked all the time – German chocolate cake, Boston crème, chocolate chip cookies, Christmas cookies and cupcakes– there wasn’t anything she didn’t bake. And I baked with her.”
As her sons grew older and she was looking for something to do, she noticed that cupcake shops were popular. “I saw the cupcake craze coming so I jumped on the bandwagon.”
When it came to choosing a location for a cupcake store of her own, Princeton was her first choice. One of her grandparents had lived in Princeton so she had spent lots of time in town as a child. “I knew that a cupcake shop has to be in a thriving town where there’s lots of foot traffic and the kind of atmosphere that is friendly to a family business. I was right. The local people who come here and support us are amazing. International tourists find us and come here too.”
The House of Cupcakes is truly a family business. “My husband is in construction so he’s on different projects but most of the time he’s the head baker,” said Bzdewka. "I run the shop and bake. Our six-year-old does taste tests. Our 10-year-old loves to run the front and greet customers."
What is the secret behind her cupcakes and their popularity?
“We use the best ingredients we can find and go local when we can. We get eggs, butter and dairy from Halo Farms. We do candy apples in the fall and we go to Terhune Orchards for that. We try to support as much of Princeton as we can because that’s who supports us.”
Everything is baked on the premises. The cupcakes sell for $2.25 individually and then there are package deals for larger amounts. The shop takes special orders and makes wedding cakes and does corporate events.
Just three years later, Bzdewka is still a bit stunned by her phenomenal success. ”I opened this up to save money for my kids to go to college. I never imagined that all this would happen. I can’t believe it.”
House of Cupcakes 30 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
Phone: (609) 924-0085