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A Big City treat



Anyone with a sweet tooth beware: a dangerous new shop has just opened for business, and they're selling something that will be very hard for you to resist. Cupcakes. Delicious, fresh, from-scratch cupcakes in a rainbow of flavours that will tantalize just about any taste bud; Red Carpet (classic red velvet), NY Chocolate Cheesecake, After Dinner Mint, Truffle Strawberry Shortcake, PB Sandwich, Chocolate Covered Strawberry Snowballs and Lemon Drop, just to name a few.

They even carry treats for those with special dietary restrictions. (Okay, they're not exactly fat-free, but they have chocolate-flavoured cupcakes for people with sensitivities to egg, dairy and gluten.)

I'll officially out myself as a baking snob. I'll admit it, I turn my nose up at the mixes in the baking aisle. But there are times that baking from scratch just isn't doable. Hell, it takes a lot of time to go to the grocery story and purchase the supplies, then bake, cool and ice whatever you're making, then do the cleanup. And time is money.

And I'm sure I'm not the only person who's longed for one of those cutesy cupcake shops that seem to be springing up in big cities everywhere. Well, it appears that the wait is over.

Cassandra Pringle and Joseph Tolmie recently decided to put their savings to work and invest in a business opportunity, joining forces with a third investor, Aphrodite Koswara, to open a Big City Cupcakes franchise right here in Whistler. It also didn't hurt that they were personal friends with Lisa Larue, one of the founders of Big City Cupcakes. The B.C.-based business was founded in the fall of 2008 and since then has expanded to include nine franchise locations throughout the Lower Mainland and up to Whistler.

"We decided a long time ago that we wanted to do it, we just had to get our partner to be able to do it," Pringle said.

"We wanted to invest our money in a business, and being friends with Lisa and seeing how well she was doing gave us an opportunity," Tolmie added.

They offer a total of 27 flavours of cupcakes - mini and "big-city"-sized - made from premium ingredients like Bernard Callebaut chocolate, fresh eggs and organic Madagascar bourbon vanilla. (See what I mean about them not being fat-free?)

"Everything is real. We use real milk, real eggs, real butter. It's like you were making them at home in your kitchen!" Pringle said.

They're also awfully cute, topped with thick whorls of rich icing and colourful sprinkles; they're the kind of dessert that you don't really want to bite into because you'll ruin someone's hard work.

Of course, quality comes at a cost, and these sweet treats aren't exactly cheap - "big city" size, unfilled, are $3.25, while ones that are filled with a dollop of cheesecake or chocolate ganache are $3.95, and the minis are $1.50 for unfilled and $1.95 for filled. But if you consider the amount of time and energy you could save by ordering a dozen cupcakes for your kid's next birthday party, the convenience might just be worth the price tag.

Conveniently located in a tiny space in the Visitor Info Centre, Big City Cupcakes has positioned itself to grab each and every visitor in town as they make their way to and from the bus stops.

"It's the first stop for everybody," Tolmie added.

Neither Pringle nor Tolmie had ever been to Whistler before, but knew the business would be a great fit for a community that loves to host events and parties.

"The Whistler franchise came available through head office and we just jumped on it," Pringle said with a smile.

Not to mention that we have the biggest party of this town's little life coming up in just a few short months.

"That helped make us finalize (the decision)," Pringle said.

The cupcakes are baked fresh in the Vancouver baking centre each day, then transported to the shop.

During the Olympics, they plan to be operating in full force, selling their regular selection (and perhaps a special Olympic-themed treat).

So far, the response from cupcake-lovers who have stumbled across this fresh little gem has been extremely positive.

"Everyone is so excited!" Pringle said, adding that many people have come in to say how happy they are to finally have a cupcake shop in town.

Right now, they're focusing on individual sales and hoping that as word spreads about their new sweet spot, corporate demand will follow. The Whistler location carries 17 flavours each day, and they're more than willing to take special orders for events that cater to up to 5,000 people.

"Anything you want, we'll try to do. I mean, if you have an idea for a cupcake that you want for your wedding... we'll do our best to make it what you want," Pringle said.



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