Trish Christopherson, of Spring Valley, is the proprietor of Sweetie Cakes, a custom cupcake bakery business.  She does her baking at the Wolf's Den kitchen in Ostrander and has created numerous delectable cupcake and cookie bouquet recipes.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Trish Christopherson, of Spring Valley, is the proprietor of Sweetie Cakes, a custom cupcake bakery business. She does her baking at the Wolf's Den kitchen in Ostrander and has created numerous delectable cupcake and cookie bouquet recipes. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Peanut butter, banana and bacon: That's "The Elvis," Sweetie Cakes.

"One of the cupcakes I like to make is what I call 'The Elvis,' with peanut butter, banana and bacon - it's a tribute to Elvis, who liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches fried in bacon grease," said Spring Valley cupcake baker Trish Christopherson, proprietor of Sweetie Cakes, the specialty cupcake company she started to satisfy her own obsession, baking just about anything sweet from scratch.

Christopherson has been baking since she was small, presenting people with culinary masterpieces that she hoped tantalized their tastes and created memories. "I think the first thing I remember was a chocolate cream pie for my mom one birthday. After that, it was cakes, and a lot of times, I filled them with pudding. Now, I make a lot of mini pies, cookie bouquets, my own caramel sauce for cupcakes, I mix and match recipes and add and subtract. I just make my own recipes."

Her "own recipes" did just what she'd wanted them to do - they captured the attention of family members and friends who came to visit. "My husband and I love to have people over to play cards, and our friends have said that my baking is really good when I've made them cupcakes. My mom cleans houses in Rochester, and I give her mini cupcakes to take to her clients, and they said, 'Oh my gosh, you have to tell her these are amazing'."

Christopherson recalled how reviews of "amazing" cupcakes evolved into the business she now would like to become her full-time occupation and someday a storefront. "I had worked at All in One Video and Tanning in Spring Valley and Stewartville; I worked there for six years, and it closed about three years ago. I had been baking at home and doing farmers' markets after my youngest son was born, and I had done cake decorating classes, like the Wilton decorating classes, done some cakes, but then life got busy. The farmers' markets had gone really well, and I just always really loved baking, so I decided I could be my own boss and do this."

Further research into commercial baking requirements led her to take food management classes and become licensed with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February, at which point she and her husband, Al, explored the possibility that she could rent a storefront and open her own shop, but the venture was cost-prohibitive, even though the investment could lead to gourmet success. That's when she inquired of the owners of the Wolf's Den Bar and Grill in Ostrander as to whether she could rent their commercial kitchen during the day since the establishment does not open until late afternoon - she could make use of an idle commercial kitchen, help the owners benefit from the arrangement and also be able to produce the luxurious cupcakes she wanted to share with others for events such as birthday parties, showers, retirement parties, and now even weddings, as a Rochester photographer and the event planner at Mayowood have tasted her richly-filled and -topped cake crowns and have been handing her business cards out to brides.

Trish credits her business with being small enough to afford her flexibility to create custom orders and allow her to produce freshly baked cakes from scratch. "I've done dairy- and egg-free cupcakes, and I'm usually making all my cupcakes the day of or the day before someone needs them, so I don't have to throw in a lot of preservatives. I use butter, flour, sugar, Ghirardelli chocolate, real vanilla...there's a difference between real vanilla and imitation vanilla." Her list of cupcakes now includes salted caramel, turtle, strawberry with "pure strawberries, not strawberry flavoring," apple pie, caramel apple, carrot cake, her mother's favorite grasshopper mint and chocolate cakes, and white chocolate peppermint.

She truly enjoys the process of baking, from deciding what flavors to mix to actually making the batter, frosting and filling. "It's just everything. I usually lose track of time. I love making fondant flowers, and I can sit for four hours and make them...it feels like half an hour has gone by. I get lost in the whole baking process. It's always fun to decide what flavors...the hard part is that there are only so many flavors you can do, so I try new mixes and matches. Right now, I'm working on cupcakes with alcohol in them...one with Moscato wine. I like cooking with alcohol. I've got a few with alcohol in them, and I'd like to try one with pumpkin ale, or chocolate with a beer center and maple bacon frosting."

Sweetie Cakes isn't Christopherson's first venture into business ownership, as she first opened a children's clothing thrift shop several years ago, but now recognizes that the reviews her customers have given of the decadent little bakery far outshine the satisfaction owning the thrift shop gave her.

"I used to own All for Kids Clothing and Accessories in Spring Valley, but this was really something I've always enjoyed doing, and I think it's a better fit," she explained. "I'm constantly thinking of new things, but I'm also constantly thinking of new flavors, and the more cupcakes I get in people's mouths, the better the word of mouth is. I want my cupcakes to be the 'wow' at an event. That's what I strive for."

Sweetie Cakes are available by order online at www.sweetiecakesbytrish.com, or by calling Christopherson in advance at (507) 272-9035. Ask for "The Elvis," or maybe the maple-frosted pumpkin cupcakes with white chocolate filling...or the white lemon curd-filled, chocolate sour cream-frosted cupcakes nobody thought would be good but "actually are," or just order a dozen of everything for the "wow."