Nicole Baer’s home-based cupcake business was so popular that her kitchen wall oven was on nearly all day, every day, and she still couldn’t bake enough cupcakes to fill orders.
That all changed when she opened Ann’s Cupcakery on Mechanicsburg’s Main Street last fall.
“Now, I can make 10 dozen cupcakes at a time in our giant convection oven,” said Baer, who gave the business her middle name, Ann.
Behind the shop’s glass display case, chocolate peanut butter cupcakes are neatly lined up aside chocolate salted caramel, chocolate raspberry, strawberries and cream, and lemon blueberry cupcakes—all topped with swirls of icing—and all made completely from scratch.
Just eight years ago, things were very different. Baer was a single parent trying to put herself through college at Shippensburg University. That’s when she launched a side hustle—creating and selling homemade, decorated cupcakes on the weekends.
“It started when my son turned 3, and I created ‘Toy Story’-themed cupcakes,” Baer said.
People admired the self-taught baker’s creativity, and the orders started pouring in.
“I just wanted a second form of income [in addition to a waitressing job], so that I could graduate debt-free, and I always loved baking,” Baer said. “It was just for fun, on the side.”
The sweet treats not only financed her degree—in finance—but eclipsed her original career plans. Now 33 years old, Baer applies her financial background to being a small business owner.
She took her home-based business to Main Street in late November and celebrated with a grand opening in January. Customers lined the sidewalks prior to the opening and throughout the day.
Thinking the 70 dozen cupcakes she had prepared wouldn’t be enough, Baer continued baking behind the scenes with the help of family and ended up selling 80 dozen of the miniature frosted cakes. That’s 960 cupcakes in one day.
“I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without the support of my family—my parents and husband,” Baer said.
Her mother cried at the open house, while her father proudly welcomed customers at the door and helped organize the waiting lines. Husband Nate, a graphic designer, created her logo and social media presence.
“The great thing about small businesses like this one is that it’s family, and, when you walk in there, you get treated like family and you build relationships,” said Jeff Palm, executive director of the Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce.
Ann’s Cupcakery is a positive addition to downtown, he said, especially since it occupies the historic, circa-1876 Mechanicsburg Bank Building.
“Your future is always based on your past,” Palm said. “This is what the town was. There was a bank on every corner, so the architecture and reuse of older buildings provide anything but a cookie-cutter location.”
Kelly McNeal of Mechanicsburg recently visited Ann’s Cupcakery to pick up dozens of cupcakes ordered for her father’s retirement party. She admitted that she doesn’t normally like cupcakes, but she found Baer’s creations “out of this world—so flavorful and not overly sweet.”
Ann’s Cupcakery is “much needed—a great option other than the grocery store,” McNeal said.
In addition to sales via foot traffic, Ann’s Cupcakery holds tastings for brides-to-be, fills wedding orders for both cupcakes and small, traditional wedding cakes for cutting ceremonies, and holds cupcake-decorating classes that are open to the public.
“The first three classes all completely sold out, and I’m constantly dreaming up new themes,” Baer said.
Those themes include cupcakes decorated like unicorns, flowers, fairy gardens and fast food—cheeseburgers and tacos made from colorful piped icing. There’s even a succulent decorating class, where participants learn how to create swirls of frosting that look like the popular jade green and pink plants—all edible, of course. Class offerings are listed on the shop’s Facebook page.
“The next big flavors for the shop include maple bacon, and I’m working on incorporating coffee into a cupcake—either a mocha or fun caramel latte flavor,” Baer said.
For that, she’s partnering with the coffee shop Capital Joe, located across the street.
I asked how she stays slim while operating a cupcake shop.
“Years ago, I ate them all the time,” she said. “Even now, there are days when I come in and eat a few cupcakes for breakfast. But, thankfully, my husband is a personal fitness trainer.”
That’s called having your cake and eating it, too.
Ann’s Cupcakery is located at 43 West Main St., Mechanicsburg. For more information, call 717-756-0842 or visit the Facebook page.