By Lauren Wanko
They’re sprinkled with everything from cookies to coconut and filled with all sorts of different creams. It’s all about cupcakes at this Red Bank bakery.
When asked why cupcakes, John Nardini said, “Well they seem to be going pretty well and seemed like the thing everyone wanted.”
Which is why North Jersey native Nardini opened Cupcake Magician in 2011. A few years earlier, the former union painter started working in a friend’s cupcake business.
“People are starting to focus on individual products rather then groups of products. It’s dangerous though, it’s dangerous because you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. The product’s gotta be good, gotta be affordable, gotta a product that resonates to the customers,” said John Buzza.
Monmouth University’s Buzza says, “People are feeling, if I only produce one product, it’s gotta be better then someone who’s producing 12 products, that they’re all kinda watered down because you can’t give 100 percent attention to 12 products. So, if you only have one product, it could be a win-win, but that product has got to be better then the competition.”
“We can keep quality control on it, I’m a small shop and I do all the baking, 100 percent of the baking,” said Nardini.
The bakery offers a few cakes too, but these treats are the primary focus.
Nardini typically makes about 600 cupcakes a day, as many as 4,500 a week. They stay on the shelves here for two days, whatever isn’t sold is delivered to a local food pantry. They have about 45 flavors available here at one time and they’re always adding to the mix, that’s something Nardini insists helps the business thrive.
“A lot of the time customers will come in and they’ll ask for a certain thing which we don’t have it and we’ll start making it. We’ll start tweaking a little bit here or there, and before you know you come out with another product,” Nardini said.
Like the shop’s best seller and customer inspired — pancakes and Bacon cupcake — Nardini usually starts with this mixer and ends up with a bucketful of batter. But for specialty flavors he’ll sometimes downsize everything. It starts with butter, then sugar, eggs and milk are added, then a combination of flour, baking soda and salt. For this cupcake, maple syrup’s poured into the mix, then the batter’s scooped into trays.
“They’re all handmade, some might be a little bigger, some might be a little smaller,” he said.
They’re loaded into a hot oven for about 25 minutes. Meantime, bacon’s layered onto a baking sheet and set to sizzle along side the cupcakes. After the cakes cool, they’re topped with homemade maple flavored butter cream and pieces of freshly baked bacon.
“It tastes like your dipping bacon into maple syrup,” said Nardini.
When asked if there’s any concern that one day people will decide we don’t want cupcakes anymore, Nardini said, “I don’t look at it that way, because we offer so many different flavors. Someone walks in here and I say well you’re going to find something you like.”
“If you’re good, you know the cream rises to the top. So, if you’re that good, you’re going to be okay in today’s economy,” said Buzza.