TV show serves as inspiration for opening of Wilmette bakery

Cathi Volante and her 13 -year-old daughter, Ashley have been watching “Cupcake Wars” together since it first aired four years ago.

“It’s our thing, our time together,” said Volante.

But not only was the Food Network show a way for mom and daughter to bond, it was the inspiration for Couture Cupcake Café & Espresso Bar, the cupcake bakery Volante launched in Kildeer in 2012, which was so successful that two weeks ago, she opened a second location in Wilmette.

“The demand was there, especially in this area,” said Volante, who lives in Kildeer with her husband, Don, Ashley and their two other children. “More and more customers would e-mail us and ask, ‘When are you coming to the North Shore?’”

Prior to opening Couture Cupcake Café, Volante spent 20 years working in marketing and public relations in the fashion and retail industries. The owner of her firm V2 Public Relations, Volante did Walmart’s PR for 11 years.

Ashley said that every Sunday for years, her mom would make cupcakes, tweaking old family recipes.

“They were the best thing ever,” Ashley said. “I kept telling her she should open up a cupcake bakery.”

Considering her daughter’s idea, Volante began selling cupcakes around the neighborhood to see if there was a market for her products. She said people would always ask her where they could buy more.

With 2,000 people at the grand opening of the Kildeer location, Volante said the bakery was a success right away.

“I think the reason it was such a hit is that we filled a need our community desperately longed for,” she said. “There really was nothing like it. To get really good cupcakes, you had to drive downtown.”

Speaking of really good cupcakes, Couture Cupcake Café offers over 200 cupcake flavors that rotate more than once per day. Flavors include Cookie Dough, which has a whole cookie baked into the cupcake; PB XXL, which has a Reese’s peanut buttercup baked in the cupcake and one on top; S’mores, which is stuffed with a marshmallow filling, with graham crackers and Hershey bars on top; and Heavenly Swine, a buttermilk cake filled with applewood smoked bacon and a maple buttercream frosting.

“What sets us apart is that we use the finest ingredients we can find,” said Volante. “We use real butter, we scrape our own Madagascar vanilla beans, all of our chocolates are French and Belgian, and we use all natural organic ingredients – the best we can find.”

With more than 30 employees, six who are certified pastry chefs, everything is baked in the Kildeer location, with batches of cupcakes brought to Wilmette multiple times per day.

Mike Fruin and his two daughters, Eleanor and Clare came into the bakery to buy cupcakes for their mom, Bridget’s birthday.

“This will fit really nicely in the neighborhood,” said Fruin, whose purchases included S’mores and cookie dough cupcakes. “I think a lot of people will come here for dessert after dinner.”

“I’m working across the street today and I’ve been staring at this place, thinking it’s probably more than just your average grocery store cupcake,” said Elizabeth Bolger of Glenview. “I was right. It’s really delicious. It’s bigger, fresher and more generous on the frosting.”

Couture Cupcake Café also serves a menu of coffee drinks and a full line of smoothies. Additionally, the bakery has a large catering business, offering high-end and themed cakes for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and other special occasions.

“People appreciate the freshness,” Volante said. “Our brides know their cake was baked on their actual wedding day.”

“My mom’s teaching me everything,” Ashley said. “I want to run the business with her when I grow up.”

Couture Cupcake Café & Espresso Bar

1157 Wilmette Ave.

Website: www.Couturecupcakecafe.com

Phone: (847) 728-0509

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