Patti Frank believes that every day is a celebration–even just a random Tuesday.
That’s why she decided to name her business Jubilee.
“It means celebration,” she said. “And it’s also from the Bible. I like that word.”
Frank, a stay-at-home mom turned cupcake queen, is finding joy in bringing sweet treats to the people of Pierce County. Jubilee Cupcakes opened in the North End of Tacoma in 2009, and relocated to 13333 Meridian St. E. in Puyallup in 2011.
The decision to move closer to home has paid off: at least 80 percent of business is repeat customers from Tacoma and Gig Harbor.
“People will drive 80 miles,” Frank said. “They have been waiting for our pumpkin cupcakes to come out.”
It’s a phenomenon she never expected. After all, prior to opening Jubilee, Frank had no business experience. Instead, she had 20 years of memories in the kitchen with her children.
“I baked a lot of everything,” she said. “All I did was bake–all from scratch.”
That hasn’t changed: Jubilee is one of the few scratch-bake bakeries in the state.
“We do not use package mix,” she said. “We literally put everything in there and sift it.”
The staff bakes in small batches–about a dozen at a time–to ensure everything is fresh all day.
A day at Jubilee begins before the sun comes up and baking continues for the next 12 hours. Two bakers come in at 4 a.m.; the gluten-free baker arrives at 8 a.m.; and the French pastry chef is in at noon.
Depending on the time of year, they can bake hundreds of cupcakes in a day.
“When we get in here, we instantly start making batters and buttercreams,” Frank said. “Then it’s scooping, baking, cooling, frosting, and then we start all over again."
Hand-Crafting a Business
Frank admitted that when she started, her lack of business experience was evident.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “I had no idea just how much work food entails.”
Still, she dove headfirst into perfecting her specialties. It took three months for her to figure out a recipe to keep cupcakes moist for three days, and even longer to figure out the ideal gluten-free flour.
"I won’t go with 'pretty good,'" she said. “It has to be perfect. You keep baking until you find something that just blows your mind.
“My philosophy is that the buttercream has to stand alone; the cake has to stand alone; and when you put them together, it should go WOW.”
Frank’s personal favorite cupcake is the Triple Coconut (coconut cake, coconut buttercream and shaved coconut); the most popular is the Salted Caramel (homemade caramel, Belgian chocolate cake, caramel buttercream and fleur de sel).
Pumpkin just arrived for fall; Snickerdoodle is coming; and they’re working on Apple Crisp.
“I’m very passionate about what I do,” she said. “If I’m not going to do well, I won’t even attempt it. It’s all or nothing. I don’t want to do anything halfway.”
The gluten-free offerings–among them cupcakes and lemon bars–are also popular.
“They don’t taste like they’re made of sawdust,” she said.
Frank said that the biggest challenge of running her business is that no two days are the same–flavors, customers and demand are constantly changing.
As a result, Jubilee isn’t afraid to evolve, too. It used to offer half-price cupcakes at night, but the new deal is even better: the store recently slashed $9 off a dozen cupcakes, making them by far the least expensive retail cupcakes in the Puget Sound area, at $2 each.
For those wanting fewer than a dozen, a single cupcake is $2.75; two to five are $2.50 each; and six to 11 are $2.25 each. Despite some of the high-end cupcake shops in Seattle charging as much as $4.50 for a single cupcake, Frank said the risk has paid off. Most customers buy at least six at a time.
“Try to beat that anywhere,” she said of her prices. “Nobody can do that.”
More Than Cupcakes
Jubilee isn’t just cupcakes. Its offerings include pumpkin bars, cheesecake, cake balls, cookies and European pastries. It does custom cupcakes–everything from cartoon characters to snowflakes–and cupcake wedding cakes are especially popular. The only traditional cake Jubilee does is the top layer of wedding cakes.
The espresso bar features coffee drinks, $1.50 Italian sodas and will soon offer bubble tea.
Jubilee gets a lot of business from the neighboring Regal Longston Place Stadium 14. Over the summer, they sponsored children’s movies two mornings a week and passed out mini-cupcakes afterward.
“I would do anything with the theater,” Frank said. “They’ve been very good to us.”
Frank said she has thought about opening up a second location if the economy improves–but not in Florida.
“There’s another Jubilee in Orlando,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve gotten calls asking if I can deliver, and I’m like, uh, no.”
So what’s the best compliment a customer could pay her?
"If they start salivating," she said. "Or if they call and say 'You just made my party.'"
The Tacoma News Tribune has also featured a story on Jubilee Cupcakes this week! Read Sue Kidd's review here.