Have Cupcake, Will Travel
Aussie baker returns to Austin for eight-course cupcake tasting
It started just like many a modern love story: a thousand miles apart, two kindred spirits, one trusty Internet connection.
When Jess Pryles – native Australian, honorary Austinite – set up her cupcake business Sugadeux in her native Melbourne, she looked online for inspiration. The year was 2007, and with an upcoming trip to Texas, she Googled phrases like “Austin cupcakes” to see if she could meet with any bakers or shop owners while she was here.
“Sugar Mama’s kept coming up, wherever I looked,” says Pryles. “On Yelp, on Twitter … people loved Olivia [O’Neal]. So I wrote her and asked if I could meet with her.”
When Pryles walked into Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop on South First, she was greeted with a hug – and a confession.
“I have something to tell you … you were one of my biggest inspirations in opening up this business,” said O’Neal, who had been following Pryles from the other side of the modem. Little did the two know that they had secretly serving as each other’s cupcake muses from opposite sides of the globe. So connected in spirit were they, that when they sat down to swap chocolate cake recipes, they discovered they were almost totally identical.
“Turns out our chocolate cakes were different by one ingredient,” says Pryles. “We just got the biggest kick out of that.”
The two soon set about launching an event Pryles had dreamed up weeks before, a “cupcake residency” so to speak, where the two ladies could try out flavors new and old on fans. Now three years running, “Dessert for Dinner” is an eight-course cupcake tasting, with four flavors each prepared by Sugar Mama’s and Sugadeux. At $18 per ticket, today’s tasting sold out in three days.
“I have something to tell you … you were one of my biggest inspirations in opening up this business,” said O’Neal, who had been following Pryles from the other side of the modem. Little did the two know that they had secretly serving as each other’s cupcake muses from opposite sides of the globe.
“Before we went to press really, Olivia and I just got online and started Tweeting it, and it immediately went crazy,” Pryles says. It’s no wonder: Both Sugar Mama’s and Sugadeux will be debuting two brand new flavors, and Pryles has a particularly Texas twist.
“Texas Pink Grapefruit, which is made with a grapefruit curd, from local grapefruits,” explains Pryles. “I’m also making a Sweet Tea cupcake, which is so very Southern, and reminds me of my adopted Texas.”
Pryles isn’t kidding about that adopted part. Ever since she came to visit some friends in east Austin in 2008, she’s been back every year since. When the bubbly Australian rolled into town on July 4th, it took her two weeks just to catch up with all of her friends here.
“It’s funny how obsessed I am with this city,” says Pryles. “Even to the point of freaking out locals. The other day I was walking with somebody, and they said, ‘have you ever heard of The Bumblebee Club?’ And I immediately said: ‘oh, you mean The Yellow Jacket Social Club?’” she laughs. “And of course that’s the place she was thinking about!”
Given the popularity of Dessert for Dinner, which will be held at Volstead Lounge (1500 East 6th Street), O’Neal and Pryles have decided to add on another complimentary event this Sunday, July 31, at Sugar Mama’s, where Pryles will be baking and meeting patrons all day from 11am to 4pm.
“It’s lovely for me to hang out with Olivia, who is practically family at this point,” says Pryles. “We give each other ideas, and try out new things we’ve been working on. I make a chocolate pretzel cupcake for example, because Americans love chocolate-covered pretzels – but nobody eats those in Australia! I have to commission a chocolate factory to dip pretzels for me so I can make my cupcakes. But as soon as I added them to the menu, they were a huge success.”
As is Dessert for Dinner. Given Sugadeux’s affection for Austin, it kind of makes you wonder whether more Austin-inspired flavors are to come. Mexican Martini? Margarita-Cakes?
“That’s why everybody who isn’t able to come on Tuesday night has to come meet me and Olivia on Sunday!” says Pryles. “Baking from scratch is big for me. And there’s almost nothing I love more in the world than baking from scratch and immediately watching people devour it.”
Something tells us that won’t be a problem.