By Audrey Johnson
Photos by Alissa Aryn Photography
They say it’s not the mistake that determines your character; it’s all in how you bounce back.
When Jeff Martin famously forgot to add the pumpkin to his pumpkin cardamom cupcake during an elimination challenge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, he could have easily thrown in the towel. Despite the blunder, the judges still thought it was one of the best cupcakes they had ever tasted.
Luckily, the founder of Smallcakes possessed a special brand of self-deprecating humor that made him instantly relatable to a national audience. When he returned home, he took out billboards and printed t-shirts that owned up to the truth: “I forgot the pumpkin.”
After a whirlwind of press and TV appearances, Jeff’s little cupcakery in a bad location in Overland Park, Kansas, soon grew into an international phenomenon. Now, Smallcakes includes over 170 franchises across the globe, with a recent expansion into Saudi Arabia and locations in Kuwait and Qatar coming soon. Bridging the gap between the Middle East and the West never tasted so sweet.
“The Middle East is in love with sweets,” says Jeff. “Since they are not big drinkers, their vice is sweets.” Which is ironic, because the idea of Smallcakes was born from two beach chairs and a cooler of fun.
Jeff and his wife Brandy fell in love with the beaches along Scenic Highway 30-A in Northwest Florida while they were dating in the late 1990s. They would often take road trips from Atlanta, and later, after life blessed them with a daughter, they would load up the minivan and make the sixteen-hour trek from Kansas to their happy place: the beach.
Now, Smallcakes includes over 170 franchises across the globe, with a recent expansion into Saudi Arabia and locations in Kuwait and Qatar coming soon.
“Seaside was always where we would meet friends and enjoy the beach life,” Jeff adds. “True story that we thought up the idea of Smallcakes over some cold beers while sitting at Bud and Alley’s watching the waves.”
For years, the couple tossed around the idea of opening their Smallcakes concept on 30-A, and when the opportunity for a space came available, they knew it was time. The Seacrest Beach headquarters located at the Villages of South Walton now serves as the corporate test kitchen and training facility for the entire company, renowned for using creative flavors, quality ingredients, and friendly service to make treats that families love.
Smallcakes 30A bakes eighteen flavors of cupcakes fresh from scratch daily and churns out fifteen flavors of small-batch cupcake-infused ice cream, setting the model for franchisees across the business. Customer favorites include Birthday Cupcakes topped with mounds of colorful sprinkles and Salted Caramel ice cream. Cultural influences in Saudi Arabia put the flavors of Dates and Saffron as the top two for Middle Easterners.
Since making the big move, Jeff and his family have enjoyed every day of the beach life. Traveling for work is easy now, since Jeff can roll into the airport a mere half-hour before his flights. Family time is spent riding bikes in the morning and finishing the day at their favorite dinner spot, George’s at Alys Beach.
Smallcakes 30A bakes eighteen flavors of cupcakes fresh from scratch daily and churns out fifteen flavors of small-batch cupcake-infused ice cream.
Smallcakes’ unique ice cream flavors include favorites like Glazed Donut, which was inspired by Jeff’s son, Jax. “We would get him donuts every Saturday from the Donut Hole, and one Saturday he asked if I could make him his own donut ice cream, because Lily, my daughter, has her very own flavor, which is strawberry,” explains Jeff.
Jeff recently published Buttercream Dreams, a cookbook featuring thirty of his favorite recipes for cupcakes, ice creams, and other sweet treats. In its pages, Jeff shares his experiences starting Smallcakes, creating new flavors, forgetting the pumpkin, and the inspiration behind it all—his family.
Smallcakes has been featured on the hit daytime TV show The View, was named one of “10 Great Places to Bite into a Gourmet Cupcake,” by USA Today, and was listed in Restaurant Business as one of the “Future 50 fastest-growing small chains in America.”
With record sales of more than $110 million in 2016, and 2017 promising even bigger things to come, the possibilities are endless for the little cupcake shop that turned a near-colossal mistake into a meal ticket.
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Smallcakes 30A is located at the Villages of South Walton in Seacrest Beach, Florida. For more information or to place an order, please call (850) 213-4037. Learn more about Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery at www.smallcakescupcakery.com.