Sisters Amanda Bates and Trisha Sutton knew they wanted to start a business together years ago -- they just needed to find the right niche.
The business had to be part of the Champaign-Urbana community, and it had to be creative and design-oriented. So what did they decide on?
Cupcakes.
"When we were putting our business plan together, we had noticed from traveling a lot that cupcakes were a very new trend at that time," Bates said. "We thought it was a fun product -- kind of nostalgic. It was something we could be really creative with in terms of flavor, bringing in other cultures' flavors and seasonal flavors."
Starting as the aptly named Cakes on Walnut three years ago, Cream & Flutter now sits in its place, located at 114 N. Walnut St. in downtown Champaign. Cakes were co-owners Bates' and Sutton's focal point at first, hoping to bring an inventive twist to the traditional treat.
The s'mores cupcake is a good example: a bottom layer of graham cracker is covered with chocolate cake and marshmallow meringue, all of which is topped by a pile of toasted marshmallows. The list of flavored cupcakes goes on, from pumpkin spice to banana cinnamon and macadamia nut to limoncello.
Cream & Flutter has expanded its customer base by developing more desserts: Riesling pear ice cream, snickerdoodle cookies and red velvet layer cakes, to name a few. Throw in the shop's different candies, such as the champagne bonbons, lemon fizzballs and strawberry foams, and it's clear that Bates and Sutton are always looking for something unique.
"We try to put our own spin on it as much as possible," Bates said. "We want to see what other people are doing, but at the same time differentiate ourselves from that. And the idea of our business is to keep things fresh, so we want to be on the leading edge of what's interesting and what's new."
While summer is a slow time for foot traffic, it's a booming time for weddings. Baking for hundreds of people all at once has given the sisters a chance to reach more customers, but Sutton said catering is the most creative part of their business, since different people have their own personal styles and important events that shape their themes.
"We really have been trying to take everyone's individual style and work within that, and at the same time try and keep with what we do best," she said. "We may end up doing a dessert table of cookies, macaroons, cupcakes and truffles for one person, and a four-tier fondant cake for another."
Catering weddings and parties helped Bates and Sutton realize their goal of integrating Cream & Flutter into the community, but so did involving themselves with other localities, such as baking for local non-profit organizations like Girl Scouts and the Champaign Urbana Ballet. They also use locally grown eggs and dairy products whenever possible. For locally unavailable ingredients, they look overseas.
"We're using Belgian chocolates and cocoa powders, high-fat European-style butter, really nice vanillas, things like that," Bates said. "We try to find the best ingredients we can so we have a really pure tasting product and that natural touch."
With all the intricacies that go into their cupcake-making, the sisters are still expanding their style, as well as their business. Whether it's their new French macaroons or some crazy brownie, one can expect something not-so-ordinary when walking into Cream & Flutter.
"A lot of standard recipes that we tried, they weren't cutting it for our quality standards, so we went in there from scratch," Bates said. "And after doing that for three or four years, you really get a sense of what's working and what's not, and it's easy coming up with new things at this point."