When Courtney Lopez was thinking of names for her cupcake business, she wanted something that was unique—but nothing too out there—while having some meaning behind it. She eventually settled on The Chaste Cupcake, which didn’t exactly win over some of her friends.
“Of course when you think of the word chaste, you think of virginity, but it also means pure and wholesome,” the Hollister resident said. “Well, that’s what cupcakes are as long as you make them with good, quality ingredients.”
You won’t get any arguments from Jessica Riggle, who is one of Lopez’s neighbors. As a taste-tester, Riggle played a crucial role in Lopez’s quest to make cupcakes people would come back for again and again.
“A number of my neighbors including Jessica were great in that I could walk to their place in a pinch for a quick taste test,” Lopez said. “I wanted to get their input on whether a particular recipe I was working on was too dry, too sweet, or if there wasn’t enough salt. They were all very happy to be my guinea pigs.”
It was a win-win situation for both parties as Lopez received constructive criticism that would help her make a better cupcake and Riggle and the rest of the neighbors got to satisfy their collective sweet tooths.
“I started tasting her cupcakes to help her try to refine her recipes and get her flavors right,” Riggle said. “Basically critiquing her cupcakes. She’s definitely super open to (constructive) criticism because it was really important for her to get the flavors right before she started selling them. So the level of food education is there along with her caring for the business. It’s a big deal and speaks to her character.”
Riggle describes Lopez’s cupcakes as “super delicious and moist,” and noted she has gladly paid for Lopez’s treats since The Chaste Cupcake became an official business.
“I’ve purchased from her several times since she started the business,” Riggle said.
Lopez has found the response from the community to be overwhelmingly positive. A week before Valentine’s Day, Lopez said she had “reached capacity,” meaning she had already been scheduled to make 17 dozen orders.
“(Business is) most consistent when I advertise for some sort of holiday or special occasion,” said Lopez, whose customers can place orders through the Chaste Cupcake Facebook and Instagram social media platforms.
On her regular menu, Lopez offers seven different cupcake flavors and six different frostings. For a holiday or special event like a kids’ birthday party, Lopez scales down the menu so she doesn’t have to do “100 different combinations of cake and frosting,” allowing her to be more efficient in producing dozens of orders. Lopez said her buttercream cupcake tends to get rave reviews for one simple, albeit notable, reason: it’s not too sweet.
“Most people don’t want a big pile of sugar in their mouth,” she said. “When you’re eating a cupcake, you don’t want to be hit with sugar in your face. Things (sugar and spices) really need to be complementary to each other.”
Translation: a quality cupcake doesn’t overwhelm the palate with loads of sugar. When asked which cupcake off the The Chaste Cupcake menu was her favorite, Riggle couldn’t pick just one.
“I love the vanilla with strawberry, the churro cupcake and red velvet, which says a lot because I normally don’t like red velvet,” Riggle said. “Eating Courtney’s cupcakes makes for a different cupcake experience. Her flavors are on point and you have to try it to know what I’m talking about.”
When Lopez first tried her hand at cupcakes at her oldest child’s first birthday party eight years ago, little did she know it would one day lead to her own small business.
“I was a brand new mom and told myself I was going to try a Pinterest-style birthday and do it all,” she said. “I think I had a bunch of cookbooks sitting in the cupboard and did red velvet cupcakes because we were doing a ladybug themed party.”
As the years went on, Lopez’s friends asked her to make cupcakes for their kids’ birthday parties, to rave reviews.
“Everyone seemed to like them, which made me think maybe I could make something out of it,” she said.
The coronavirus pandemic accelerated Lopez’s plans to open up her own business once it became apparent Covid-19 wasn’t going away anytime soon.
“Before Covid hit, I was thinking about going back and getting a 9 to 5 office job,” she said. “Then I started thinking of other alternatives and thinking maybe I could make a cupcake business a career if I could.”
The biggest challenge for Lopez was figuring out which food license she had to acquire for doing business out of her home, then developing all the different flavors for her recipes to the point where she would reach a standard where she felt like people would buy them. The flexibility of working from home was needed considering Lopez and her husband have three children—Charlotte, 9; Hannah, 5; and Finley, 3—to take care of while balancing work at the same time.