By Pablo J. Sáinz
Although Hortenssia Zatarain has always been a baking and cooking enthusiast, she never thought she would turn her hobby into a full-blown business. However, after losing her job in human resources in 2011, she had plenty of time to experiment, and consolidate her love for baking delicious cupcakes for her family and friends.
“I began watching different cupcake shows on TV and thought I could do that, too,” Zatarain said. “I started baking for my husband and sending him to work with different cupcakes I made, and they had really positive reviews. That positive feedback I received resulted in an online business that I started that went fairly well.”
Almost two years later, in May, 2013, she felt secure enough of her cupcake-baking abilities that, with the support of her husband Juan and an army of friends and family, she opened Love Cupcake Café, an artisan cupcake parlor, in the Otay Ranch area, in eastern Chula Vista.
On September 26, the store will celebrate its 65,000th cupcake sold, thanks to the overwhelming popularity Zatarain’s cupcakes have received in the area. As a thank you to the community, Love Cupcake Café will be giving away 100 mini-cupcakes that day.
“I really can’t believe that my wish has come true with the business, and it’s amazing to me how people have supported the shop,” Zatarain said. “We appreciate everybody who has come in to buy cupcakes from us. We will continue to provide the quality cupcakes that people expect from us and carry on our creativity through different flavors. I want to keep people guessing what I will create next.”
Love Cupcake Café’s success story is part of a growing trend that has turned cupcakes from mom’s favorite baking item to a celebrity. With reality shows revolving around cupcakes, such as Cupcake Wars and DC Cupcakes, “people just fell into the cupcake craze,” according to Zatarain.
“I think that people want variety for their party guests, and cupcakes allow for different flavors to be offered instead of only buying one cake,” she said.
Love Cupcake Café is located in the Eastlake/Otay Ranch area of Chula Vista, which has seen an increase in the Latino population, especially people originally from Tijuana, just like Zatarain.
No wonder she has many Latino-inspired cupcakes on the menu.
“I’m very proud of my Mexican heritage, and I am accustomed to using Hispanic spices, so I use those same influences in my baking,” she said. “Many people don’t know that Mexico produces one of the finest vanilla beans in the world. I only use Mexican vanilla in all my baking.”
Among the other cupcakes with a Latino flavor are the traditional tresleches; chocolate and red velvet tresleches; choco-flan cupcake, which is a vanilla or chocolate cupcake with a traditional flan filling; and a Mexican vanilla bean cupcake.
Also, the shop also carries Mexican-influenced drinks like Chocolate de Mexico, which is a chocolate milk with Mexican chocolate, and an horchata drink that is a traditional Mexican rice water drink with espresso.
With so many delicious choices, it is common to find a lot of loyal costumers who visit Love Cupcake Café on a regular basis.
Ana Valenzuela, for example, said she likes to buy cupcakes for her coworkers. Her favorite flavor is cookies and cream, and thinks that the size and the frostings are perfect.
“They are delicious and moist,” Valenzuela said. “I see how much joy Hortenssia takes in making her cupcakes.”
Another fan is Ana Liceaga, who lives near the café and visits it almost on a regular basis with her family.
“I think the most unique aspect of this establishment is the sheer uniqueness of it,” said Liceaga, who added that her favorite flavors are black bottom, s’mores, and salted caramel. “I know of very few cupcake places this good, let alone in the Eastlake area.”
Six months after opening Love Cupcake Café, Zatarain is proud of the success her cupcakes have achieved. Although she never imagined herself making a living with her baking, she said it’s been a wonderful dream come true.
“I never thought that cupcakes would be a career for me,” she said. “Baking has become a great love of mine, and that reflects in my baking. Its one of the reasons I named the cupcake shop ‘Love.’”
Located at 2110 Birch Road, #105 in Chula Vista, Love Cupcake Café is open seven days a week on Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Love Cupcake Café offers a 10 percent military and law enforcement discount year round. For more information about Love Cupcake Café visit Facebook.com/LoveCupcakeCafe or call 619-271-5683.