Smile Politely

Sweet Escape: Cakes on Walnut Slated To Open Later This Month

After about two years of learning how to build a business, and a year of renovation and construction at 114 Walnut Street in downtown Champaign, Trisha Bates and her sister, Amanda, are almost ready to open Champaign’s first cupcake shop, Cakes on Walnut.

The shop, for a time known as Cream & Flutter, is scheduled to have its grand opening party the last week of this month. Cakes on Walnut will have a menu of rotating cupcake flavors — classic flavors like chocolate and vanilla will be served daily with three or four exotic “featured” flavors (such as green tea, for example, or lavender).

The shop will also serve sandwiches, maybe salads, a limited offering of coffee drinks, and desert drinks like port, wine, and coffee liqueurs (pending a liquor license, which the business hasn’t yet secured from the City of Champaign), Trish says.

For those who have been wondering what took so long: “Construction takes longer than you think it’s going to — it was a shoe repair store before,” Trisha says.

Not to mention neither Trisha nor Amanda has culinary degrees or professional baking experience. Neither owner has done large-scale renovations or outfitted a kitchen. According to Trisha, the last two years have been about taking an idea for a business through the slow and challenging steps toward reality.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” Trisha says.

The sisters are originally from Roanoke, Ill., about an hour and half northwest of Champaign. Trisha is a 2007 University of Illinois urban planning graduate, and Amanda works for Caterpillar as a marketing representative in Pennsylvania (collaboration is mostly done via cell phone and e-mail, but they see each other about once a month).

They first wanted to work together on a cupcake shop after seeing one in Vancouver on a family trip two years ago. Originally, they planned to open the shop in Minneapolis but decided on Champaign as a location after they found in January 2007 that the former JJ’s Luggage & Shoe Repair storefront was for rent.

Since then, they’ve been learning and perfecting cupcake recipes, working with architects and kitchen designers, shopping for appliances and furniture, and baking for practice at weddings and community
events including Krannert’s Nutcracker Suite last winter, where they outfitted a “living doll” with a cupcake-trimmed skirt. (Pictured above).

The shop itself — though not quite finished — looks like the work of professionals. A basic modern aesthetic (white walls, white Eames rocking chairs, blond wood, stainless steel) blends with some of the building’s original features and the Bates sisters’ personal touches, like industrial piping as a liner for the pink-painted edge of the bar and mismatched floral drawer pulls on the cabinets behind it.

“This business is an outlet for us,” Trisha says. “We wanted to do something where we could pay attention to the details and where people would notice.”

But for a marketing rep and an urban planner, why cupcakes? “Why not?” Trisha says. “It’s a fun thing — sort of nostalgic in a way.”

“It’s about having a business and working for yourself.”

Look for details later this month at Smile Politely about Cakes on Walnut’s grand opening.

More Articles