• Switzerland edition
 
Cupcakes conquer Switzerland

Cupcakes conquer Switzerland

Published: 23 Feb 2012 17:03 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Feb 2012 17:03 GMT+01:00

The global cupcake craze took some time to reach Switzerland, but once the dainty treats had arrived they quickly had the country hooked, as contributor Catherine McLean found out. 

When Melanie Studer left England to come home to Switzerland, she brought back a new passion: cupcakes.

As she toiled away at her regular day job, she couldn’t get those little cakes out of her head. She dreamed about opening her own store to serve the cupcake-deprived Swiss, who, like her, typically discover the treat on trips abroad. 

“It’s a product that one falls in love with,” Studer says. “One sees it and says, how cute, how pretty.”

She also had a feeling that other Swiss might like them. Her instinct proved right. A little over a year ago, she opened the first cupcake shop in Zurich, Cupcake Affair, and was greeted with a line of clients snaking outside the door.

Forget traditional Swiss classics like fruit flans or jam cookies. The cupcake is now the country’s reigning “it” dessert: the treat is showing up in bakery and grocery shelves, at corporate events and birthday parties, and was even recently celebrated in the pages of one of the big Sunday papers.

People are willing to pay a lot for these treats. A mini cupcake (one or two bites) is usually priced above three francs ($3.30), while a regular size one goes for five francs and up.

It should come as no surprise then that cupcake entrepreneurs are rushing to open online businesses and cupcake boutiques in a number of Swiss towns, including Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Bern and Zurich. Some of the country’s best-known bakeries are adding cupcakes to their line-up, including Vollenweider in Winterthur and Honold in Zurich.

The country’s biggest retailers are also getting in on the cupcake craze. Supermarket chain Migros is offering a four-part course (at a cost of 90 francs) on the art of baking cupcakes. Not to be outdone, rival Coop’s Betty Bossi brand offers information and tips on cupcakes on its website.

Despite their growing popularity, cupcakes are still a novelty here in Switzerland. There is confusion, for example, about what the difference is between a cupcake and a muffin. There is also uncertainty about when one should eat a cupcake, with one bakery recommending it for breakfast. Some people even wander into Studer’s shop thinking she is selling soap.

So what is it about this sweet import that has tickled Swiss taste buds? Swiss paper NZZ am Sonntag suggests it’s not about the taste – describing them as mere Madeleines -- but instead the cutesy packaging. Their vibrant colours and kitschy decorations make them very different from traditional Swiss desserts.

Indeed, Studer of Cupcake Affair says she thought she would have to be “careful” with using bright colours like blue and green for the cupcake’s frosting but the Swiss proved her wrong. Her little boutique in Zurich’s old town features cheery, colourful cupcakes enclosed under glass domes in the front window.

She has stuck with some traditional North-American cupcake flavours, like vanilla cake with chocolate icing, or Red Velvet (a red-coloured cake). But she has also added her own distinctly Swiss twist, offering Tiramisu, chestnut and poppy seed versions. She likes the chocolates ones, as do her customers, who have made the Marilyn Monroe – a chocolate cake with raspberry icing – her best seller.

Her client base, surprisingly, is mostly Swiss. It seems like the kind of place that expats would frequent, but she admits they find the prices too high. She has made some adjustments for local tastes making the icing less sweet and more creamy and light.

Business is still booming. On a recent Saturday, there were three workers behind the small counter as adults waited patiently for their treats.

Cupcakes are also proving to be a hit in the French part of Switzerland. Cupcakes & the City, a cupcake boutique in Geneva, opened its doors in 2009. It has since added another boutique and café in a suburb of the city.

The founder and manager, Christiane Tarab-Pictet herself is a recent cupcake convert. The press relations consultant was looking for a new professional challenge when she came across a story about cupcake shops in Paris. Though she hadn’t even sampled a cupcake, she liked the look of them and thought they wouldn’t be too complicated to make.

At the beginning, the cupcakes were a real curiosity for her customers, according Tarab-Pictet. But Cupcakes & the City realized it would also have to adapt the product to Swiss sweet-tooths.

That meant offering toppings like mousse along with butter cream and sugar icing. The store also found people preferred smaller portions, and introduced the minis that are now the bestseller.

Cupcakes & the City aims to offer seasonal flavours, like chocolate or chestnut in the winter and fruit in the summer. 

The business has expanded into offering cupcake-decorating parties for children, and has plans to develop customized cupcakes for businesses.

Since Cupcakes & the City launched two years ago, the dessert has become a lot better known, Tarab-Pictet says. Her fellow cupcake enthusiast in Zurich hopes they stick around.

“Maybe they’ll become part of the regular pastry selection in Switzerland,” Studer says. 

Catherine McLean (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

2012-04-20 14:44:49 by souler
If your ever needing extra help Im a chef from England and very good at making cup cakes email @ pauline.moulton@ntlworld.com
2012-03-16 14:27:19 by fidelio
Conratulations Melanie , I'm wishing all you best in your future...
Today's headlines
Glacier 3000 opens new mountaintop bridge
The new bridge connects Glacier 3000 with Scex Rouge. Photo: Peak Walk by Tissot

Glacier 3000 opens new mountaintop bridge

The new ‘Peak Walk’ at Glacier 3000, the world’s first suspension bridge to connect two mountain peaks, was inaugurated on Friday. READ  

Snake smugglers caught by Swiss border guards
Two boa constrictors were found in Basel. Photo: Anup Shah

Snake smugglers caught by Swiss border guards

Swiss border guards discovered four snakes during the course of two separate controls this week, federal customs authorities said on Friday. READ  

Report: Switzerland ideal for Mars simulator
UNIL's report said Switzerland would be ideal for a Mars project. Photo: UNIL

Report: Switzerland ideal for Mars simulator

Switzerland could play a vital part in the mission to Mars, according to a report by the University of Lausanne (UNIL) which concludes that Romandie is the perfect place to test conditions faced by humans in a journey to the red planet. READ  

Basel private bank raided in German tax probe
Safra Sarasin is based in Basel. Photo: Michelle Kinsey Bruns

Basel private bank raided in German tax probe

Police in Switzerland have raided the offices of the private bank Safra Sarasin as part of a probe by German authorities into alleged tax fraud, Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported on Friday. READ  

Swiss banker arrested over Hoeness tax fraud
Hoeness was jailed for tax evasion to the tune of 28.5 million euros. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Pool/AFP

Swiss banker arrested over Hoeness tax fraud

Polish authorities said Thursday they had arrested a Swiss banker wanted by Germany on suspicion of tax fraud that a report said may involve the jailed former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness. READ  

Federer reaches quarters in hometown event
Federer celebrates another win in Basel. Photo: AFP/Fabrice Coffini

Federer reaches quarters in hometown event

Roger Federer shrugged off dropping the first set against journeyman Denis Istomin on Thursday before hitting back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the Swiss Indoors quarterfinals. READ  

Hitler coffee cream pot company faces closure
Hitler and Mussolini featured on the creamer lids. Photo: SRF

Hitler coffee cream pot company faces closure

The company that designed the coffee cream pot lids featuring images of Hitler and Mussolini is facing bankruptcy after Swiss supermarket chain Migros said it planned to terminate its contract with the Bern-based outfit. READ  

Body of Czech climber found after 40 years
The body was found near Mount Titlis. Photo: Caroline Bishop/The Local

Body of Czech climber found after 40 years

The body of a Czech hiker who disappeared 40 years ago after an avalanche in Switzerland has been found on a glacier in the Bernese alps, Bern cantonal police reported on Thursday. READ  

Doctor: Schumacher needs 'years to recover'
Schumacher suffered severe head injuries in a ski accident in December. Photo: AFP

Doctor: Schumacher needs 'years to recover'

A French doctor treating stricken former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher said on Thursday that the German ace was making progress, but will need years to recover. READ  

Roche reveals towering plans for Basel site
Roche's development will include the highest building in the country. Photo: Roche

Roche reveals towering plans for Basel site

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche is to invest three billion francs ($3.14 billion) in its Basel headquarters over the course of the next ten years in a massive redevelopment project which includes the construction of the tallest building in Switzerland. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Red faces at Migros over Hitler and Mussolini coffee cream pots
National
Majority of Swiss back proposed new immigration curbs: poll
Features
Eritrean asylum seekers find refuge in Swiss monastery town
National
Expat American professor disputes 'unjust' Swiss citizenship rejection
National
Sputtering eurozone drags down Swiss economic growth forecast
Features
Swiss-based English expat writer lauds immigrant 'brains and brawn'
International
Our survey: Switzerland third priciest for food and drink from back home
National
Zurich market gardener sets world 'record' for heaviest pumpkin
National
Report: Switzerland's residents richer than before economic crash
Features
Geneva lab sleuths use high tech to help art world uncover fakes
National
Father of Scot missing since early September fears Swiss trauma
National
Foreign women give birth to rising share of newborns: latest figures
National
'Giant's penis' bloom in Basel uni botanical garden bigger than ever
National
Switzerland's voters reject public health insurance proposal
National
Zooming foreign immigration continues to boost Swiss population
National
Scientific study rings alarm over wellbeing of Swiss cows with bells
National
Geneva MP seeks ban on charging for tap water in restaurants
Business & Money
Switzerland's residents top world financial wealth list: Allianz report
National
Saint Maurice abbey in Valais celebrates 1,500 years of history
National
Streaming movie video service Netflix arrives in Switzerland
National
Professional Chilean base jumper dives to death in Swiss Alps
Education
ETH Zurich remains top university in Europe: QS world rankings
National
Switzerland's housing vacancy rate jumps: new federal figures
National
Swiss football club fires team masseuse over explicit sex video
National
Geneva police arrest easyJet passenger over hand luggage row
Business & Money
Latest forecasts for Swiss economic growth turn less bullish
Sport
Formula One legend Schumacher to continue treatment at Swiss home
National
Former federal planning official calls for nine Swiss cantons
Features
The Local gets the lowdown on mushroom picking in Switzerland
National
Virgin boss Richard Branson's son rescued from peak of Matterhorn
National
Swiss President Didier Burkhalter's commute turns Twitter sensation
Features
High-tech cameras give dizzy view of Eiger's north face (VIDEO)
Politics
Baden municipal council strips 'nude selfies mayor' of duties
Business & Money
Switzerland stays atop competitiveness table for sixth year
National
Federal parliament secretary agrees to step down over nude selfies
National
Swiss residents pick Swedes as ideal European soul mates: survey
National
Zurich officials call project to move prostitutes to 'sex boxes' a success
National
Swiss gays recognized as parents of child born to surrogate mother
Health
Increase in mountain bike accidents keeps Swiss hospitals busy
National
Swiss policeman belatedly honoured for saving Jews from Holocaust
National
'Suicide tourists' to Switzerland double in three years: study
National
Swiss Post SMS scheme gets stamp of approval after pilot project
Business & Money
American tax evasion crackdown hits Swiss private banks' bottom line
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

2,260
jobs available