The first thing that greets you on Wednesday mornings when entering Edible Enterprises in Norco is the sweet smell of baking cupcakes–the second…laughter. That’s because sisters Melissa Woods and Michele Burton-Otis are in the kitchen.
The term "joie de vive" was laying around for a few centuries waiting for these New Orleans sisters to be born and start their cupcake business. It was not until they began their association with Edible Enterprises, a non-profit commercial food business incubator, that they have been given a better platform from which to share their passion for all things sweet, whether food or life, with others.
The sisters have been renting space at the kitchen every Wednesday for the past few years to make cupcakes and muffins they sell under the name Cupcake Fairies at the French Market in New Orleans. They also sell the cupcakes through their catering business.
The two got their start at non-profit New Orleans Video Voices, where they taught documentary skills to community members. They were helping out at Common Ground Health Clinic in Algiers when they were asked to bake 300 cupcakes to celebrate the clinic’s new location.
"We were like ‘sure we can,’" Michele said. "We did not sleep at all. We were up all night."
Michele said they baked all of the cupcakes on a conventional home oven and gave them away the next day.
"People were like ‘who made these cupcakes? How did you all you do the cupcakes?’ And I said the fairies helped us and I just kept on trucking," Michele said. "So when the organization reimbursed us for our expenses they wrote a check to Cupcake Fairies and we were like what?! So Melissa was like ‘I guess we are in business’ and that’s how it started."
Within only a few years the two have built a steady following and distinctive brand ,always dressing alike in pink and black.
"We tried wearing white and black one day and the rest of the vendors at the French Market said ‘uh-uh’ that isn’t going to work," Michele said.
Last year the two were featured on Cupcake Wars, a reality TV show on the Food Network, something Michele said almost did not happen.
"In 2010 I sent an email into Cupcake Wars and I got a reply saying ‘sorry.’ So I left and forgot about it. In 2011 we were helping Melissa’s kids with their homework and I got a phone call I didn’t answer," Michele said. "And when I listened to the message (from Cupcake Wars) I pushed the phone to my face and erased the message."
Michele said she called her cell phone provider to try and retrieve the message and was informed they would need a court order. Then, not knowing the number or name of the producer, she called all of her missed calls leaving messages for each of them inquiring about the show.
"My messages were crazy. ‘This is the Fairies you’ve got to call me back!’" Michele said. "(The producer) said ‘we listened to your message. You all are hilarious you’ve got to come to the show.’ And the rest is cupcake history."
The two competed on the Dec. 11 episode called "The Nutcracker" where they faced four other opponents, but tragedy struck in the second round of the competition.
"Our opponent saw that our oven door was partially open and he says ‘that’s how I am going to beat the Fairies–the New Orleans girls–by not telling them.’ So Melissa’s like ‘it’s not baking, it’s not baking!’ So I am like ‘crank up the heat!’ Wah-wah. So wrong. So our cupcakes did not cool in time and some over-baked and thus we went home. But on the blogs on the Internet people loved us. They loved our energy."
Michele said that re-runs of their episode are shown on TV and a lot of people recognize them now.
"We’ve had people from Venezuela and England recognize us," she said.
Although the sisters did not win the competition, they said the exposure has won them more customers and more cupcake orders are coming in. They are also expanding their product line that includes up to 50 specialty cupcakes and muffins and a growing line of vegan offerings.
The Cupcake Fairies are a must stop at the French Market, but they likely will not be there much longer. They are now planning on opening a storefront in the French Quarter. They are not sure where yet, but you may want follow the sweet smell of rising sugary dough and the soothing sound of pleasant conviviality punctuated with a large laugh before you see the black and pink pattern and know you have arrived.
More information can be found out about the Cupcake Fairies at www.cupcakefairies.com.