It’s an old adage, with the attribution long forgotten: Cooking is an art, baking is a science.
Cooking involves the aesthetic combination of flavors and technique; baking involves specific quantities and temperatures, in order to get the right result. Nicole King doesn’t see it that way, though. Her cupcakes are equal parts scientific method and cute, creative outlet.
“I think the science of food and nutrition and why people react to food in different ways is really fascinating,” said King, 27, who started Cherry Acres Bakery out of her home kitchen in Bangor back in May. “But I’m also someone that has to stay busy and always have something fun and creative to do. And they’re just so cute.”
Patrons of Giacomo’s in downtown Bangor have seen Kin’s adorable confections brighten up the counter since June, with deliveries on Monday and Wednesday. Cherry Acres has more than 50 flavors, from Tiramisu and Bananas Foster to Peanut Butter and Jelly and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The flavors change constantly, as she experiments and gets new ideas, and most days the goodies are gone by closing time. You could have Mimosa and Bacon French Toast one day; Chocolate Hazelnut Espresso and Coconut Raspberry the next; every day is a surprise.
Most of King’s customers learned about her cupcakes through Facebook and Twitter. When King and her husband, Seth, decided to forgo city life in Chicago in favor of the tightknit community of Bangor — and to be closer to friends — they spent a mere four days in the Queen City back in April, and in that brief time managed to find jobs and an apartment. A month later, they moved east, and shortly thereafter King began marketing her cupcakes; first to Brett Settle, owner of Giacomo’s, who gladly began selling her treats; and then to the plugged-in members of the downtown Bangor community via social media.
“One of the first things I did was set up Twitter and Facebook accounts for Cherry Acres, and just started following people and getting the name out there,” said King, who in the evenings works as a chef at the Lucerne Inn in Dedham. “It took off from there. Now people know to look in the morning and see what’s coming, and they share it online and retweet it. It’s really neat to see word spread on Twitter. I think 90 percent of my initial business was due to social media.”
In Illinois, King attended culinary school, and later worked at the Argonne National Laboratory’s in-house fine dining restaurant, serving scientists and engineers from all over the world. It was at that time that she developed her flair for the creative, as she perfected the four different, specific recipes that she later used for Cherry Acres. She didn’t feel comfortable launching her own bakery until she moved to Maine, however.
“Maine is magical. Everyone smiles and makes eye contact with one another. That doesn’t happen in the city,” said King. “And I have the best critics. People tell me online what they love. [My friend Shane Leonard] is an amazing photographer, so he takes these great shots of what I bake. He gets paid in cupcakes. It works out wonderfully.”
For the month of October, King is trying a new Halloween candy flavor with each delivery. So far, these have included cupcakes inspired by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, Laffy Taffy, Nerds and Almond Joy. Depending on the kind of candy, King may melt it down and blend it with the batter, as with the Laffy Taffy flavor, or break it apart and sprinkle it on top, as with Butterfinger. All cupcakes are topped with a decadent buttercream frosting, colored to make the cake, piped on in spirals and topped with crumbled candy, toasted coconut, cookie bits or whatever else fits the flavor.
“There’s tons of room for experimenting,” said King.
Right now, King is working out of her home, and is sticking to cupcakes. For a personal treat, she also makes ice cream — cereal milk flavor, in which she soaks whatever cereal she wants in the cream and milk, strains it, and makes the ice cream from that (Boo Berry is a personal favorite flavor). In the next six months, however, Nicole and Seth want to open a bakery and coffee shop in downtown Bangor.
“[Seth is] the coffee guy, and I just want to bake,” said King, who also wants to attend the University of Maine’s Food Science and Nutrition program. “Cookies, pies, scones, all that. And cupcakes, of course. It’s getting hard to do it out of my apartment. It’s getting too big for that.”
Contact Cherry Acres Bakery at email@example.com; King also does cupcakes for weddings and other events, depending on her schedule.