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On the
cupcake warpath
Cindy Boykin

Cupcakes Move over, pastel roses and mint green leaves. Cupcakes have a new look in this town.

 Dark pink polka  dots and deep brown leopard spots are emblazoned on sweet treats everywhere inside the Haute Mama Dessert Co. The shop itself is frosted with the same colors—magenta walls, hand-painted leopard trim, pink and brown square floor tiles, and feathery pink detailing atop individual lamp shades on hanging chandeliers.

Owner Tiffany Key has a personality every bit as bold as the sweet shop she opened on the Plano-Allen border. From her matching pink lipstick to her leopard trimmed apron, Tiffany is head to heels in love with her new culinary creation.

She is exactly the type of person that the Food Network reality show Cupcake Wars likes to cast for their quirky, competitive bake-offs—hopefully.

In the spring, Tiffany's 15-year-old son submitted her bio online to be considered for Cupcake Wars, Season 3. Intrigued, an associate producer from L.A. called the Plano mom and conducted a phone interview. He loved Tiffany's big personality, her Texas connection, and the store concept…but final casting was only weeks away. He asked if she could possibly submit a video in just three days time so they could see her in action.

Again with the help of her son, they pulled it off. Check it out on YouTube. Wearing a cowboy hat—brown—and cowboy boots—pink—she introduced herself to the Food Network producers in Texas style.

Although she was a hit, time was short and she wasn't cast in Season 3, but she is very hopeful that she will be picked for the upcoming fourth season. She will know by this month.

Haute Mama also caught the attention of New York City bloggers Cupcakes Take the Cake. One of the bloggers was in Fort Worth recently and invited just six of the "heavy hitters" in the Metroplex cupcake cadre to stop by and mingle at a host's home. Tiffany was one of the six invited. She's definitely on a roll.

Formerly a school teacher (she was the fifth-grade team leader at Andrews Elementary), Tiffany cooked for family and friends many years before going public with her passion.

Cupcakes "I did all the cakes for the teachers' birthdays, and I made a lot of chocolate chip cookies," she says with convincing animation. "And then one day someone from my husband's work asked me to make cookie baskets for them. Last year I made over 5,000 baskets."

As home businesses do, her company started at home. But when it became a successful commercial enterprise, law required that she have a commercial kitchen outside the home. Ironically, shortly after she opened her storefront location, the laws changed. However, she has no regrets. That was probably the best move she could have made.

She began with just two employees; now she has five. They make anywhere from 10 to 30 cakes a weekend, and countless other treats including cookies, brownies, petit fours, and even whoopie pies.

Tiffany is a self-taught cook, at the encouragement of her mom.

"Both sides of my family are from Mississippi," she says, "one from northern Mississippi and the other from the Biloxi area. So I come from a long line of Southern cooks who just had a passion for food and for things being cooked from scratch with high-quality ingredients."

Cupcakes She continues, "Everything was always done in a certain way. The table was always set. Presentation is important to me, because you do eat with your eyes first…but then, it has to taste good. Something can look pretty, like a beautifully decorated cupcake, but if you bite into it and it's dry or the icing is full of shortening, it's more disappointing because you get your hopes up."

Tiffany didn't start cooking in earnest until she married, which was soon after graduating from the University of Texas. Smiling broadly, she recalls, "My mother said, 'You're married now. You need to learn to cook. You need to get a Southern Living cookbook and you need to cook.' So I went and got a copy."

It wasn't until her first child turned one that she tried baking her first fancy birthday cake. "Just out of the blue I decided I was going to make his cake—I had never taken a class or anything—and it was pitiful looking, when I look at it now," she laughs.

Cooking meals for her family is still a top priority for Tiffany. "I go home and cook just about every night," she says. "I always cooked when I taught school, too. I'm very organized and I plan. It's important that my kids (ages 15, 14, and 7) are fed in a certain way. And I just like food."

She thinks her cooking skills will give her an edge if she is chosen to compete on Cupcake Wars. "I know I would do well on that show because I know flavors. I can come up with things on the fly. You can be a baker, but if you don't cook and don't know flavors…especially there, because they give you the oddest ingredients…you won't do well."

If she is chosen, there is one ingredient that this Texas gal can incorporate without a doubt. Grit.


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