Trophy Cupcakes Finds a Sweet Spot in the Pandemic

June 9, 2021 - by Brooke Wilson

Category: Heart of Bellevue

Trophy Cupcakes Finds a Sweet Spot in the Pandemic

If Jennifer Shea has discovered any affirmations about life over the past year, one might be that cupcakes are still the connective piece that bond friends, coworkers and families together with something worth savoring.

Her boutique cupcake bakery, Trophy Cupcakes, emerged as a pioneering business in 2007 in partnership with her husband Michael, Trophy’s Director of Technology. With several locations from Wallingford Center to Woodinville, Bellevue residents can indulge their sugar fix with a colorful variety of desserts at Café Trophy in The Bravern shopping center.

Naturally, her sweet tooth fueled her childhood passion for 4-H baking competitions and family recipes nurtured her knack in the kitchen with the guidance of aunts, grandmas and her mother. When she entered college, her curiosity about different ingredients, farming and food psychology found answers through a degree in nutrition and dietetics. Years later, upon discovering a niche cupcake market in New York on a trip with friends, her culinary interests crystallized into the sugar-plum vision that would become the Trophy Cupcakes franchise.

Her delectable treats and shop interior make a complimentary pair; pastel shades flecked with glitter and gold curate an exclusive experience designed to satisfy both the stomach and craving for visual spectacle on social media. 

Over the years, her inventory has expanded from classic cupcakes to include other confections like macarons, pastries and cakes featuring themed flavors and decoration. Champagne, party favors, and other thoughtful baubles are also stocked to complement festivities! 

Though even as the pandemic brought rough tides for independent merchants, Jennifer and her team sailed into the unknown armed with creative bravery and the spirit of possibility.

Fundraisers, charity benefits and other donation drives have long been ingrained into her business practice and culture. Regular partnerships with local nonprofits like Mary’s PlaceSeattle Children’s Hospital, and UW Medical Centers translated into aide for first responders against the virus.

Through her ecommerce site, Jennifer launched a Pay it Forward purchase option where customers could fund these donations, (which the bakery pledged to match by the dozen) and within the first four days, her inbox was flooded with orders for more than 20,000 cupcakes. To compete with the increased demand and retain her talented baking staff, she hired additional drivers to facilitate its in-house delivery service. With these flexible inclusions, payroll not only remained afloat, but reliably found its footing in uncharted territory. 

Since COVID-19 struck, the word “pivot” is near inescapable when talking about how businesses have reoriented focus - and Trophy Cupcakes is no exception. 

Vacuum-sealed technology paired with a delicious concept for DIY cupcake kits hatched an ambitious project that ships bundles of sweetness around the country - with online baking advice and free shipping to boot!

Philanthropy and new models for reaching customers despite the virus have proved essential in realizing the foundational mission Jennifer imagined since she first drafted her business plan: to spread joy, and seize any average moment as an opportunity for celebration and connection – a sentiment echoed globally in the age of coronavirus. 

For the Latest: 20% of proceeds from each Pride treat purchase goes directly to @SeattlePride to further its year-round advocacy and allyship efforts around diversity and inclusivity, and to call the greater Seattle community to action.

Out & About: Visit Trophy Cupcakes on wheels at Marymoor Park during its outdoor movie series, currently running through August. 

Keep an Eye Out for: Exclusive blueberry cupcakes rolled out for the month of July, developed in a special seasonal collaboration with the WA Blueberry Commission. FYI - Washington State is the highest blueberry-producing state in the nation!

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.