The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 3, 2012

Cupcake business born after 2011 tornado

By Mike Pound
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — A recent posting on the Smallcakes’ Facebook page reminded Deanna Johnson why she and her employees at the Joplin bakery work as hard as they do. A Joplin woman explained on the Facebook page that on a recent Sunday, her husband insisted she go with him to an area store.

“The deal was that if she went with him (to the store), they would stop here so she could get a cupcake,” Johnson said.

Unfortunately, the woman and her husband arrived at Smallcakes just 10 minutes after the bakery closed. But as the couple started to drive away, a store employee rushed out and told them they could still make a purchase. The woman, in her Facebook post, thanked Johnson and added: “I needed a cupcake.”

When Johnson told that story to a recent visitor at her shop, she laughed and said, “I don’t want to think what would have happened to that husband if she hadn’t been able to get a cupcake.”

That sort of customer devotion is something Johnson has grown accustomed to. But Johnson hasn’t taken it for granted since she and her husband, Kerry, opened Smallcakes in February this year. The bakery, located at 420 N. Range Line Rd., Ste. 13, has developed a legion of sweet-toothed fans primarily by word of mouth.

Johnson said she and her husband opened Smallcakes at the urging of her husband’s nephew, Jeff Martin. A trained chef, Martin started Smallcakes about four years ago in the Kansas City area. At one time, Martin had four stores, but recently sold two of them and now concentrates on his two Smallcakes stores in Overland Park, Kan., and Olathe, Kan.

Johnson said Martin had been after her to open a store in Joplin for several years but really began pushing her after the 2011 tornado.

“After the tornado, he said, ‘Come on. Joplin needs one now,’ and he was right. Cupcakes just make people feel good,” she said.

On any given day you can find 45 to 50 different cupcake flavors on the Smallcakes menu. Some of the creations with mouth-watering names include caramel apple pie, decadent fudge, pink vanilla and stuffed French toast. And if you don’t see what you want on the menu, the staff at Smallcakes will try to accommodate a custom order.

“We’ve made cupcakes for someone who wanted root beer-flavored cakes and for someone who wanted Italian cream” Johnson said.

Despite its name, Smallcakes is not just a cupcake bakery. Johnson and her staff also create a full line of cakes, including wedding cakes. Cookies are also on the menu, and mini pies are coming soon, Johnson said.

This week the bakery also unveiled its fall cupcake menu, which includes seasonal flavor favorites like pumpkin and apple cobbler.

Johnson said items are baked fresh every day and are never frozen or carried over to the next day. At the end of every business day, leftover items are donated to area charitable organizations.

Smallcakes is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

To put you in the cupcake mood, two recipes from the cooks at are included below.

Carrot pineapple cupcakes

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely grated carrot

1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.

Stir white sugar, vegetable oil and eggs together in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl. Stir flour mixture into liquid ingredients until thoroughly moistened. Mix in carrot, pineapple and vanilla extract. Pour batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them to the top. Bake cupcakes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean; about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool completely. Cream butter with cream cheese with an electric hand mixer in a bowl until smooth. Beat in confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and milk to make a spreadable frosting; frost the cooled cupcakes.

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

Pumpkin gingersnap cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 (3.4-ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners. Whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves and crystallized ginger in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter, white sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree with the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden on the tops springs back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.