Makers + Shakers: Meet Hello, Cupcake! + Giveaway

Winner update 5/13/15: Thanks so much to everyone that entered! And the lucky winner (listed on the Rafflecopter widget) is Amy.

A couple of years ago, over on Seattle Mamas, I started a series interviewing local powerhouses who started with an idea and turned it into a crazy reality.

It was so popular, I thought to myself, 'hey self, you should do the same thing, except this time, you should stalk some more of  your favorite bloggers from all over'. So, I created the Makers + Shakers Series: 8 Creatives You Should Follow.

The series was so popular, I decided to continue it with 8 more creatives!  We are kicking things off with the most sweets-creative folks ever, Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, the dynamic duo of Hello, Cupcake!

As the authors of Hello, Cupcake!, What's New, Cupcake?, Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My!, and their newest tome, Cake My Day!, I have been a serious stalker from the beginning; I have all 4 books... I never tire of making their candy bugs for cupcake toppers.

Their appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, The Rachael Ray Show, to The TODAY Show have made them America’s cupcake celebrities. Let's find out what makes their creative minds tick!  Be sure and read all the way through, I've got a little giveaway at the end!

Please tell our readers a little bit about who Karen and Alan are. 
"We are a couple of wild and crazy guys!" Sorry we couldn't help the SNL reference. But honestly, we just have a silly sense of humor and love teaching fun and funny decorating for cupcakes and cakes. Karen attended the CIA and has worked for notable restaurants and also magazines. But her love for food styling and desserts led her to specialize in styling desserts for magazines and advertising.

Alan is an art school grad who became a food photographer and food writer. He co-authored two savory cookbooks, including The Breath of a Wok, before finding real happiness playing with candy and frosting! We have been working together for over 20 years. Cake My Day! is our fourth book together!

I've been a huge fan of your books and projects for years! The need for children to fight over a corner piece of cake is eliminated with cupcakes. What inspired you get into the adorable treat business?
Our work for magazines often involves family oriented fun designs. You know, the silly cakes and desserts on the covers, like a hamburger cake, a telephone or a tractor or a dinosaur egg, even a cake with a jello swimming pool on it. We love doing those and so we have embraced the silly and the whimsical. Fun has become an addiction for us.

You have been working together on so many amazing projects for two decades, what is the secret to ‘keeping the love alive’, so to speak?
You know we are married to our cakes but not to each other, right? We keep it real by always making sure we are having fun. Its a rare day that one of us doesn't stop to clap ourselves on the back and say "I'm a genius!"

Seriously, by not taking ourselves too seriously and allowing the childlike pleasure of crafting and decorating to inspire us. We also challenge each other to go further. If it seems we have done something before, one of us will say its not good enough, it has to be different (and fun).

Speaking of amazing projects, I know there are so many choose from, but which project is your favorite and why?
Depends on the day. One day its the Marshmallow Mums Cupcakes from What's New, Cupcake?, and the next it's the Abominable Snowman from our new book, Cake My Day!

We guess the projects that never go out of favor with us are the ones we make for our favorite holiday, April Fools Day! The Spaghetti and Meatballs will always be in the pantheon, along with Chinese Take Out Cupcakes, Corn on the Cob Cupcakes, and the Toaster Cake from the new book.

The Corn on the Cob really says it all for us. Its just three cupcakes covered with yellow jelly beans, but when you put them together you have to smile and say "oh my gosh, its a corn on the cob!"

Readers see beautiful, styled photos but we rarely see what is going on behind the scenes or how things didn't turn out quite the way you planned. How do you handle having to kick into Plan B or Plan C? Do you have a 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' experience to share? 
When we were asked to make high heel cupcakes for Bobbie Thomas' fashion segment of the TODAY Show we were thrown for a loop. Our first attempts looked more like a barge or a boat than shoes. We really struggled. And because it was a custom request we couldn't just drop it, so we kept trying.

One morning Alan arrived with a drawing and a smile. He swore he had a dream with Minnie Mouse in it and realized her high heels looked just like cupcakes. That's how we solved the design, and the final cupcakes actually do look like Minnie Mouse's short little high heel shoes!

I am inspired by things around me...a pretty pattern may spark an entire party theme. What things inspire your sweet creativity?
We love color and patterns we see in our everyday life, too. We also like to be inspired by patterns and designs in art. You will see several cakes in Cake My Day! that draw their inspiration from artists like Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, or Alex Katz.

Beyond that, we love making cakes in unexpected designs. Goofy things like Slot Machine Cake, the Vacuum Cleaner Cake, an Armadillo Cake, and the Nerds Dance Party Cake really inspire us. We like to create cakes that will make our editor shoot us an email asking "who in the world would ever make that?" just so we can answer "we would!"

Do you have favorite blogs and/or websites you like to visit when you have a moment?
We love Pinterest! We have several boards on Pinterest and we follow many others. The ideas we see are inspiring to us. We love the blog Cupcakes Take the Cake, it is our go-to place for all things cupcake. BakeSpace is an inspiring blog. We love the live chats and all the great recipes there. Bakepedia is another terrific blog with lots of recipes and advice. When are feeling FANCY we go to Dorie Greenspan's blog to see what she is up to. Joy the Baker is terrific, and you can't get more artistic than SprinkleBakes.

I love to ask everyone I interview: if you are stranded on a desert island and can take one item and one meal, what would they be?
Karen: I would take my clam rake. That solves the problem of the one meal, too! And maybe some garlic and white wine for the clams! Alan: I would go with Karen because she makes a great clam sauce and she's bringing a clam rake! My one item would be something sweet, I am a candy addict, and I need a Swedish Fish or a Skittles on a regular basis to survive!

Follow Karen and Alan on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks so much for sharing a little of your sweet world with us!

The pineapple, boot and toaster cakes are just a few of the wonderful recipes they share in their new book and I want you to love them as much as I do, so I'm giving away a copy of Cake My Day! to one lucky reader!

Enter below on Rafflecopter and be sure to read the terms and conditions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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