Hapa Cupcakes is not your typical mom and pop bakery. With the slogan, “Wanna Get Some,” the company is designed to raise eyebrows with their signature alcohol-infused desserts.
“We decided we wanted to do something a little bit more provocative, a little bit more sexy,” said co-founder Hanayo Martin. “It’s true–people wanna get cupcakes you know but it’s also insinuating.”
Martin, 26, and Akemi Lee, 28, graduated from Cal State Fullerton with degrees in advertising and finance, respectively.
Despite finding success in their industries, the childhood friends decided to combine Martin’s love of baking and Lee’s entrepreneurial dreams to start their very own cupcake company in late 2011.
“We wanted to do something different and so we decided to put two really great things together, alcohol and dessert, and make cupcakes,” Martin said.
While both women contribute to the baking process, Lee is more focused on the financial end as Martin handles the creative side.
Martin is responsible for the different flavor and name combinations, Lee said.
“We wanted to break the rules and make some jaws drop. That’s why the names of our cupcakes are risque like ‘Gonna Get Lucky Tonight,’ or ‘Will You Remember Me in the Morning?’” Lee said. “We just don’t wanna be cute.”
The duo combines quality alcohol with matching flavors such as chocolate with Jameson (an Irish whiskey), Kahlúa with a cinnamon sugar cake and strawberry with champagne.
“We try to match them with flavors that will complement them,” Martin said. “It’s taken a lot of trial and error but we love our cupcakes.”
Martin said the chocolate Jameson and strawberry champagne cupcakes are their biggest sellers.
The cupcakes are baked with about a cup of alcohol in the batter. While there is not enough alcohol content to warrant a 21 and over stamp, the flavor remains in their products.
“It’s not gonna get you drunk like a Jell-O shot. Plus, it probably wouldn’t taste so good if it tasted like a Jell-O shot in a cupcake,” Martin said.
Despite gaining fame for their alcohol-infused desserts, Lee said their cupcakes appeal to every demographic, as they often cater to children’s birthday parties and weddings.
They also sell non-alcoholic gourmet and specialty cupcakes. Flavors include “Squeeze my Lemon” and “Nuts About You.”
Hapa Cupcakes’ unusual desserts and risque marketing strategy grabbed the attention of executives at the Food Network in 2012. The duo competed on Cupcake Wars in June, ultimately reaching the baking industry mecca.
“It’s kind of the stamp of legitimacy,” said Lee. “We didn’t get kicked out the first round which was our first goal,” Lee said.
While they failed to make it to the final round, Lee said they had fun learning from the other contestants.
“When we actually filmed cupcake wars, we’d only been doing it for like four or five months,” Lee said. “Everybody else had been doing it for like 30 years. We’re not even 30 years old.”
Cupcake Wars aired on June 30, 2012. Martin and Lee immediately quit their day jobs and opened up shop in Anaheim on July 1.
Hapa Cupcakes currently operates out of a space in Anaheim. Customers may walk in or place an order online at happacupcakes.com.
The pair is hoping to open a dessert lounge by the end of the year, Lee said.
The company would provide customers with a modern and fun take on a dessert lounge. Lee said they are hoping to pair their alcohol-infused desserts with alcohol–wine, champagne and beer for customers with a sweet tooth and late night cravings.
Focused on Orange County, they are currently looking at locations in downtown Fullerton and Anaheim Hills.
Alcohol-infused cupcakes currently sell for $34 for a dozen, while non-alcoholic versions are $29. The dozen full-sized cakes also come with the option to be swapped out for 24 mini ones.
Students with a valid CSUF I.D. receive $2 off any purchase through October.