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Sugar Sugar

Sweets from BFF Cupcakes and La Chica Bakerita.

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If you've seen a bright-pink Jeep cruising around Memphis lately, then you've probably spotted Jennifer Marshall, baker and co-owner of BFF Cupcakes with her boyfriend, Zack Pepper. "People always assume I sell Mary Kay," Marshall says. Not so. She uses the colorful cab to cart around her made-to-order cupcakes and mini cupcakes.

Her home business started as these things do: A hobby became a routine of special orders for friends and family.

"I've been baking for years and years," Marshall says. "Friends started calling and asking us to do birthdays and weddings, and then Zack said, 'You know, we could probably make some money this way.'" Thus, on Valentine's Day 2009, BFF Cupcakes was born with a dozen pink lemonade and sweetheart vanilla-bean cupcakes.

Marshall does the baking, and Pepper does the bookkeeping, but Marshall hopes to get him in on some of the decorating soon. "I think I could decorate a cupcake in my sleep at this point," she says. "[Zack]'s trying. It's not so much his thing."

They make cupcakes to order and are as adventurous as the requests they receive. "We've got a standard menu for people to choose from, but we're willing to give just about anything a try" — like shark-shaped cupcakes for the Discovery Channel's Shark Week or a Mountain Dew cupcake with chopped gummy bears on top for a friend's 28th birthday. For one Day of the Dead celebration, Marshall used small candy skulls to decorate the cupcakes and called in a tattoo-artist friend to do the delicate piping. "I figured if he can draw little lines with a big heavy gun, he could probably do it with an icing bag," she says.

BFF Cupcakes uses a commercial kitchen in Frayser, where Marshall tweaks a handful of basic recipes into quirky, custom creations. Each holiday, they do four different special flavors. How do they perfect their new recipes? "Trial and error," she says. "My boyfriend and my friends swear they've gained 30 pounds since I started this, because I make them taste-test everything."

Check out BFF Cupcakes on Facebook, or e-mail bffcupcakes@gmail.com to place an order.

Leslie Ginn translates her Spanglish title as "the little baker girl." She's a Spanish teacher at St. Agnes, moonlighting as La Chica Bakerita, creator of some of the tastiest cookies you'll never want to stop eating. The Cinco Chocolate Chunk cookie is her signature treat, with five types of chocolate in white, milk, and dark varieties. But she's also mixing up batches (with lots of butter) of snickerdoodles, Chocolate Oaties dipped in chocolate, mint chocolate chip cookies, and La Chica's Favorita — the chewy cookie with a mix of peanut butter, chocolate chips, oats, and M&Ms.

Ginn created the baking business to help her start a family. She and her husband have been looking to adopt for years, but the high cost left them scrambling for supplementary income. When Ginn had the idea of running a small business out of her kitchen, she took some sample cookies to work and got a party order from one of her student's parents, Ken and Lisa Dicks, owners of Buckley's on Poplar. "A few days later, Ken e-mailed me and said, 'Hey, I had your cookies, and I have some ideas to maybe help you out.'"

With the couple's help, Ginn got in touch with Jeff Fioranelli, owner of Buckley's Lunchbox on Yates. Now she bakes out of their commercial kitchen and has an array of her cookies and brownies for sale at the register. "They were just so generous," Ginn says.

La Chica Bakerita maintains a simple menu of four or five cookie varieties with some occasional variations and additions. She recently created the Chippity-Doo-Da, which is like a Mexican wedding cookie, with a shortbread consistency, crumbled potato chips, semi-sweet chips, and white chocolate chips, all rolled together in powdered sugar. She also bakes brownies in flavors such mint, peanut butter, marshmallow fudge, and butterscotch.

Learn more about La Chica Bakerita on Facebook, at lachicabakerita.blogspot.com, or find her on buckleysgrill.com under "Baking for Babies."

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