What Cupcakes Can Teach Us About Quality

cupcakeAfter being introduced to Cappellino’s in Charlottesville this past week, I have been thinking a lot about cupcakes. I have actually been thinking about cupcakes for a couple weeks, since the time that my friends Ron (@rduplain) and John (@superninjarobot) went out for “beer and cupcakes”. I thought they were either joking, or that this was a euphemism for something (they are both dedicated computing experts, and I thought they might be hacking Python or their toaster ovens or something). But no, they really meant it – first, a trip to Cappellino’s, followed by a couple hours at the bar talking technology.

So this past Wednesday, I had my first cupcake (“New Yorker”). And on Thursday, I had my second cupcake (toffee nut). And I swear I will have no more cupcakes (well, maybe ONE more) before the end of August. Why, I asked myself, am I so inspired by these cupcakes? Ordinarily, I can take them or leave them (and in fact, I mostly leave them).

When I read this article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress from October 2008, I realized that what I am really connecting with (via the Cappellino’s cupcake) is my appreciation for simple, authentic quality:

Every day, except Sunday and Monday, tasty tributes to the legacy of James Vincent Cappellino are created at Crazy Cakes. Everything is made from scratch.

Frank Cappellino said the business was designed to represent olden times when quality was paramount and family reputations rode on every bite. Only butter is used and Madagascar vanilla, which is twice the strength of traditional vanilla.

What I’m tasting are their company’s values. And I like those values, and I want to espouse those values myself. Although I’m sure I didn’t consciously think this way when I was younger, I now want my reputation to be embedded in the business I do with others. I want my colleagues and clients to know, by dealing with me, that I am not only committed to quality but that it pervades my being – that I think about how to get it, and how to balance quality and innovation, and how to balance structure and agility – all the time. Ultimately, I want what I contribute to the world to be as subtly inspiring as these unique cupcakes.


  • I just had my first Capellinos cupcake (red velvet — and OMG!) and yes, I agree with you completely. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to leave that same impression of your qualities and values on clients you serve? I like that goal, and would be honored to do business with anyone who shared it. Now, I must find some of that madagascar vanilla for my own baking!

  • Nicole,

    Your post brought back a pleasant memory.

    It reminded me of going to a great bakery in Madison, Wisconsin in the 1980’s with my dad, William G. Hunter (who was a professor of applied statistics and a quality improvement consultant to industry who worked with Deming, George Box, Peter Scholtes and others). He left a comment card in their suggestion box something along the lines of “I love this place and what you do here, the ambiance, the food, etc. I think I can help you improve certain aspects of the customer experience. I do this kind of consulting frequently (but typically for Fortune 500 clients). I’d be happy to volunteer my time to help you guys improve. Places like this are a big part of what makes living in Madison so nice.

    He never heard back from them. Still, a nice memory.

    – Justin

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