Every day she looked at the quaint red brick building across the street from where she lived.
“I thought, ‘Man, if I was ever to open a store, that would be the cutest building ever,’” said Annette Starbuck.
Then, Starbuck won Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and the $10,000 winnings are helping make her sweet dreams come true. She’s getting ready to open Goodie Girls Cupcakes in that red brick building she had admired at 415 E. Broadway in Glendale.
Starbuck won the premiere episode of the series’ third season, filmed this past spring. She said she was surprised to win because she had been operating an online cupcake business for only eight months when she was picked for the show.
In the final round, she went up against a contestant who owned three cupcake stores and had eight years of experience.
“It was surreal,” she said.
But Starbuck’s 1,000-cupcake display celebrating the Kentucky Derby brought home the top prize. One of the judges said it was “one of cleanest displays” ever created on the show.
It featured a horseshoe design with four varieties of cupcakes topped with loads of fresh fruit. Starbuck’s favorite was a blueberry-pancake cupcake, which was made with buttermilk cake, blueberry filling and maple French butter icing.
In the center of the display were vintage trophies filled with fresh roses. Above was a replica of the Derby’s logo, with “137” displayed in red numbers, commemorating the 137th running of the Churchill Downs event. The grass was made with a natural moss material — not artificial turf, which her competitor used.
Starbuck’s display was taken directly over to the Derby’s red-carpet event, where celebrities such as Nick Lachey, Vanessa Minnillo and Salt-N-Pepa, as well as Food Network chefs Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri, enjoyed her delectable creations.
“After I won, people started calling like crazy, so I thought, ‘I’d better open a store,’” said Starbuck, who now lives in Pasadena.
She hopes to open Goodie Girls Cupcakes in early September. The Glendale store will be a retail site, with the cupcakes being baked in a large kitchen in Pasadena. She said expansion plans may be in the future if her first store is a success.
Known for the pink taffeta skirt with yellow trim she wore on the TV show, Starbuck said she’ll continue wearing eclectic fashions when working in the store — and the staff will also be decked out in colorful attire.
All of the cupcakes will be topped with Starbuck’s signature edible glitter and they will all be made with fresh ingredients, she said.
Besides the blueberry-pancake cupcake, her other two most popular items are a peanut-butter-and-jelly cupcake and strawberry-lemonade cupcake with champagne frosting. In the future, she’s looking to create a coffee-and-doughnut cupcake with coffee cake and a doughnut topping.
On “Cupcakes Wars” Starbuck’s plucky assistant, Jackie Brubaker, was with her all the way to the end, giving her words of encouragement. However, Brubaker won’t be with Starbuck as she opens her store. Brubaker is a TV makeup artist and recently won a Daytime Emmy for her work on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
“She was apprenticing with me and following me around. So when the show came up, she was the perfect fit,” Starbuck said.
Cupcakes have become a huge part of Starbuck’s life, but they were not always her passion. “I grew up on TV dinners,” she said, chuckling.
Initially, she baked larger cakes and even brought home some prizes from the L.A. County Fair.
But cupcakes are her calling. The smaller cakes let her experiment more easily. “For me, that’s what I love,” she said. “I love to play with flavors.”