published Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Cupcake queens: Sisters build an empire one bite at a time

Sisters Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne, from left, stars of the TLC reality show “DC Cupcakes,” will appear at the She Expo on July 27.
Sisters Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne, from left, stars of the TLC reality show “DC Cupcakes,” will appear at the She Expo on July 27.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis of "DC Cupcakes" at She: An Expo for Women

When: Saturday, July 27; 1 p.m., demonstration of one of their recipes and Q&A with audience; 2 p.m., book signing; copies of "Sweet Celebrations: Our Favorite Cupcake Recipes, Memories, and Decorating Secrets That Add Sparkle to Any Occasion" available on site

Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

Admission: $12 online, $15 adult at the door; $7 children 5-12; free under 5

Information: timesfreepress.com/she or 757-6498

Cupcake Contest

Think your cupcake creation is award-worthy? Enter the She Expo cupcake contest to find out.

• Top prize is one dozen Georgetown Cupcakes a month for one year.

• Pre-register at www.timesfreepress.com/she by July 26.

• Please bring two cupcakes per entry. Limit three entries per person.

• Must be registered on site between noon and 12:45 p.m.; judging will start at 1 p.m.; winner announced at 2 p.m.

• Cupcakes will be judge on best overall criteria with emphasis put on taste, design and creativity.

The reality of what Georgetown Cupcakes has become is far different than what sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis envisioned in 2008 when they opened the flagship "cupcakery."

"We thought we'd have this quiet little bakery in Georgetown [Washington, D.C.]," LaMontagne says. "We opened on Valentine's Day in 2008 and we had a line around the block. We really don't know why. Maybe it was the smell from the cupcakes baking.

"It just grew and grew, and then a guy from the New York Times wrote a glowing review. We didn't know he was coming, but that put us on the map."

Five years later, they have shops across the country, and the pair star in their own reality show, "DC Cupcakes," on TLC. They've also written books and made public appearances around the country where they talk about "going for it" and what it takes to be your own boss.

On Saturday, July 27, they are the stars at She: An Expo for Women. The two-day event, sponsored by the Times Free Press, features more than 150 vendor booths offering new products and services for you and your home. It also offers food, entertainment, free health screenings, beauty products and services, cooking demonstrations and a fashion show. Other guest celebrities include Miss Kay Robertson from "Duck Dynasty," who will be there on Saturday at 4 p.m. Chef Brian Morris from Relish magazine will offer cooking shows on both Saturday and Sunday, July 28.

These days, the "DC Cupcakes" ladies need a map to keep up with their stores. In the last few years, Georgetown Cupcakes have opened in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and a new one is set to open in the Buckhead area of Atlanta in coming weeks. The sisters are hands-on with all the cupcakeries and have no desire to sell franchises.

"We are constantly checking in," LaMontagne says. "It is a lot of work, but it is very important to keep the quality, and it is important that customers have the experience they expect, for them to have that personal experience.

"For us, it's very personal."

The two were raised by their grandmother, who instilled a love of baking in both girls. Their hard-working parents, however, instilled the idea that they needed to go to college and to get "real jobs." LaMontagne went into finance and Kallinis went into the fashion industry, but they never stopped dreaming of spending their days covered in flour, sugar and eggs.

Eventually, even with degrees in hand, they decided they'd be happier following their passion. While they love to bake almost anything, they decided to focus on cupcakes for simple marketing purposes.

"We had all these cake recipes from grandmother and could do all these different flavors," Kallinis says, "but this way, people come in and they can try all these different flavors and they don't have to commit to one cake."

When it comes to creating recipes, LaMontagne defers to her sister, but both agree that sticking to what works has been the key for them. In case you were wondering, the Red Velvet Cake is the most popular cupcake at each venue.

"We love to experiment," Kallinis says. "That is the most fun, but we don't go too crazy. You don't mess with a good thing."

She says her sister wasn't too happy about a maple syrup and bacon experiment, and both agreed that the garlic cupcake made by their mother, Elaine Kallinis, was a lesson learned.

"You can put a lot of things into a cupcake, and garlic is not one of them," Kallinis says.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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