Baker Anna Turcotte makes her vegan cupcakes early in the morning before she heads out to sell them from the window of her food truck, the Love Cupcake-mobile. They will remain icing-free until each customer places his or her order.
“People really like to be able to pick their own frosting,” says Turcotte, who debuted the new truck (an old postal truck) on the Eastern Prom on the first day of spring. Her buttercream frosting choices that week were vanilla, chocolate, and a special coconut lime. The vegan frosting being offered was coconut.
Turcotte swirls the frosting high on either a vanilla or chocolate cupcake – or on top of the weekly special flavor, usually something decadent (but still vegan) such as strawberry filled, red velvet, or carrot cake. While Turcotte does the baking, her husband Joey gives her lots of creative input.
“He does everything but bake,” she says. “He even taught me how to frost them.”
Turcotte is a Gorham native who graduated from Catherine McAuley High School in 2003. She earned a master’s degree in social work and practiced for a couple of years, but decided in 2010 that her real passion was baking. She’s been catering dessert events and making and selling cupcakes via her website or word of mouth ever since. She caters events at local companies looking for a sweet – but sort of healthy – treat for parties or meetings. She also supplies cupcakes to outlets such as Lois’ Natural Foods in Scarborough.
Turcotte came up with the idea to sell her cupcakes out of a mobile unit two years ago, after a trip to Austin, Texas, to visit her brother. Austin is known for the incredible number and variety of food trucks that line the streets of its downtown. One of them is Hey Cupcake, which operates out of a silver streamliner.
Upon their return, Anna and her husband bought a $400 trailer that could be lugged around by a pickup truck. The trailer allowed them to travel to catering events and private parties all loaded up and ready to bake. But they also decided it would make sense to have a more permanent home so that people would know where to find them. At the time, Portland didn’t grant food truck licenses within city limits. The law allowing them wasn’t passed until last September. So Turcotte settled for a spot in a corner of the parking lot of Roadside Antiques on Route 1 in Falmouth, near Martin’s Point bridge.
You might think that a cupcake truck would attract a lot of one-time curiosity seekers, as opposed to a loyal clientele. But when Turcotte left the Falmouth site briefly in September 2012, her regular customers let her know how much they missed her. That helped her and her husband decide to buy the old, rusting, empty postal truck, and turn it into a bonafide rolling bakery, so she could make the Falmouth trailer, staffed by a couple of employees, a permanent fixture on Route 1.
“We moved back to our locals,” says Turcotte. “They felt like we kind of abandoned them when we moved to Portland.”
Over the winter, Turcotte’s husband installed wiring and plumbing into what was an empty shell of a truck (that had been used by a septic repair company). By the time he was finished, the spanking clean truck sported a full-size oven, four small sinks, pull-out shelving, and a metal awning. The rusting white paint on the outside became a light pistachio green, with magenta and light pink trim. It also sported a banner that reads, “Who doesn’t love cupcakes?” and a vanity plate reading: LVCPCK2.
Turcotte rises early to bake between 15 and 20 dozen cupcakes. Because they aren’t frosted, she can stack them neatly and load them for delivery to the trailer in Falmouth or to a catering event. During the summer, she does a lot of weddings and corporate parties. That’s partly why the truck only operates Thursday through Sunday from 2-10 p.m. On those days, she drives to the Eastern Prom with cupcakes stacked neatly on the pull-out trays beneath the “take-out” window. With all the supplies at hand, she also makes a few batches of cupcakes during sales lulls. If one recent afternoon was any indication, she can’t count on too many of those.
For now, Turcotte has no desire to find a more permanent home for her business. She and her husband spent $18,000 in all to buy and renovate the truck. Their licensing fee is only $640 a year.
“In a storefront we’d have to sell a lot of cupcakes to pay the rent,” Turcote says.
Being mobile also allows them the freedom to market the business at outdoor events. Their trailer was at the Maine Brew Festival in June, and the truck is scheduled to stop by the Falmouth Library for story time every week.
As their T-shirt – and truck banner – say: “Who doesn’t love cupcakes?” Especially once the icing’s on the cake.