The Sweet Life of Hollis Wilder
Baking cupcakes brings her a measure of business success; a taste of fame is just icing on the cakes.
Hollis Wilder is an emotional, take-charge, motivated businesswoman.
She just happens to bake cupcakes.
Standing in her pink-accented shop, Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly, in the sprawling Waterford Lakes Town Center, Wilder is surrounded by frozen yogurt machines and the smell of sugar. It may be the ideal job.
“These are the cupcakes I remember my mom making,” the 44-year-old entrepreneur says. Trays of “classic” cakes and two-bite minis draw customers into the store like sugar-coated magnets, with flavors such as dulce de leche, red velvet and espresso-soaked tiramisu helping to sell more than 2,500 treats a day.
Wilder’s features are striking; she has the high cheekbones and clear blue eyes of a Hollywood starlet, which she hoped to become when she moved to California in the ’90s. The plan didn’t pan out (“I didn’t have the will power to make it,” she says), but a friend led her to a 15-year career as
a personal chef for celebrities.
2004 found her, husband Barry and their two children moving to Orlando. Sweet! opened in 2008. “Nobody was doing retail cupcakes in Orlando,” Wilder says. “It seemed like a great opportunity to do something unique.”
Cupcakes aren’t new to the national dessert scene. Hollywood favorite Sprinkles (no relation to Sprinkles Cakes in Winter Park) opened more than 10 years ago, and Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan gained fame after appearing in an episode of Sex and the City. Across the country, bakers are whipping up “fairy cakes” for young girls and beer-infused cupcakes for male customers.
Wilder sticks to more traditional ingredients, at least in her shop. Pure fruit puree, lots of butter—250 pounds of butter cream a day—and European Callebaut chocolate go into her creations. Call it a recipe for success.
“I get tens of thousands of cars driving through this parking lot every day—we’re crazy busy!” says Wilder. “A guy from Chicago was in here this morning who said he saw me on the Food Network.”
The Chicagoan was referring to a recent airing of the Cupcake Wars reality show. Competing against bakers from Ohio and California, Wilder created a confection combining lemon and salmon, with a cream cheese and caper frosting. In a contest where cooks used seaweed, oysters and tobacco (seriously), the fish-laden treat was enough to propel her to the finals, where a cinnamon, maple syrup, strawberry and bacon delight gave her the win and a $10,000 cash prize.
Wilder supplies sweets for charity affairs throughout the area, and plans to start her own organization to address nutritional problems of children and the homeless.
Meanwhile, instant gratification is still her business. Emitting sighs of pleasure, customers engage in bite-then-display activity, pointing out a fudge center or passing around a Key lime pie delight.
A competitor on Cupcake Wars said, after watching Wilder burst into tears upon being named the bake-off’s winner, “I have never been that emotional over one cupcake.” Some might say Wilder is an over-the-top baker. Fortunately for cupcake lovers, the top is covered in a sweet, buttery frosting.
Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly
ADDRESS 711 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando