Jilly's Cupcakes chef talks about their well-known desserts
All cupcakes include flour and sugar. Jilly’s cupcakes hold more.
“All our (gourmet-sized) cakes are half a pound. We’re bigger and better,” said Brittney Koch-Dowell, general manager of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe in St. Louis and now also in Edwardsville.
One week after opening in Edwardsville, Brittney and “Food Dude” Dana Holland were able to reflect on what made Jilly’s Cupcakes so good, and why the location had launched so well.
Keeping the product stocked and fresh is a big factor, Brittney said.
“We had a lady the other day who bought five dozen,” she said.
Reputation is another factor. Customers are quickly asked if they are familiar with Jilly’s, and if not, they are given a crash course in cupcake history.
The Turtle Cheesecake Cupcake —a vanilla or chocolate cake stuffed with cheesecake and caramel, topped with milk chocolate and caramel buttercream, caramel, pecans and chocolate curls — is a best seller, Brittney said. The Turtle Cheesecake won an episode of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” as incoming customers are frequently told.
“No matter what I do, nothing can beat it,” she said.
All the production remains at the St. Louis location, where they have added staff and space to accommodate the growing needs. Cupcakes are brought in fresh to Edwardsville at least twice a day, and the sandwiches and salads are also checked and restocked for freshness.
Kendall Helmkamp, 19, and her mom, Nan Helmkamp, 52, both of Alton, were there on a recent morning trying out several cupcakes, with the intent of taking some home.
“It’s good,” Nan said of the Turtle Cheesecake. “I’m trying to get all of it in together at once,” she said, referring to the topping, cake and stuffing.
Kendall could only give a thumbs-up sign, with her mouth full of Space Monkey, one of the specials in July.
August cupcakes include the always-present 24-Karat Carrot Cake, Bee Sting, Chocolate Thunder, Reese’s Chunkage and Turtle Cheesecake. The specials for the month are Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Mousey-licious, Raspberry Cheesecake and the Peach Cobbler Gooey Butter Cake. The St. Louis location will also have the Bahama Mama Mia, but Edwardsville location cannot because it doesn’t have a liquor license.
Amy Smith, 44, of Collinsville, was there on a girl’s day with her daughter and tried the Missylicious Crazy Shake.
“Oh, that’s good. This is going to keep me on the StairMaster for a long time,” she said.
It’s not all sweets at Jilly’s. The grab-and-go cafe offers sandwiches, cut up fruits and veggies with dip, and salads.
“We developed a few new items that are Edwardsville-friendly,” Dana said, saying they expanded the vegetarian options because of demands.
Salads include the Mighty Aphrodite, with grilled chicken on mixed greens and served with pita bread. Dana said the Dragon Noodle salad had been a brunch item in St. Louis, but the “faux-asiany” noodles on a bed of cabbage, bok choy, jicama and other vegetables is available in the grab-and-go case at Edwardsville.
Dana met namesake Jill Segal in 2006, and has been onboard Jilly’s in one form or another for years. He said they started with 20 chairs and a couch, but the joke was that no one should sit because they needed more customers in. That isn’t such a problem anymore.
“The cupcake from Day One was the gravy train, but food was always part of it,” Dana said.
Jilly’s Cupcake Bar
- Where: 222 E Park Street, Edwardsville, IL 62025
- When: open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Serving: The Edwardsville location offers the gourmet and mini cupcakes in 24-Karat Carrot Cake, Bee Sting, Chocolate Thunder, Ka-BOOM, Missy-licious, Reese’s Chunkage, Turtle Cheesecake, Twisted Pink Velvet and a simply iced cupcake and are about $7 each.