Metro-East News

Fairview Heights gets a Food Network-famous cupcake shop

Meet a decorator at Food Network-famous SmallCakes Cupcakery

Diane Strojia talks about how she became a decorator at the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars"-famous SmallCakes Cupcakery in Fairview Heights.
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Diane Strojia talks about how she became a decorator at the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars"-famous SmallCakes Cupcakery in Fairview Heights.

Fans of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” will recognize the name of a new bakery in town.

SmallCakes Cupcakery, located at 5200 North Illinois St. next to Jimmy John’s in Fairview Heights, opened a few weeks ago with fans lined up at the door, owner Ben Early said.

“The first thing they say is that it smells amazing in here,” Early said. “Everyone just gazes at the cupcakes for five minutes before they start ordering.”

Early, a former fast-food chain manager, arrives at 3:30 a.m. every morning to bake. He decided to open the franchise after his wife, Rachel, chose to continue her work at Scott Air Force Base for three more years.

Early said his sister-in law owns SmallCakes shops in the Chicago area, so the couple decided to take a chance. He’ll run the shop while Rachel, a tech sergeant, is deployed for six months in Afghanistan.

The shop offers discounts to military and first responders. They also donate leftover cupcakes to local hospitals.

Plans are in the works to add cookies, coffee and milk to the menu.

“It’s all slowly coming together,” Early said. “But it’s getting there.”

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An exterior look at SmallCakes Cupcakery in Fairview Heights. Cara Anthony canthony@bnd.com

The cupcake shop has 16 signature flavors, including a signature small cake for dogs and puppies. From chocolate and carrot cake to lemon drop and red velvet, the menu has a wide range of flavors.

Early’s favorite flavor is Kentucky Bourbon, a specialty flavor at the shop. He’s also a fan of Boston Creme, which is available everyday. Gluten-free cupcakes — chocolate and vanilla — are sold Fridays.

The cupcake franchise has more than 200 locations across the country, including one location in Dubai.

This is the second location to open in the St. Louis region. The franchise has a location in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Cara Anthony: 618-239-2471, @CaraRAnthony

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