Foodie Tales: Do you know the Cupcake Bloke?

rsz_joanna_omalley_food_cupcakebloke_1Having garnered a cult following in Dublin, Graham Herterich talks to David Corscadden about the popularity of his stand on Coppinger Row and his use of unusual flavours in his cupcakes.

Gone are the days when people are concerned with if you know the Muffin Man and where he lives, all attention has shifted to the Cupcake Bloke. Graham Herterich, the culinary genius behind The Cupcake Bloke, launched his bakery in 2012 and has seen its popularity grow among Dubliners ever since. In the time since, he has cemented himself as the go to cupcake person in Dublin. Having just sent off 600 cupcakes for the launch of the iPhone6, there is no tiredness in Herterich’s voice as he takes time to chat about his growing cupcake empire.

Herterich trained to be a chef in the Institute of Technology Waterford and has worked in a number of high profile restaurants including Chapter One and Mount Juliet. Following a return to college, Herterich decided to enter back into the culinary world but not at the same level. “After that I didn’t want to go back into the crazy hours of cheffing that I had been doing before that. I was doing 60 to 70 hours a week and I didn’t fancy going back to that level of cheffing.” This saw Herterich work for a chain of coffee shops “basically running savoury production and then over time I took over the management of their bakery section.”

When Herterich was made redundant in 2012 many would call it a moment of faith when, only two days later, he received a phone call offering him his own kitchen. Herterich explains that while the call came at a perfect time, it was in fact something he had not contemplated doing for a number of years after he had viewed the space weeks previously. “I never thought it would happen a month later after I had gone down to look at it. I took it as a meant-to-be type of opportunity.”

It was a very quick turnaround for Herterich as he pumped his redundancy package into starting the business. The haste in starting was down to Herterich’s previous experience in the industry. He knew if he did not start immediately, a launch in January would not be possible. “I knew from being in the industry that opening a bakery like that, which was going to specialise in cupcakes, if I didn’t get the December trade I couldn’t have opened in January because I would have had a disaster of a month. I knew that December was going to see me through January and February.”

The idea to specialise in cupcakes arises from a Facebook page Herterich set up to showcase the cupcakes he was making for friends and family. “Bakery is always something that I have been interested in and had a passion for. Nearly three years ago now, I set up this small little Facebook page called Cupcake Bloke and it was literally for me to put up pictures of cupcakes that I had made for family and friends and things like that. It started to get a little bit of life in the first year; a couple of people were following it.”

Although it is known as the Cupcake Bloke, correctly speaking now it is two blokes.  Herterich works alongside his partner Daithi Kelleher. ‘We often wonder should we change it to the Cupcake Blokes instead of Bloke. The two of us are not only life partners but we are business partners too” explains Graham. He adds with a chuckle “We have to decide on that ‘s’ sometime in the future.”

Herterich credits Kelleher with the success of the stall saying “Daithi is fluent in Swedish and French and he lived in Sweden for a while. He has very good language skills. It is almost like a tourist information spot at times. He has a great rapport with people and will point them off in the right direction. It has worked well for us because on Tripadvisor in the space of less than a year of having the stall I think we are up to around 12 or 14 in the best places to shop in Dublin. That is testament to Daithi’s hard work at the stand.”

While the friendly smile and cheerful conversation create a lasting memory of your visits to the stall, it is undoubtedly the cupcakes that have people coming in their droves each week. As well as red velvet and Oreo cupcakes, that have become firm favourites with clients, it is Herterich’s more unusual cupcakes that have captivated people. These cupcakes take influence from Herterich’s training in the culinary world. “When it comes to my flavours I am very much influenced by the savoury side of my training. That is why I come out with the more unusual types of flavours that I have. It is going back to the real cheffy thing of pairing unusual things together that work well together but I am trying to do it in a more sweet contemporary way.”

On one of his most recent cupcake inventions, his white chocolate, green chilli and tequila cupcake, he explains that the idea came from the traditional combination of red chilli and dark chocolate. “The classic of tequila and chilli work very well but I needed something sweet to bring it in. That’s where the white chocolate came in to the equation.”

This year proved the Cupcake Bloke is not just good for a fantastic cupcake; Herterich was crowned winner of Ireland’s Best Scone 2014. He won the Goodall’s competition with his black pudding and apple savoury scone made from Irish produce.

On what to expect next from the Cupcake Bloke (Or Blokes if that ‘s’ is added in the meantime) Herterich says it will be about six months before any changes are made. He believes in bedding down each aspect of the business to ensure it works correctly before moving on. “This time last year it was me and Daithi. Now we have another full timer and two part timers. We are building the wholesale trade of things. Every time I reach a new level I like to bed that down and make sure it is working.”

On the burning question of when will we see a standalone shop Herterich says “The day will come when hopefully there will be no stall there at all and just a sign saying ‘We are permanently around the corner’, that is the plan.”

Dublin will just have to wait patiently for a standalone bakery, while enjoying delicious cupcakes from the stand on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and from selected stores and cafes around Dublin.

This article originally appeared in the University Observer and online here.