Biting into a lemon-and-lemon cupcake from Buttercream Dreams in West Columbia is like bottled nostalgia, but sophisticated.
The sweetness from a small mountain of curled, yellow frosting hits your tongue first. Then, the tart brightness of it — fresh lemon juice, squeezed by hand just moments before joining whipped butter, powdered sugar and a few drops of food coloring in the mixer bowl. Next is the moist, stick-to-your-teeth cake. It tastes of summer, like a giant gulp of homemade lemonade after swimming for hours.
It’s Jolene Bailey’s favorite bite she makes in her shop, which is tucked inside Tylar Rose dress store on C Avenue.
Bailey opened Buttercream Dreams just before Christmas, leaving her full-time, stable job in UPS’ airline branch to start her business. She had already been baking for two years though, making the kitchen her domain once her family went to bed and frosting cupcakes into the early morning.
Making the jump from a cheer mom, whipping up goodies for her daughter Brianna’s competitions, to entrepreneur was difficult at times, Bailey says, especially because it was a risk.
“Stepping out of a job that you know is there, that you know you’ll get paid every week,” she said.
But two months in, she’s getting a hang of running a one-woman operation (though Brianna does help out when she’s not in classes at the University of South Carolina or working at one of her other two jobs).
At Buttercream Dreams, Bailey works at “making sweet things happen.” She is not only the baker, business owner, decorator, vendor, cleaning crew, manager and cupcake sampler (the best part, she says), but she’s the creative director of the operation, too.
Bailey says she watches Food Network, searches Pinterest and experiments in her kitchen to find new flavors. When she and Brianna travel, they are “always looking for the bakeries.”
She’s tried s’mores cupcakes, turtle cupcakes with chocolate, caramel and pecans, and pineapple-coconut flavor cupcake, but she also has the basics — chocolate, vanilla and swirl.
She loves the lemon-and-lemon cupcake, but customers have fallen for another, sort of unlikely flavor: almond-and-almond.
“I’d never even had almond until last year,” Bailey said.
And she expanded her menu to include special items three days a week. Wednesdays at Buttercream Dreams are pound cake slice day, Thursdays are all about turnovers and Fridays are for habit-forming cheesecake slices (think Snickers cheesecake).
Bailey said Brianna went to school with the daughter of Rhonda Dinkins, who owns Tylar Rose. When Bailey wanted to go into baking full-time, Dinkins told her she could set up on one side of the store frequented by pageant moms, prom queens and wedding guests. And it’s been a fortuitous arrangement, Bailey said.
“It’s a good way to get customers from both sides,” she said.
While pageant contestants try to find the perfect gown, their parents might come over to Bailey and buy a treat or someone with a sweet tooth will be intrigued by all the sequins going on over there. But one place the two businesses don’t align? Weddings. Bailey is clear: No wedding cakes. “They are too detailed,” she says.
Cupcakes range from $3 for a single to $25 for a dozen. Bailey takes special orders via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 803-708-4485.
Buttercream Dreams is located at 1230 C Avenue in West Columbia, inside of Tylar Rose. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.