Le Cupcake Shoppe uses small snacks to hit the sweet spot

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

A sign on the wall behind the counter at Le Cupcake Shoppe reads, “Stressed spelled backwards is Desserts.”

Few would argue, especially if they've sampled the lovingly crafted confections of owner and baker Alexandra Hagen. Miniature cupcakes are the coin of this tiny realm in Brookline, whose exterior is the color of lemon icing. Hagen creates legal intoxicants in flavors that include maple bacon, tiramasu, cookies and cream, salted caramel, hot chocolate and s‘mores. The miniature cupcakes are $10 per dozen; $30 per dozen for standard-size cupcakes. She also creates cake pops and varieties of whole cakes in butter cream and fondant.

Hagen graduated from Duquesne University in 2011 with a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing. But her real passion was forged during her Bethel Park girlhood, where she learned the sweet science of baking with her mother, Suzanne. Her career as a professional baker began after college, while she worked as marketing and events coordinator for Cadillac Ranch Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, she built a following on her Facebook page, where the likes multiplied.

“I would post pictures of things that I would make,” Hagen says. “I never thought it would be something that I would sell. It was just something that I always loved to do. Friends and family would say, ‘Can you bake for my baby shower and so-and-so's birthday?' That's when it really stared.”

She says she uses no chemicals and preservatives but sticks to natural ingredients such as Madagascar vanilla, pure extract, real butter and fresh fruits. Le Cupcake Shoppe features six to eight varieties of miniature cupcakes and two to four different flavors of cake pops. The menu changes weekly. Hagen recently added chocolate pistachio shortbread cookies. She even makes sweet dog treats in assorted flavors.

Her shop hugs a steep cobblestone street above West Liberty Avenue, a few doors up from local legend Fiore's Pizzeria. The pink-and-white interior has the cheery bustle of a workshop at the North Pole.

“Brookline is so for small business,” she says. “I definitely wanted to find a place between the city and suburbs.”

Robert Coccaro owns the space, which once housed a talent agency that booked clowns and magicians for children's parties. He was impressed enough with Hagen's savvy and ability.

“She puts so much time and only the best, highest-quality ingredients,” he says. “As a matter of fact, for the first few meetings, she was bringing all these different flavored cupcakes. I brought them home and my family said, ‘These are delicious. You should give this girl a shot.' ”

Hagen's imagination is hardly limited by the Lilliputian format. For the catering side of her business, she creates colorful, multi-tiered cupcake towers, cartoon characters and bright-red trucks that are dear to the heart of every little boy.

Le Cupcake Shoppe, 109 Capital Ave., Brookline. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays- Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; noon- 4 p.m. Sundays. Details: 412.254.4295, www.lecupcakeshoppepgh.com

William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wloeffler@tribweb.com or 412-320-7986.

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