The Ultimate Comfort Food

February 1, 2013 | By | Reply More

Ruthie Bzdewka’s ambitions were modest. Still, when the recession settled in a month after she opened her shop, she feared the worst. But, opportunity soon came calling, literally. And once the world was familiarized with her cupcakes, there’d be no more worrying.

Photo Thomas Robert Clarke

I’m pinching myself a lot these days. Fortunately, never once has it snapped me out of my life. Though that’s done little to curb my doubt that the last few years have been anything but pure fantasy.
Back at the start of all of this, about a year before I opened House of Cupcakes, my expectations were simple. My kids were starting school and I wanted to return to work, hopefully earn some money to put toward their college funds. We were business owners for 20 years, so I knew that I wanted to open my own store, but what, exactly, was beyond me.
Not long after, I stumbled upon a booth at an event I attended with my family. A line stretched from it as far back as I could see. I crept in for a peek at what was worth the wait: cupcakes. I went home that day, dug out every relevant family recipe and began to bake. And I continued to bake for the next six months.
Once my recipes were finally where I wanted them, I headed to Princeton, New Jersey, to find a store. It was a no-brainer, really. Princeton, to me, was a place where artisan-level quality and artistic ability are held in the highest regard.
House of Cupcakes opened in August 2008. In retrospect, the timing was bad. The recession took hold a month later. People weren’t shy about telling me that I was crazy for opening such a shop. Too much overhead, they said. I was given a few months, by most projections.
Somehow I survived that first year, and greeting me at the end of it, almost like a prize, was a call from a producer of the Food Network series, “Cupcake Wars,” which, at the time, was in the midst of its first season. I’d heard about it, but only in passing. I was asked to submit an audition video.
It was time, I decided, to drag my husband, Ron, into the cupcake business. He baked when I needed the help, but it was his made-for-TV personality that I needed now.
The producers loved us—Ron as the head baker and me as his assistant. We won our episode and the $10,000 that came with it, which we donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Life since has had a surreal feel. The appearance was a huge boon to the shop. We filmed four more episodes of “Cupcake Wars,” participated in a pair of Food Network events alongside celebrity chefs and were invited to be the exclusive cupcake vendor at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.
Where we go from here, I can’t even bring myself to imagine.

Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe by Ron Bzdewka

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. baking soda
1 can tomato soup
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 package cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then line 12 muffin tins.
In a small bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening. In a larger bowl, add the baking soda to the tomato soup. And in another large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
Combine the soup and flour mixtures in alternate turns, starting and ending with the soup mixture. Then, add the sugar and shortening mixture. Fold in the nuts and raisins.
Fill the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes
out clean.
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
Pinch salt
2 1/4 cups confectioner’s icing sugar, sifted
Add the cream cheese, butter and salt to a medium-size bowl and, using an electric mixer set on medium-high, beat the combination until it achieves a smooth consistency.
Then, set the mixer to low and beat in the sugar half a cup at a time. Once all the sugar’s been added, return the speed to medium-high and beat the mixture until it becomes light and fluffy.
The frosting can be refrigerated overnight, if needed.

Ruthie and Ron Bzdewka are the owners and bakers of House of Cupcakes, Princeton (609-924-0085; For questions about this recipe and ideas for others, email them at

Category: Home Cooking

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