Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Crazy for cupcakes: Get your fix from Goodie Godmother and Willow
BY WENDY THIES SELL
Twenty-two-year old Estephanie Diaz was born to bake. The pastry chef at the new Willow restaurant in Nipomo is young, but she’s had many good teachers over the years.
Growing up in the Santa Maria Valley, the daughter of a former hotel pastry maker, Diaz also watched her uncle at work in his Tan Top Danish bakery in Orcutt.
Immediately after graduating from Righetti High School in 2010, Diaz enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, focusing on pastry and baking arts.
She graduated two years later and honed her skills interning at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, famous for its decadent layer cakes and pastries.
Diaz soon met her mentor, chef Annette Starbuck, owner of Goodie Girls Cupcakery in Glendale and the Season Three winner of Cupcake Wars, the reality competition show on the Food Network. Diaz interned for Starbuck and was later hired.
“I loved working for her,” Diaz said. “She was really, really amazing!”
“What did you learn from her?” I asked.
“Try everything! If it sounds crazy, go ahead and do it,” Diaz said. “You can always change it.”
She admits she’s “obsessed with cupcakes,” always dreaming about her next best cupcake flavor combination and design.
Diaz tries to imagine what she’d like to eat as a dessert and then she packs it into a cupcake. For example: her banana split cupcake.
“It’s really, really good,” she exclaimed.
During a recent visit to Willow, Diaz served me a rich red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and white chocolate fudge filling, and a pumpkin pancake cupcake with maple frosting. Other recent flavors include gluten-free chocolate fudge, bacon bourbon, and s’mores.
My next question: “What is it about cupcakes?”
“I guess because they’re so small and cute and you can pick them up,” Diaz answered. “Tons of flavor packed into this little tiny cake.”
As Willow’s pastry chef, Diaz fills the market’s pastry case and makes all of the restaurant’s desserts, including strawberry panna cotta, dark chocolate pot de crème, and olive oil cake.
She also takes pastry orders for parties and events. Cupcakes cost $2.50 each, $27.50 per dozen.
Willow’s website is willownipomo.com. The phone number is 929-0322. Willow is at 1050 Willow Road, Nipomo.
Make a wish
Under a bright pink awning, the apron-clad and smiling Mary Garcia, a.k.a. the Goodie Godmother, sells her fresh baked cupcakes and homemade breads and desserts Tuesdays at the Orcutt Farmers Market.
She calls them “delectable delights baked with love and a sprinkle of pixie dust.”
Garcia and her magic wand work from her registered home kitchen on Vandenberg Air Force Base. She was one of the first in Santa Barbara County to qualify under California’s new “cottage law” enacted in January of this year, allowing home bakers to register with the county health department to manufacture goods.
Garcia has regular customers who come to see her at the farmers market each week, like the lovely lady I met at the Goodie Godmother table who told me that she not only buys the lemon bars every Tuesday, but that she reads Eats in the Sun every week too! (She clearly has good taste on multiple levels!)
The most-requested Goodie Godmother cupcake flavors are classic vanilla, vegan red velvet, lemon, carrot, chocolate, and strawberry. Garcia even collaborates with her customers on custom-made cupcakes.
“A recent popular cupcake flavor was actually developed by a client of mine: the caramel stuffed s’mores cupcake. I make my s’mores cupcake with a toasted marshmallow frosting and fill each with homemade caramel,” Garcia told me. “My lovely client came up with the idea of adding the caramel to the cupcake, with decadent results!”
Garcia learned early in life that food handmade at home is a gift from the heart.
“In my family we don’t have many heirlooms, but we do have food. Some of my favorite childhood memories are being in the kitchen cooking with my mom and sisters or my grandparents, so we could all sit down and enjoy a big meal together later,” Garcia shared. “Preparing food was a way of showing love—a means to bring everyone together. I believe when I bake, I’m sharing a little of that love.”
Goodie Godmother cupcake prices range from $6 to $8 per four-pack. Dozens are available by pre-order.
She brings a different variety of baked goods to the market each week, such as challah bread, scones, gluten-free vegan thumbprint cookies, and French macaroons.
Goodie Godmother currently sells her delicious baked goods Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the intersection of Clark and Bradley at the Orcutt farmers market, at special events, and by custom order. Find her on Facebook facebook.com/GoodieGodmother. Her phone number is 931-6554.
Look for the Goodie Godmother at the Vandenberg Spouses’ Club Fall Bazaar at the Vandenberg Center on Nov. 16, and at the Orcutt Curves holiday boutique on Dec. 2.
Sun wine and food writer Wendy Thies Sell can be reached at email@example.com.