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Mr. Cupcakes has been selected as the 2011 Best of Clifton Award winner in the Bakeries category by the US Commerce Association

USCA Award
The USCA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community. Thank You to all of our wonderful customers and to our hard-working staff, without you we would not have recieved this award.

Bergen.com

Best of bergen Award
TIED CATEGORY: Crumbs (Ridgewood) and Mr. Cupcakes (Oradell) One of the newest entries in the readers poll is also the tastiest. Cupcakes are all the rage, and Bergen boasts the best tiny cakes around. After a red velvet avalanche of votes, Crumbs and Mr. Cupcakes manage a sweet, sweet tie.

Food Network - Cupcake Wars

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'Tis the season for luscious lemon desserts

BY RITA COOKSON
northjersey.com, April 14, 2014 | Go to Article

Bright, assertive and tangy, lemons add a savory punch of flavor to baked goods and desserts. They are available year-round and are especially convenient before the arrival of spring berries and fruits. When spring's cool rains make sunny days seem far away, nothing is more uplifting than a sweet lemon-infused indulgence.

Lemon is a distinct contrast to the more popular chocolate. It's clean and lively – definitely a nice counterbalance to the overpowering sweetness found in many desserts and pastries. In addition to using lemon zest and juice, pastry chefs and bakers use candied lemons and liquors to create tasty and satisfying citrusy treats. While lemon is often used as a compliment, say, with blueberry in a pie or cake, it really shines on its own.

Vicki Wells, the executive chef and co-owner of L'Arte della Pasticceria, the contemporary Italian bake shop in Ramsey, is a lemon lover who saturates many of her cookies, pastries and cakes with the essence of the sun-colored fruit. The former pastry department head at several of Bobby Flay's New York City restaurants, Wells said her fondness of lemon started in childhood; she recalls visiting a bakery with her mother to purchase lemon pudding cake – a simple yellow cake with a gooey lemon filling — and her love affair hasn't waned since.

Now, she's offering her own lemon creations such as lemon-coconut biscotti, San Giuseppe pastries with lemon crème filling, and for warmer days, gelato and sorbetto. "It's a flavor that once you love, you always come back to or look for," Wells said. Cheesecake is also one of her specialties, and lemon is an ideal addition, she said, "because it really balances the richness of the fat and sugar."

Want something a little simpler? Get your hands on a lemon bar from The Rolling Pin Café in Westwood, or a lemon drop cupcake from Mr. Cupcakes. Matt Foley, owner of The Rolling Pin Café, started making his lemon bars 10 years ago and said, "They've taken on a life of their own."

With just the right amount of pucker in the lemon-curd filling, married with a tender cookie crust, they're one of his best-selling dessert items.

Johnny Manganiotis, founder of Mr. Cupcakes, said that the lemon drop cupcake started out as an "intern" on the menu when first offered five years ago – meaning that it was supposed to be a temporary item.

But because of its popularity, especially with adults, the yellow cupcake with lemon-pie filling, topped with lemon cream cheese icing, is today a permanent fixture at all four store locations (Clifton, Hackensack, Oradell and Chat-ham).

Working with lemons at home? Make sure you select ones that are firm and have a bright yellow color. They should feel heavy for their size, but not soft or spongy. Lemons can be refrigerated in a zipper lock bag, but bring them to room temperature and roll them on your counter a few times before using to maximize the amount of juice released.

To get the most flavor from lemons, Wells uses two tools that are small, yet worthwhile investments for any home kitchen: a microplane that quickly removes the lemon's yellow zest and leaves the bitter, white pith behind; and, a citrus reamer, a sturdy tool that helps to juice lemons more efficiently. You can find them easily at online retailers and in specialty stores such as Chef Central and Sur La Table, both with Paramus locations.

One final piece of advice offered by Wells: Adjust the amount of lemon in a recipe to your own taste. Don't be afraid of adding more, she assured. "Lemon is not a wimpy flavor and should be reinforced," she said. "So if a recipe calls for juice, add some zest too."

Johnny and TJ's Cupcake Prank

Johnny and TJ prank the baker at the Oradell location. TJ is a seemingly nice reporter that goes crazy when the cameras are turned off. Check out the most uncomfortable interview ever!

CLICK HERE >>

North Jersey small businesses asked to try the mall on for size

BY JOAN VERDON
northjersey.com, September 5, 2012 | Go to Article

Simon Property Group, the nation's largest mall developer, wants to send a message to North Jersey entrepreneurs: Don't think you're too small for the mall.

Simon, which operates 16 malls in its Northeast region, including The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack and Newport Center in Jersey City, like other mall developers began recruiting independent retailers during the recession as national chains closed stores or cut back on expansion. Simon discovered that those smaller, local merchants - the types of businesses they might not have considered before the recession - were valuable mall tenants. Now, with national retailers expanding again, Simon wants to continue to recruit local entrepreneurs.

"This is a very important, dynamic change to the way we look at our business," said Ron Hanson, Northeast regional senior vice president for Simon. As a result, he said, Simon is going to continue to recruit non-traditional mall tenants, even though demand for mall space is improving.

Next Wednesday Simon will hold a leasing expo for small business owners at The Shops at Riverside, the first time it has hosted such an event in North Jersey. The fair will showcase leasing, advertising, and promotion opportunities at all of Simon's Northeast malls, and mall managers and leasing executives will be present. Franchisors with new business opportunities, as well as small business organizations and lenders, will also make presentations.

Simon began holding these expos in malls around the country about three years ago, during one of the worst years for retailers. Some of the retailers recruited then turned out to be so successful that the company has expanded the sessions.

In the fall of 2009, three North Jersey malls - The Shops at Riverside, and Westfield Garden State Plaza and Paramus Park, both in Paramus - were actively recruiting local merchants to fill vacant spots in their shopping centers. At Riverside, one of the merchants recruited, Mr. Cupcakes, operated by Clifton baker John Manganiotis, has become a fixture.

While most of the local merchants recruited by Westfield Garden State Plaza have been replaced by national chains, as retailers have begun expanding once again, a Teaneck merchant, Buddy Kurzweil, who relocated to Paramus Park mall in 2009 is still in business there.

During the recession, Hanson said, Simon was able to "structure deals for those local retailers in a way that was more suitable to their needs and more affordable for them."

Local retailers tend to need concessions such as shorter-term leases, or smaller spaces. Some local retailers in North Jersey in the past were also given staggered leases by area malls that started out lower in the first years and gradually increased to the market rate.

The average rent at Simon's U.S. malls was $39.99 as of the end of July, and the average sales per square foot was $554, according to the company's financial reports. Occupancy was 94.2 percent, up from 93.6 percent a year earlier.

It is difficult to compare average mall rents with downtown rents, because no central reporting agency keeps track of rents in all of the North Jersey downtowns. Rents tend to vary from town to town based on the amount of vacant space, and two retailers on the same block can be paying dramatically different rents. But before the recession, downtown rents for new leases in North Jersey averaged between $20 a square foot to over $50 a square foot in the more expensive downtowns, such as Ridgewood or Englewood.

MR. CUPCAKES

northjerseyfoodies.com, April 5, 2012 | Go to Article

Mr. Cupcakes makes homemade specialty cupcakes. Many may have seen one of New Jersey's own Johnny Manganiotis on Food Network's Cupcake Wars. He opened his first store in Clifton and has now expanded to three other locations.

These gourmet cupcakes are unique in that they bake them with the specialty ingredients mixed into the batter. This is very different than stuffed or filled specialty cupcakes. You taste and see the ingredient in every bite. Most have their own unique frosting that compliments the cupcake.

I visited the Clifton Mr. Cupcakes location. There were over 30 varieties of cupcakes in the store when I arrived, including minis. Out front one of the bakers was putting frosting and sprinkles on Johnny's famous coffee donuts. You could also see into the kitchen where the gourmet magic was happening with all fresh ingredients.

The cupcakes are listed in two categories. The Executives that Mr. Cupcakes always carries and The Intern which changes regularly. I choose to bring home the Red Velvet, Triple Chocolate, Cookie Jar, and Oreo Cheesecake. It was a difficult decision deciding which one to try first. The Triple Chocolate was just that. This cupcake is a paradise for chocolate lovers with chocolate chips still visible through out the cupcake. The Red Velvet was not the deep red you think of but the cream cheese icing was one of the best I have ever tasted. It was very light and tangy. The Oreo Cheesecake was delicious with almost a mousse like frosting. My ultimate favorite (and my family's) was the Cookie Jar. I could not tell if I was eating a cupcake or a chocolate chip cookie. It was moist and had the perfect icing.

These homemade cupcakes are reasonably priced at the Clifton location at $1.50 a piece. Mr. Cupcakes also does special logos, holiday, and birthday cupcakes.

Double Cupcake Fun at Showboat

BY LORI HOFFMAN
atlanticcityweekly.com, April 1, 2012 | Go to Article

The Foundation Room at House of Blues/Showboat is well known for throwing a great party and Saturday night the goodies on display were a double dose of cupcakes, wines from the Cupcake Vineyards of Soledad, Calif., and cupcakes from New Jersey's own cupcake master, Johnny Manganiotis, of Mr. Cupcakes (in Clifton, Red Bank, Hackensack and Oradell, N.J.)

It was enough of an enticement to bring famed restaurateur and TV chef Marcus Samuelsson down from New York to enjoy a menu that included delicious lobster arancini with smoked Gouda and basil aioli, beautifully seared diver scallops and lollipop lamb chops. Samuelsson, owner of the Red Rooster in Harlem, as well as a cookbook author and TV chef personality (Iron Chef, Chopped All Stars, Top Chef Masters and his own television show, The Inner Chef, on Discovery Network), has been a regular visitor to Atlantic City the last two years as a participant in the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival.

Manganiotis has also had his 15 minutes of fame on the Food Network when he participated in the competition Cupcake Wars. Manganiotis explained that he has done numerous events in Atlantic City and that he would love the opportunity to open a Mr. Cupcakes in our area.

After tasting a couple of his creations, the moist chocolate delight he calls a chocolate sundae, and his spicy French toast cupcake, I'm all for an expansion of Mr. Cupcakes to our area.

Manganiotis also noted that he has done several events with Cupcake Vineyards since it is such a natural pairing. The Cupcake Vineyards Moscato d'Asti, a sparkling white wine with fruity notes, was the perfect vino to go with the sweet treats provided by Mr. Cupcakes.

Mr Cupcakes, kicks cupcakes up a notch with a secret ingredient

BY MARC BERMAN
www.nj.com, March 07, 2012 | Go to Article

Johnny Manganiotis, known as "Mr Cupcakes" visited Atlantic City to wow attendees at an industry event. He unveiled a new ingredient to his special cupcakes: Vodka infused in the icing to give these treats an extra punch.

Although the vodka cupcakes are not available in his stores in Clifton, Hackensack, Oradell and Red Bank his other cupcakes are including the extremely popular Red Velvet and French Toast. One of my favorites is the Mint Chocolate Volcano Chocolate cake with mint extract, buttercream icing and chocolate on top.

I always like when 'Mr Cupcakes' is in town and this time we spoke at the studios of Longport Media right outside Atlantic City and yes, he brought cupcakes.

CBS New York

New Jersey's 5 Best Cupcake Shops, Feb 14, 2012 | Go to Article

With three different locations in Clifton, Oradell and The Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack, your sweet tooth can't hide from Mr. Cupcakes! These little cake morsels are astonishing, not only for 40+ varieties offered every day, but that the flavor comes from baking the ingredients right into the cupcakes—no filling here! Varieties like French Toast, Fruity Pebbles and Strawberry Shortcake are just some of the creative creations that line the Mr. Cupcakes shelves year round, with others such as S'mores and Tiramisu making a temporary menu appearance, so get them while they last!

Troops at Teaneck Armory Help Area Police Spread Holiday Cheer to Those in Need

By ANN PICCIRILLO
teaneck.patch.com, December 21, 2011 | Go to Article

Police officers from all over Bergen County held toy drives at their local police stations and came together yesterday at the Closter Fire Department to deliver over 2000 toys that they collected to area hospitals and shelters.

"SRT [Santa Response Team] is like a chain link fence," Closter police officer and founding SRT member Don Nicoletti said as he surveyed the endless piles of toys being delivered by dozens of volunteers. "We're only as strong as each link."

Nicoletti told Patch that this was "by far, the best year ever" with the most toys being collected and distributed.

"Every year this event grows," Nicoletti said proudly. "This year is much bigger because a lot more agencies have jumped onto the SRT sleigh." He also commented that even in an economy like this, people continue to be generous.

"Even people who don't have much give because they know that there are others who have less," he said.

The engine room of the firehouse was overflowing with every imaginable toy--toddler bikes, board games, video games, dolls, stuffed animals, trucks, trains, puzzles, race cars, and Barbie. Lots and lots of Barbie.

National Guard members at the Teaneck Armory filled two trucks with bags of toys that were delivered to the armory to be distributed among military families.

On hand to feed all the troops was Johnny Meatballs, Frankie Antipasto, Mr. Cupcakes and the Cupcake Cutie. Music was provided by a D.J. to keep the momentum of sorting toys going, and to get everyone into the spirit of the day.

After all of the toys were separated by gender and age, they were packed into bags and loaded into the caravan of police vans, trucks, minivans and cars to be delivered to the hospitals and shelters.

Following in a car behind the caravan was Santa ready to deliver lots of toys, and cheer, to the children at The Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Hospital and Medical Center.

Cupcake Crush in Red Bank

BY DUSTIN RACIOPPI
RedBankGreen.com, May 3, 2011 | Go to Article

The batter's going to start flying in Red Bank.

Just months after Chris Paseka and Jesse Bello-Paseka opened cupcake-centric Sugarush on Front Street, two new niche bakeries plan to open in town, waging, if nothing else, a serious cupcake competition in town.

Mr. Cupcakes, which already operates three cupcake-based bakeries in North Jersey, is taking up space in Ricky's Candy, Cones and Chaos on Broad Street.

Another shop, the Cupcake Magician, is slated to move into 54 Monmouth Street, operated by the husband and wife duo of John and Roseann Nardini, of Middletown."

Operated by 26-year-old Johnny Manganiotis, Mr. Cupcakes won't actually do any baking at Ricky's, but rather use it as an outlet. Manganiotis is renting space at Ricky's and will ship his baked goods to the shop from his Clifton location, he said.

He plans to open next week and went on a PR blitz Saturday, posting fliers on car windshields and walking around town with the Mr. Cupcakes mascot, a tuxedo-ed cupcake with a vanilla icing head and a bright red cherry on top.

He plans to open next week and went on a PR blitz Saturday, posting fliers on car windshields and walking around town with the Mr. Cupcakes mascot, a tuxedo-ed cupcake with a vanilla icing head and a bright red cherry on top.

The runner-up? Sugarush.

Paseka isn't harboring any hard feelings, though, and refrained from backbiting on the two newcomers who may tap into his clientele base.

"Healthy competition is great," said Paseka, who opened Sugarush with his partner, Bello-Paseka , in January. "I would've liked a few more months to get my feet wet, but free enterprise is free enterprise."

Manganiotis, too, said he isn't coming to Red Bank to steal away customers, but to spread his brand, which he started in 2007.

"Just walking around I thought this town was a good fit," he said. "Competition, I think, it great. Red Bank's a big town. There are enough cupcake places to go around."

Are there? With three cupcake shops within blocks, Red Bank's cupcake market will have gone from practically nothing to densely saturated. But that doesn't mean these businesses can't coexist. After all, you can't go a block in town without the ability to grab a slice of pizza somewhere.

Roseann Nardini, who said she has 25 years of volunteering in the area, is far from ready to declare any cake wars. Actually, she heaped praise onto the guys at Sugarush.

"I think they'll do well. I think I'll do well and maybe Mr. Cupcakes will do well," Nardini said. "I mean, how many restaurants are in town? It all depends on [customer] tastes."

Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank's downtown promoting agency RiverCenter, said time will tell who will survive the sudden influx of cupcakeries.

"It's their market out there. We'll see what happens, just like everything else," she said. "Maybe they'll all coexist. Maybe they'll all find their own little markets. We'll see how it all works out."

Leaving school was sweet move

BY TARA DRIGGS
NorthJersey.com, August 19, 2010 | Go to Article

Chocolate overload, French toast and red velvet are just a few of the deliciously named cupcakes that the Mr. Cupcakes stores have on their shelves. Since owner, Englewood resident, Johnny Manganiotis opened his first store in Clifton in 2002, customers have had their choice of more than 40 delectable flavors to delve into.

But a soft pretzel cupcake? Manganiotis tested out this unique flavor on a special group of taste testers – three judges on the Food Network’s "Cupcake Wars."

In this new show (Manganiotis’ episode aired July 27), four cupcake makers are eliminated one by one as they go through challenges and are judged on taste and presentation. After some online research, a video conference and a few phone interviews, Manganiotis said the producers knew he would be perfect for the show.

"I think they wanted someone from the east coast to represent the New York Metro area and I had great reviews online," Manganiotis said. "It was obvious the product was there, but they wanted to see if the personality was there too."

Manganiotis said that although the show’s producers never even tasted his cupcakes, his "personality passed with flying colors." So he was flown out to California to compete in the "Film Festival Face-Off" episode – where bakers contended for a prize of $10,000 and the chance to present their cupcake creation as the centerpiece for the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Manganiotis was excited and confident that he could win the competition.

"I’m going to win this because I got a Jersey mentality," he said on the show. "I hustle, I move, I shake it – and I honestly believe that I have the best cupcakes."

But then the twist came. For round one, the taste challenge, contenders had to include concession stand ingredients in their cupcakes – popcorn, peanuts, potato chips, condiments and more.

"I saw hot dogs, and mustard and ketchup – and thought this is crazy!" Manganiotis said. "Who would put a hot dog in a cupcake?"

So instead of using a hot dog, Manganiotis decided to stuff pretzel dough inside of vanilla cake. He topped it off with butter cream peanut butter icing and a piece of fresh peanut brittle. It was a little salty, a little sweet – but not the winning recipe.

After some tough critiques from the judges, including fellow Englewood resident and world renowned pastry chef Florian Bellanger, Manganiotis got kicked out of the competition after the first round. He said he was shocked with the results.

"I was the last person to get the judges’ reviews and I thought one of two other girls was definitely going," he said. "This round was only based on taste and the cupcake did taste good. We are actually going to make it at the stores as the cupcake of the month soon."

Keeping his head held high, Manganiotis said appearing on the show was a fabulous experience – for him and his businesses in Clifton, Hackensack and Oradell. Just 25 years old, he has years to perfect his recipes and plans to open even more stores in the state.

The biggest twist of all is how Manganiotis came into the cupcake making industry. Where else but Craigslist? At 22 years old, he found a listing for a business for sale – a woman running a catering business was selling the unused bakery in the front of her store.

That same woman taught him the basics of baking and Manganiotis took it from there.

"There was a bakery – with no set recipes and no set clientele so the sky was the limit," he said. "But I didn’t want it to be an everyday bakery; I wanted to focus on one particular item. So, who doesn’t love cupcakes?"

Manganiotis said he wouldn’t mind if more television appearances were in his future. After taking part in a Food Network Food and Wine Show in Atlantic City the last weekend in July, he was excited that people were recognizing him.

"A lot of people there saw the show so people actually knew me," he said. "I’m a pretty down to earth guy so it was cool signing autographs. It was definitely a boost to my self-esteem."

Why the Cupcake Crush?

BY JULIA LAWLOR
New Jersey Monthly, November 15, 2010 | Go to Article

MR. CUPCAKES, Clifton (also Hackensack and Oradell): Johnny Manganiotis of Englewood was in his third year of studying business at college when he came upon an ad for the sale of a bakery. He had never baked in his life. But he called the owner, who agreed to teach him. He promptly dropped out of school and eventually bought the place. “I was brought up in an entrepreneurial family,” he says. “My dad owned a restaurant and my grandfather owned a diner.” Business was slow at first, but he kept experimenting, eventually developing 40 different kinds of cupcakes. Earlier this year, he appeared on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and was eliminated in the first round. But he doesn’t mind: “It created a lot of buzz,” he says. Most creative: French Vanilla Latte, a French vanilla- and coffee-flavored cake with a cream icing topped with chocolate drizzle. 1216 Van Houten Avenue.

Special Guest Adds Dash of Sweetness

BY PAULINE PIERROT
Northern Valley Press, August 28, 2010

HAWORTH - A visit from Mr. Cupcakes will sweeten up any summer day. Haworth youngsters kept cool as they decorated cupcakes and tasted delicious creations with Mr. Cupcakes, a giant cupcake, as “master of ceremonies.”

On Wednesday, July 28, John Manganiotis, owner of Mr. Cupcakes bakery, hosted a cupcake decorating class for the kids at the Haworth Summer Recreation Program. Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes were decorated with multi-color and chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, whipped cream and more.

During the month of July, Haworth Summer Recreation Program Directors Jessica Celotto and Allison Hollender met daily with students to create a “camp” experience at the Haworth School with different program activities each day.

Also attending the “cupcake decorating class” was Robert Eikenberg, special police officer and regional director of McGruff Kids, a division of the National Crime Prevention Council. Officer Eikenberg provided information to parents about fingerprinting and photo ID services for children.

With the help of McGruff the famous “crime dog,” parents and kids were given advice on how to stop crime before it happens. The kids were introduced to the “Danger Strangers” program and learned how to stay safe and not talk to people they donʼt know.

Master bakers from Englewood
on 'Cupcake Wars'

Monday, July 26, 2010

The two cupcake aficionados hail from very different worlds, but they both happen to call Englewood home these days — and they'll share screen time this week on Food Network's "Cupcake Wars."

On the judge's panel sits Paris-born Florian Bellanger, who studied at the prestigious pastry school L'Ecole de Paris des Métiers de la Table, is a frequent guest instructor at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and has been named one of the "10 Best Pastry Chefs in America" by Pastry Art & Design magazine.

Then there's contestant Johnny Manganiotis, who grew up in North Bergen, dropped out of college to buy a Clifton catering business advertised on Craigslist, and learned how to bake from its owner. Now, at 25, Manganiotis owns three Mr. Cupcakes — in Hackensack and Oradell, as well as the original Clifton store, which he opened when he was just 22.

In the series premiere, bakers were required to create breakfast cupcakes to be served during comedian George Lopez's annual charity golf tournament. The contestants were required to pair sweet breakfast staples such as maple syrup with savory items including sausage, bacon and even salmon.

Big dreams

The young man's outsize personality was, in fact, a big reason why he was picked for the show, in which four top cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges each week until only one decorator remains. The producers called after checking out good online reviews for his cupcakes, he says.

"They said, 'Please get back to us. We want to get into a little interview,' " Manganiotis recalls. "When I called them back, I was just myself. I was talking with them, and they got a big kick out of me. They said, 'Your personality's great.' "

Manganiotis had studied business at William Paterson University for a year and DeVry University for two more, but yearned to open his own business and figured he could always go back to college.

"My dad owned a restaurant, my grandfather owned a diner. I was brought up in an entrepreneurship family," says Manganiotis, who started looking around and came upon the online ad for a bakery/catering service. "[The owner] trained me how to bake everything, and after it was officially mine, on Nov. 1, 2007, I changed the name. I wanted to focus on one product and make it the best. And, you know, who doesn't love cupcakes?"

In his stores, he has 40 flavors at all times. (Everything is $1.50 in Clifton and Oradell; $2 at The Shops at Riverside.) His most popular cupcakes: red velvet and "French toast.""It's funny. I don't really remember eating that many cupcakes growing up," Manganiotis says. "I do a lot of college and high school speeches. These kids think I always had visions of cupcakes. I tell them, 'Listen, I'm not going to lie to you and say, "Hey, when I was 6 years old, my friends were outside playing basketball and I was inside with my sister's Easy-Bake oven mixing up some flavors." ' I didn't know what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to own my own business."

Culture shock

Bellanger, meanwhile, enrolled at age 16 in L'Ecole de Paris des Métiers de la Table, where he studied from 1993 to 1996. He developed a great reputation in the pastry world and serves as the president of the jury for the U.S. Pastry Competition.

As a judge on "Cupcake Wars," he says, he's "looking for creativity first."

"We are definitely looking for extraordinary cupcakes in a way that surprises me by the choice of ingredients, the choice of flavor, by the texture," he adds. "To me, the texture has to be a bit moist. And the cream has to be creamy enough. … I know the traditional icing on cupcakes, the way that everybody used to make 20 years ago in the U.S., was a very sweet icing on top, made with sugar and butter, but I think those are outdated."

Ironically, as a kid in Paris, he had virtually no exposure to cupcakes.

"Honestly, the French people didn't know cupcakes. I'd never seen cupcakes before coming to America," he says, adding that they are starting to be a little trendy now in France, especially Paris.

Now, he sees big French companies like Fauchon offering cupcakes in their regular French pastry line. He hopes the trend will last — "I mean, the possibilities are endless with this kind of cake" — but fears they won't be around forever either.

"The French are a bit too conservative for that. They will always get back to the éclair, or to the mille-feuille. But it can have a good run for awhile," he says, noting that 10 or 15 years ago, France also fell in love with cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies, but the amour didn't last. "They never really became part of the culture."

Bellanger — who moved in 2000 to North Bergen and five years later bought a house in Englewood, where he lives with wife, Anna, and their three sons, ages 12, 6 and 4 — is chef and co-owner of an online company called MadMac, which makes authentic French macarons and Madeleines and has its pastry kitchen in Paterson. (He plans to open a store in Miami in the next few months.) He compares the amazing resurgence of cupcakes in the U.S. in recent years to the "absolutely insane" revival of the macaron taking place in France right now.

"We had those macarons for 100 years, and some smart chef or baker decided to take this product and say, 'Hey, look at this, I think this product can be done in any flavor we want,' " he says.

He says the producers of "Cupcake Wars" contacted him via Facebook to see if he'd be interested in being a permanent judge on the new show, along with Candace Nelson (owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes) and a third rotating judge.

"I said, 'Yeah, why not?' " he says. "I think cupcakes are very trendy right now. … I had a lot of fun on the show."

Although his sons aren't too impressed with having a television-star father — "I say, 'Let's watch Daddy.' They say, 'We have something else to do. We want to watch the cartoon' " — he did get some attention at Westfield Garden State Plaza one recent day. As he was going up an escalator, a woman on the down side called out to him.

"I hear, 'Hey, cupcake guy, how are you?' " Bellanger says, chuckling. "I said, 'I'm fine, thank you.' And she said, 'You're great.' She didn't know my name, but that's OK."

Who has the best cupcakes?

Friday, June 18, 2010

CLIFTON – A City baker will do battle with three master dessert makers for a hefty cash prize and the right to have his cupcakes featured at a major film festival.

John Manganiotis, the owner of Mr. Cupcakes on Van Houten Avenue, will compete against three other cupcake bakers on "Cupcake Wars," the Food Network's newest cooking reality series which premiered this week.

To win, Manganiotis must survive three rounds of intense competition challenging bakers to create cupcakes using unconventional, risky ingredients.

In the series premiere, bakers were required to create breakfast cupcakes to be served during comedian George Lopez's annual charity golf tournament. The contestants were required to pair sweet breakfast staples such as maple syrup with savory items including sausage, bacon and even salmon.

Owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes, Candace Nelson, and the co-owner of the MadMac online macaroon company, Florian Bellanger, serve as the show's permanent judges. Each week a celebrity judge will inhabit the third judge's seat.

During the "Film Festival Face-Off" episode, which premieres on Tuesday, July 27 at 10 p.m., Manganiotis will face off against two California and one New Orleans cupcakeries for the chance at $10,000 and a display at an event tied to the Los Angeles Film Festival. The competitors on "Cupcake Wars" were chosen by the Food Network's programming department along with the production company hired to research cupcake purveyors across the country.

Though Manganiotis could not provide specific details of the show's taping due to a confidentiality agreement with the Food Network, he did say speak of the excitement which surrounded the set during filming.

"It was great," Manganiotis said of the experience. "I always wanted to be on TV and I still do. I'm the type of person who wants to be good for TV and everything [the producers] wanted me to do, I delivered."

He opened the original Mr. Cupcakes in Clifton three years ago but the store did so well so quickly - thanks to bestsellers like its red velvet, French toast and cookie jar varieties - Manganiotis has since opened two new locations in Hackensack and Oradell.

"When I dream I dream big," he said. "I didn't think it was going to happen so quick but I had such a big following so quickly. I didn't expect it because I remember slapping a sign on the window that said 'Mr. Cupcakes coming soon' and instantly my e-mail and Facebook started blowing up. People started talking about it, creating buzz through blogs and the Internet so it was pretty crazy to see that."

Manganiotis said the Food Network contacted him because they were looking for East Coast bakers to have on the show. The network looked for cupcakeries in the New York metropolitan area, came across Mr. Cupcakes and read reviews before calling Manganiotis to see if he had the personality and chops to appear on the show.

The next day Food Network representatives called back and conducted a full interview. Manganiotis said he blew through the interview process and "passed" a follow-up conference call before taking part in a video entry to get a better gauge of his on-camera personality.

Manganiotis said the Food Network "loved it" and let him know he had been selected to appear on the show. Two weeks later Manganiotis and an assistant were flown out to California to compete and tape the show.

Whether or not Manganiotis returned home $10,000 richer will remain a mystery until the episode premieres next month.

Children's Miracle Network NJ Newsletter

April 2010

A delicious dessert maker. A rapidly expanding entrepreneur. A kind-hearted philanthropist. We found all of this in our local partner, Mr. Cupcakes.

With so many fantastic national and regional sponsors, it is not often that we find a local sponsor with such enthusiasm and passion for the cause. After using Mr. Cupcakes services as a "thank you" last year, we gave Johnny Manganiotisowner Johnny Manganiotis a tour of our hospital. That was all it took for him to get on board. He hosted a successful 2009 balloon campaign and donated cupcakes to our Walk n' Roll.

Since that time, Mr. Cupcakes has expanded from one to three locations (Clifton, Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack and the recently opened Oradell). He is hosting a 2010 balloon campaign for all three locations from April 23 - May 23rd and donating hundreds of his delicious cupcakes to our Dance Marathon and our Walk n' Roll. Visit his three locations for a delicious treat! I highly recommend the french toast cupcake!

The Paramus Post

Mr. Cupcake has opened up its third location in Oradell on Kinderkamack Road. The cupcake bakery was founded in 2007 and has two additional locations in Clifton and Hackensack. Its mission is to provide the customers with the best tasting and freshest cupcakes in New Jersey. I think they succeed!

I stopped by the new Mr. Cupcake this past Sunday because we were celebrating my brother’s fiances' birthday. It smells unbelievable and prominently displayed is an assortment of cupcakes. I bought a dozen of mixed flavors including French Toast, Macaroon, Strawberry Shortcake, Carrot Cake, and Double Chocolate Chip. I think they have something like 40 different flavors of cupcakes. Each cupcake is baked freshly on-site and instead of stuffing the cupcakes with filling, they actually bake the ingredients inside of it. The gourmet cupcakes cost $1.50 each. The cupcakes were a success at our party.

The Grand Opening is on Saturday, March 27th 9am-5pm. The first 25 customers get a free box of 4 cupcakes and a free Mr. Cupcakes T-shirt. Free mini cupcakes will be available from noon – 4pm. The Mr. Cupcake Mascot will be there for photo opportunities. Mr. Cupcakes is at 385 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell; 201-483-8897; www.mrcupcakes.com.

Sweetnicks.Com

If you’ve been coming here for awhile, you may have noticed a theme of topics … food, of course, a little bit of life, kids, the color pink … and oh yes, cupcakes! I don’t know how or when the cupcake obsession started, but it’s been going strong for many years now and shows no signs of letting it up. Whether we’re making them at home or hunting down the newest cupcake spot, it’s a popular topic.

I can’t remember how I first discovered Mr. Cupcakes, but think it might have been a local write-up in the paper or some such. The first time I tasted cupcakes from there, it was at a cupcake-themed Supper Club gathering last year. The Neighbor Wife, always eager to avoid baking, offered to pick some up since the place was on our to-visit list but we had yet … to visit. She brought an assortment and I’m fairly certain there were none left by the end of the evening. Quel surprise!

Last weekend, when I was planning our first “formal” dinner in the new house for the kids, I had decided on cupcakes for dessert. What better way to cap off our first meal? I mentioned to Nick that I’d be picking some up, and that was the first thing he was looking for when he walked in the door.

Armed with my handy dandy GPS, I found the store quite easily. Parking, on the other hand, is another issue. There are a few spots on the street in front of the place, and there is a little parking lot one door down. This is fine as long as you don’t drive an SUV. If you do, the lot is small enough that it’s quite the juggle to get out of the space.

The store is small. Actually, it’s about as big as Billy’s in the city, but they use their space way less creatively. There is one small bistro table to seat two if you want to eat there, but that’s also right in the middle of where the line forms, when there is one, so it’s not somewhere you want to sit. So pretty much a grab-and-go joint. They could use some help in the decorating department, but since we’re going for the cupcakes and the cupcakes alone, we’ll turn a blind eye.

The cupcake varieties fill the display case, sitting in labeled black trays. The store sells “Executive” cupcakes, those flavors that are always available, and “Interns,” those that are there for a limited time only. Cute concept.

I was the second in line on a Saturday afternoon, but before my turn was up, the line was out the door, so it’s definitely a popular spot. The staff seemed to be mostly high school students, and all were professional and very friendly. I got an assortment of flavors, including the French Toast, Hot Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Hot Fudge Sundae and Plain Jane. Nick devoured the Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcake. I liked the French Toast one, although it was a little heavy handed with the cinnamon dusting on top.

The prices are very reasonable … 5 regular sized cupcakes, 1 mini and 2 tattoos for the kids was under $9. Considering there is another place that I know of that sells cupcakes for $4 a piece (craziness!!), I’m pretty happy with the $2 +/-each price range.

Would I go there again? If I was in the area, yes. But now that we’re making really good ones at home, ones that rival and sometimes beat Billy’s Bakery cupcakes, and since we have a few other spots left to visit on our list, it’s not an OMG, can’t-wait-to-go-back type place. That said, if you’re in the area, or even not, it’s worth a trip to satisfy your inner cupcake craving.

NorthJersey.Com

North Jersey shopping malls, once blamed for putting local retailers out of business, now are reaching out to them to fill vacancies as national chains close stores.

As the malls gear up for the all-important holiday season, they are rolling out the red carpet for North Jersey's Main Street merchants, offering reduced rents and other deal sweeteners to local businesses that just a few years ago would have been deemed too small for the mall.

While the region's shopping centers have always had local merchants, many of the mom-and-pop mall stores were pushed aside in favor of the national chain stores waiting for mall locations during the retail boom years of 1995 to 2007.

But the recession has changed that. With enclosed malls facing a national vacancy rate of 8.4 percent as of the second quarter, according to Reis Inc. — the highest since Reis started tracking the rate in 2000 — developers believe local businesses are a perfect fit to fill the empty spaces. The locals usually prefer shorter-term leases, giving the malls an easy out if the economy rebounds. And the need to fill space before the holiday shopping season begins is giving small businesses some sweet deals.

While mall tenants and leasing agents typically have confidentiality agreements that bar them from revealing rents, those familiar with deals at area shopping centers said local businesses are being offered monthly rents as low as $4 and $5 a square foot.

"With vacant space, [the malls] can no longer sit back on their butts and wait for the major chains to bid up space," said Paco Underhill, founder of retail research firm Envirosell. Underhill believes the rush to attract local retailers reflects a change in mall mind-set that's triggered by more than the recession. "We see progressive landlords all over the world trying to bring more local influence into their malls because it often has unique content," he said. Shopping centers, he said, need to move away from ubiquitous cookie-cutter chain stores that were "safe bets," reinvent themselves, "and take in tenants that they normally have never considered."

Local entrepreneurs say that mind-set change means opportunity. And they say that even short-term mall leases are a valuable way to grow their businesses.

"I want to grab as many of these recession deals as the malls are offering," said John Manganiotis, who has opened a branch of his Clifton-based bakery, Mr. Cupcakes, at The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack, and is being actively recruited by several other malls.

While not revealing specific figures, Manganiotis said the offers have been tempting. He opened his cupcake shop in a 382-square-foot space made available when the Cohen's Optical store closed this year. "I opened June 1 and by June 15 every mall in the area was calling me," Manganiotis said. He was recruited by Riverside after one of the mall's management employees brought in his cupcakes from the Clifton store, and mall executives were hooked on the taste.

"Mr. Cupcakes hit a home run here," said Riverside manager Noreen Boyle. "He is going gangbusters."

Boyle said the current leasing climate "is a win-win for both property owners as well as the local tenant." The mall "is getting different uses and categories that our customers are asking for that were never typical of a shopping center,'' she said. "The mom and pops are realizing they can expand their businesses." While Riverside has always sought tenants with "local flavor," Boyle said, "there is more willingness to negotiate" now.

But the mall deals aren't for the faint of heart, or rookie retailers. Shopping center traffic is down nationwide, and mall sales fell 11.4 percent in June compared with June 2008, the eighth consecutive month of double-digit sales declines, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Buddy Kurzweil recently moved his store, Buddy's Sports Corner, from Teaneck's Cedar Lane to Paramus Park mall, after being recruited by four malls and a Route 17 landlord.

Kurzweil has operated his sports collectibles and apparel business for 36 years. He remembers days "when the malls would laugh at me" when he asked about available spaces. He had several mall stores in the 1980s, and in 1987 had to give Monmouth Mall $10,000 in advance "just to get them to talk to me," he said. This year, the shopping centers were coming to him, after several mall-based sports stores closed at the beginning of the year.

Kurzweil picked Paramus Park after manager Minnie Adams visited him and said, "What will it take to get you in my mall?" Kurzweil said. Adams "really showed they wanted me and cared about me." Adams, Kurzweil said, helped him structure a deal that enabled him to afford a mall lease.

"My goal is, especially with the local tenant, to really make the deal good enough that he can be successful," said Adams.

Kurzweil's rent is more than double what he paid in Teaneck, but he believes the extra traffic in the mall will greatly increase his sales.

Tama Shor, publisher of the Directory of Major Malls Inc., said developers are much more willing to negotiate and to offer flexible terms. They are offering rents structured to increase each year, or rents based on average sales performance over several years.

"There's always been that creative thinking, but now there's more of it," Shor said. "It's being forced upon them [malls]. Even the better centers are being forced to change how they do things."At Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, executives are heralding the arrivals of Flirt Sushi and Fabulous Foods with the enthusiasm they once reserved for a national star like Nordstrom or California Pizza Kitchen.

"There are more opportunities today for them to get in because many of the national chains are on hold mode. Absolutely," said Phil Genovese, vice president of leasing for the Plaza. "But if they're successful maybe they will become the next chain.''

Genovese and other mall-leasing agents said they look for businesses that already have a following in a neighboring town, and businesses that offer something not found in every other shopping center.

Steve Roche, general manager of the Plaza, said the recruiting efforts aren't just about filing space, but about giving shoppers unique reasons to visit the mall. A restaurant such as Flirt Sushi, a local favorite in Allendale for seven years, "creates a point of difference," Roche said. "It's a good experience with some attitude." Flirt Sushi features unusual recipes and slightly risqué names for its menu items.

Genovese and other mall executives have been fans of Flirt Sushi for years. Genovese said he had been telling owner Marko Radisic he should consider the mall "if the time ever was right." The right time arrived this spring, when a casual restaurant, Café Europa, closed and moved out of a good location. Genovese called the Flirt Sushi deal "a natural marriage," saying the mall and the restaurant have good synergy. "It's the women that drive the business at Flirt,'' Genovese said, "and that same woman is shopping at this mall.''

Radisic said the Café Europa spot was key to getting him to the shopping center. "It's the mom corner of the mall," he said. "It's the midpoint between Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom." He plans to open in early October, with sit-down dining as well as takeout options.

Fred Luberto, owner of Fabulous Foods — a catering, food service, and event design company in Moonachie — also had been considering opening a store or kiosk at the Plaza for several years.

"Now that the economy is what it is, it's an opportunity for us to be able to dip our big toe in and try it," Luberto said. Instead of only being able to afford a kiosk or cart, he was able to rent an empty store on the second floor of the mall, near Neiman Marcus. The store, scheduled to open next month, will showcase his company's catering and design services, and sell gourmet takeout foods and gift baskets.

Genovese said experienced businessmen such as Radisic and Luberto usually are the best bets to succeed as a local merchant in the mall. The Plaza, he said "is not the type of place where someone wants to open up their first shop," because of the expense involved in building and decorating a store that will meet the mall's standards.

"Everything is cyclical," Genovese said. "I remember a long time ago when it used to be 70 percent local and 30 percent national. Now it's clearly the opposite." Genovese said last week that he had six meetings and "four out of the six were with regional or local players."

Gregory Kechejian, owner of Gregory's Hallmark at Paramus Park for 26 years, said he is hoping Paramus Park and other shopping centers will work as hard to keep existing local tenants as they are at luring new ones. "If the economy doesn't improve, they're going to have to be willing to take another look at leases, because it's been rough," he said.