From 100 cupcakes a day to 1,500 per hour

Cupcake-A-Rhee, which started as a one-mixer food truck operation, is now a major player in the dessert catering business

BOB AND ELLEN PAULUS package just-baked gingerbread in the Port Washington kitchen where they operate Cupcake-A-Rhee. While keeping busy with cupcakes most of the year, the couple also bakes seasonal goods during the winter. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

When Bob and Ellen Paulus started Cupcake-a-Rhee, selling 100 cupcakes a day was a good day — but now after about six years in business, the couple regularly caters events that go through 1,500 cupcakes in hours.

Over the years, the Pauluses have honed their craft and grown a start-up food truck business into a local dessert icon.

In 2016, the Pauluses transformed their Port Washington print company of 20 years into a commercial kitchen that would serve as a base for their cupcake-slinging food truck.

The couple saw a demand in the market for a dessert-specific food truck, decided to buy a truck and got to work.

In addition to offering six rotating cupcake flavors in their food truck, the couple also stays busy in the winter months with seasonal desserts like gingerbread, pies and Christmas cookies.

Cooking and baking was more of a hobby for the couple, but the two took their passion and turned it into a now-booming business.

The couple started small, using a tiny mixer from their home kitchen and chartering their course in the food industry, but ramped up their operations over the years.

To start, the couple bought a new mixer three times the size of their old one, greatly expanding their production capability. They also honed their operations and made crafting cupcakes as efficient as possible.

“The volume when we first started was a fraction of what we do now,” Ellen said.

She said that while cranking out 600 cupcakes used to take three days, the couple can now make that amount in half a day.

A second oven and dishwasher may be soon to follow. Ellen said washing dozens of muffin tins by hand can be a time consuming venture.

Most recently, Cupcake-a-Rhee also hired two part-time chefs to help in the kitchen this winter.

Ellen said a 12-hour day is typical for the Pualuses to keep up with large catering orders as well as their food truck operation.
The staff members will both lessen the load on them and allow them to take on bigger jobs.

“There are only so many hours in a day where Bob and I can work,” she said.

The new chefs have already helped the business take on an order for 1,500 cupcakes, a task Bob said the couple may have struggled to tackle alone.

“Having them on helped us get that event and not turn away work,” he said.

Ellen said it will take time for the new employees to mesh into her and Bob’s operation, which is so established they often don’t need to speak to communicate, but that they are both incredibly grateful to have help during a national worker shortage.

Even with assistance, the Pauluses continue to work tirelessly on their labor of love.

Ellen said while desserts may seem unimportant on face value, being a part of weddings, birthdays and even funerals is a special aspect of the job.

“Those are things that really impact people and you just feel blessed that you can be part of that experience and maybe know something you did brought someone some joy,” she said.

Looking back over the years, Bob and Ellen said they are grateful for all the support they have received from the community and that they have been given the chance to do something they love.

“We’re very fortunate, we’re very happy,” Ellen said. “Port has totally embraced us and we are extremely grateful for all the loyal people we see every week.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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