CUPCAKES GO GLUTEN-FREE AT POSH POP

A passerby checks out the desserts at Posh Pop. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

His high school sweethearts Krizha Bayacbacao and Matthew Pytel had always dreamed of becoming entrepreneurs. Now, just a year out of college, they’ve already taken an online business to the street.

Their story, culminating with last week’s launch of Posh Pop Bakeshop on Broad Street in Red Bank, begins with a birthday cake.

Pytel, 22, has Celiac disease, which is a gluten intolerance – distinct from an allergy – that prevents him from being able to enjoy most sweet treats. To address this, Bayacbacao started experimenting with recipes while she and Pytel were students at Kean University, and made him a gluten-free cannoli cake.

“She was so proud of it,” said Pytel. “It was one of the first things she made. I love cannoli, so it was chocolate cake with cannoli filling and strawberries on top. It was delicious. That night, we sat down and she was like, ‘Why don’t we just throw something together and see what happens?’”

What they threw together was a website touting gluten-free baked goods, and as luck would have it, it became a little website that could.

Posh Pop cupcakes, such as the white chocolate pretzel, above, will now be baked fresh on-site at Ricky’s daily with the arrival of a new oven.

That was in November of 2011. Neither Bayacbacao nor Pytel had majored in culinary arts, but they saw  their collective knowledge of finance (his major) and marketing (hers) as an advantage. While formulating their menu, they said, they kept in mind how hard it is to find gluten-free products, and decided to focus on offering nothing but – cupcakes, cake pops, brownies, pies, cookies and more.

Orders came in and the couple, who live in Toms River, would deliver the finished products. But soon, the constant driving became strenuous, they said.

“We could be in Hoboken one day and Cape May the next,” said Pytel. “So we wanted to do something new.”

When the two stumbled upon the available counter space in Ricky’s Candy, Cones & Chaos formerly used by Mr. Cupcakes about a month ago, Pytel said they took a leap of faith, seeing the location as ideal. (Just across the street is gluten-free Pizza Fusion.)

“I love this, it’s amazing,” Pytel said. “We’ve been working pretty hard and this is a great start.”

Pytel says Bayacbacao, 23, likes to be creative when experimenting in the kitchen. The Posh Pop menu has a few  eccentricities, such as the Sicilian Cannoli cupcake, which is yellow cake with chocolate chips, cannoli cream used as both filling and icing, and a pistachio crust.

“She thinks outside the box and is really in tune to what she likes,” said Pytel of his partner. “There’s real rum in the piña colada cupcake, and we got a recipe from an Italian restaurant on how to make the cannoli cream.”

The other signature item featured at the counter is macarons – mini sandwich cakes made with almond flour and traditionally filled with either chocolate ganache or vanilla buttercream.

Bayacbacao said she’s always wanted not only to give those with gluten issues something they can eat without worry, but to satisfy gourmet tastes as well. In that regard, she believes Posh Pop is hitting the mark. Her macarons, she said, have been favorably compared to those of revered patisseries Ladurée and Pierre Hermé in Paris.

“That is the reaction that we want to hear from all of our customers,” she said in an email.

By December, Bayacbacao and Pytel would like to open their own standalone shop on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, and hope to eventually spread their business to Hoboken and New York as well. They’re upbeat about their prospects, based on the fact that people who eat their products aren’t just looking for dessert: they’re looking for a dessert their body will let them eat.

“Cupcakes are everywhere, they’ve really become trendy. We’re going to stay more traditional, but we’re also filling a need rather than a want,” explained Pytel. “Compared to every other cupcake place around the corner, we’re one in a million.”