The Ground Floor: Sweet dreams

Lauren Luzun of Decorah decides which cupcake she would like to try at Buttercream Dreams. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette)
Lauren Luzun of Decorah decides which cupcake she would like to try at Buttercream Dreams. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette)

Earlier this year, with an already-packed schedule and cupcake orders pouring in, Kathy Thomas said she came to a fork in the road.

“We either need to stop or we need to go,” Thomas told her husband about their "side business."

She decided to go, and now she’s in a full-on sprint.

Thomas, of Fayette, and her 19-year-old daughter, Kaitlin, opened Decorah’s first cupcakery Aug. 3 after a string of volunteer and side baking ventures snowballed into seemingly endless orders and a couple of overwhelmed pastry chefs.

“On our first day, we ran out in four hours,” Thomas said, noting that she, her daughter and their small staff created about 400 cupcakes for the debut of Buttercream Dreams. “I felt I was prepared, but I wasn’t.

"But people were so sweet. They just said, ‘We’ll come back.’

“We don’t even have a sign out front yet,” Thomas said.

Thomas’s teenage daughter started baking in fifth grade, during the year she was home-schooled.

“I made her bake banana bread to learn math,” her mother said. “That was the beginning.”

Kaitlin Thomas got interested in cupcakes in high school and experimented with flavor combinations and frosting types, of all things. Two years ago, she started filling orders on the side of her already busy class schedule.

And last summer, at the age of 18, her mother said she catered a wedding, and she also recently baked about 300 cupcakes for a children’s camp — at no cost. Kathy Thomas, who teaches at Upper Iowa University, has piggy-backed on her daughter’s inspiration, baking cupcakes for students.

When a new coffee shop recently opened in Fayette, Thomas and her daughter started filling that display case, and the orders soon multiplied. With graduations and weddings lined up, Thomas said she decided it was no longer a “side” business.

“We decided, ‘Let’s just go for it,’” Thomas said. “And we have been really well-received.”

Decorah, home to Luther College, has welcomed the shop with a steady flow of sweets-seeking customers and catering orders.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” she said. “I am very surprised.”


Thomas said the business has five employees, but she and her daughter are now headed back to school, meaning they’re seeking to increase their staff.

“We felt we would have a good reception, and we knew we would do well,” Thomas said. “But we haven’t even advertised.”

A grand opening is a couple of weeks down the road, and the team is still creating a website. But for would-be shoppers interested in hearing some of the flavor choices, Thomas said the “Princess Sophia,” dedicated to her granddaughter, is a favorite.

It’s made with white cake with pink frosting, and it’s been selling out quick, she said.

“I’m going to have to start making 100 or more of those,” Thomas said.

There are 8 to 13 different varieties on any given day, and vegan cupcakes are the next offering Thomas said she plans to tackle.

Owner: Kathy Thomas

Company: Buttercream Dreams

Address: 404 West Water St., Decorah

Phone: (563) 880-4091 or (563) 382-4535


Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday

Staff size: Five employees

Favorite cupcake: One of Thomas’s creations is a chocolate almond cinnamon cake. It’s a milk chocolate cupcake with almond chocolate buttercream frosting and a gourmet cinnamon chocolate-covered almond. “It’s amazing.,” Kathy Thomas claimed.



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