by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
Photos by Luis Chavez
Missy Drayton is living la dolce vita. The owner of Missy’s Cupcake Creations in Ventura has found her sweet spot, baking up cupcakes, donuts and other delectable treats at her bakeshop on Johnson Drive in Ventura. Ventana Monthly spoke with the two-time Casa Pacifica Yummie Culinary Competition winner, who dished about the cupcake craze, getting distracted by donuts, secrets to her success and more.
Are you originally from Ventura County?
I was born and raised in Oxnard. I’ve lived in Ventura County all except for three years.
Have you always been interested in baking?
I come from a family of great bakers and cooks. Both of my grandmothers — my maternal and paternal grandmothers — they were actually friends and worked together in catering. My mother is an excellent baker. She started teaching me when I was young.
I got very interested in 5th or 6th grade, when I started taking classes in the summer. I took a cake decorating class…and I really got the bug. My first job at 16 was at Baskin-Robbins. We made cake clowns and things like that.
How did you develop your professional baking skills?
As an adult, I took some classes at Confectionately Yours. But I don’t have any formal training. I never went to a culinary academy. It all came from home and it just never left me.
When did you start baking professionally?
Before starting my cupcake business, I worked in the moving and storage industry — I was one of the few women in a male-dominated business. And I’d bake for them. And then, they wanted me to bake for them all the time. They’d even give me money for ingredients.
When the cupcake craze was taking off, it caught my eye. I thought, “Oh, I’d love to do this!” But I didn’t know how long it would last. Cupcakes are so old school. They were the first thing I learned to make. You bring them into school or to work on your birthday. For them to be so popular, it was so mind-blowing!
I posted on Facebook on my personal page that I wanted to open a cupcake shop. And so many people commented and encouraged me! So I did it from home for 18 months or so.
After doing that, I thought, “I have my clients, it’s getting busier and busier…” I needed a storefront where people could come in; something more convenient for customers.
And I needed to get out of my house. It was taking over my kitchen!
Your first cupcake shop was in Oxnard. I remember those bright, fun cupcakes on the fence that kind of guided people to your shop.
It was at Fisherman’s Wharf. It used to be a burger joint. I remember meeting up with my friends there when I was young.
I opened the shop on June 15, 2012. A customer painted those [decorations]. Another local painter, Lisa Kelly, did all the inside.
It became very tough to hold on there. But I miss it, especially this time of year.
You moved just a year ago to a new space on Johnson Drive in Ventura.
Almost seven years ago to the date. I was month-to-month at Fisherman’s Wharf for seven years. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit.
But I’d been looking at the space on Johnson Drive for months. It was probably two years before I really pulled the trigger. And finally…I just decided I had to. I took the plunge and it’s been really great.
How has your business changed?
We just did cupcakes in Oxnard. But my spot now used to be Olde Tyme Donuts. [Before taking the spot] I would drive around and check out the neighborhood. So, when I was moving, I realized there was no donut shop in the area, no place to get a cup of coffee. So I thought, why not?
I started Googling about donuts and how to make them…and now we offer them. It’s been a really good decision.
And then we added vegan donuts — boy, has that been a success!
My supplier suggested it to me. They came out to train us and the guy told us, “It’s our fastest growing product.” The first donut we made was vegan and it was delicious — that’s all I needed to know. We do vegan cupcakes and cakes, too.
Behind me is Sea Ranger and Norte-Sur Mexican Grill . . . they both offer a lot of vegetarian and vegan items. So it’s been a great fit. People go have dinner or lunch and then come here for dessert.
How do you come up with your creative options?
When I first started, we had basic flavors that we made every single day — chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and strawberry. In the beginning, I didn’t want to go crazy with lavender and things like that — that just wasn’t me. I just wanted a good cupcake that was just a little bit different.
Many of my flavors come from customer requests. Birthday cake — a customer asked for an order, we made it and put a few in the case; it was very popular. Everything we’ve tried, we’ve held onto.
The Pancakes N Bacon — that I created when I entered the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival and it stuck.
You won first place at Casa Pacifica’s Yummie Culinary Competition in 2011, and took second place in 2012 (with the “3 meals a day” cupcake that is now sold as Pancakes N Bacon). That’s quite an achievement!
When I won Casa Pacifica, it validated me. It made me feel legitimate. I have no training. It was intimidating to be there, and then winning…it made me realize I was onto something . That was a good launching pad.
What are some of your favorite flavors?
My favorite is Snickerdoodle Supreme. I try to get hooked on a different one, but I just love that one. It’s a cinnamon sugar cake with vanilla buttercream icing sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and a piece of snickerdoodle cookie on top.
What have been some of your more interesting projects?
We did a lot of COVID-type things. The toilet paper cake was popular. We did one that looked like a coronavirus on one half and a computer virus on the other half for a computer programmer. We’ve done Zoom birthday parties where the kids decorated cupcakes together through Zoom.
We have kits for self-decorating cupcakes and donuts. For parents looking for something to do with their kids — the do-it-yourself decorating kits have been a big hit. Watching what some of the kids came up with, I sometimes think, “Wow! When you’re grown up, come work for me!” I get excited when I see other kids get into it.
How has your business fared the last few months?
We were able to stay open. Everything has always been takeout, so we were lucky with that. What we were not lucky with — we had to refund a lot of money for cancellations. That was painful.
Of course, we’re wearing masks and social distancing in the store. We did curbside pickup. I’ve been so lucky that everyone has been so cooperative. It just worked out so smoothly.
What do you have planned for Missy’s Cupcake Creations moving forward?
We’re going to offer a little more variety for breakfast, maybe. Everyone wants muffins or a breakfast sandwich. We’d like to be more of a full-service bakery with cookies, brownies, that sort of thing.
Having this time off has given me time to think ahead. As painful as it’s been, I feel like I reclaimed my business and my dream. I focused on why I started this business and why I loved it. A lot of soul searching went on.
What do you think has made you so successful?
I love it. You have to love it. It is hard work. People think it’s fun, but it’s very hard work.
I’ve had Girl Scouts come in to earn a badge, and I tell them — it’s still a business. You have to put in the time. It is a ton of sacrifice. Because I put my heart and soul into it…it makes other people happy.
Are there other local organizations with which you’re involved?
I love to give back to school sports programs and the arts, and do so when I can. I donate weekly to a local church that offers a drive-through food service. To get a donut on top of some canned goods…it makes their day.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I think from my customers. When they have an idea and we bring it to life for them — it’s inspiring! Because baked items are a treat for someone or a special occasion — birthdays, weddings, bridal and baby showers — it’s a great feeling to know I brought some happiness. It’s something fun to be a part of and to help bring joy to someone on their special day.