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Healing by cupcakes

Wholesome ingredients make Amy O'Kanes inventive treats a happy indulgence.


SCRUMPTIOUS :  Amy O’Kane bakes mini-masterpieces with novel flavors - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • SCRUMPTIOUS : Amy O’Kane bakes mini-masterpieces with novel flavors

A horrific transoceanic airliner crash, almost 50 million Americans with no health insurance, and our state budget in melt-down mode: It’s hardly a pretty world these days, but one new San Luis Obispo entrepreneur has discovered how to make everything better … one cupcake at a time.

Meet Amy O’Kane, a thirty-something wife, mom, jam-maker, and sewing aficionado whose small business, Amy Bakes Cupcakes, is busily filling the need for what many think of as the ultimate comfort food.

Creating, measuring, mixing, baking, and frosting more than two dozen varieties of the tiny cakes out of a health department-certified, 600-square-foot Atascadero kitchen she subleases from caterer Michele Knecht, O’Kane said that despite gloomy times, her one-person enterprise is booming.

“Maybe it’s because being handed a cupcake is like getting a tiny present just for you,” she said. “They’re easy to serve, easy to eat, always fun, and there’s no need to share.”

Purists can bite into such traditional flavors as vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, but O’Kane offers other taste delights for more adventurous palates: chocolate merlot, topped by a dark-chocolate ganache frosting; piña colada, a pineapple-coconut concoction sporting cream-cheese icing with toasted coconut; and Kahlua and orange, made with fresh oranges from O’Kane’s garden.

No matter what she bakes, local ingredients are a must.

“Fresh food tastes better,” she said. “It just makes sense. And cupcakes made with happy ingredients make for happier cupcakes.”

O’Kane uses her own jams for fillings: “I like knowing exactly what’s in them and where the fruit came from, usually my backyard.”

She also makes her own vanilla extract, uses SLO-based Sweet Earth and Cuesta Co-op cocoas, and buys most spices from the Secret Garden Organic Herb Shop on Higuera. O’Kane also offers vegan and gluten-free choices.
O’Kane thinks she's baked about 3,000 cupcakes since Amy Bakes Cupcakes opened its doors this past spring. The hold-in-your-hand desserts have been featured at many fundraisers and weddings, and are also available at SLO’s Granada Bistro on Morro Street. 

“I was a little girl when I started,” O’Kane said. “I made up recipes, mixed odd ingredients; saw how they worked together, and how they didn’t work together. I ruined many pans, but my mother never got mad. She let me learn the long, hard, messy way. The best way.”

What does the future hold for Amy Bakes Cupcakes? O’Kane said she’s developed two 
gluten-free mixes, which she wants to package and market under her own label.

“I’d also love for my baking process to become a source for job training for underemployed people in our area, so we can all really see how much good a little cupcake business can do,” she said. “Really, the sky’s the limit!”
Amy Bakes Cupcakes cost $27 per dozen, with gluten-free cupcakes priced at $29. For more information, including a cupcake menu and cupcake photo gallery, visit amybakes, or call 441-2991. 

Fast facts
Science, Wisdom, and the Future—a four-day interdisciplinary conference from June 24 to 28—will regard scientific research in human evolutionary development; how such research helps explain social, political, and spiritual behaviors; and how wisdom drawn from that understanding can guide building a sustainable ecological future. Day sessions will consider “The Science and Practice of Wisdom,” “Evolutionary Wisdom Traditions,” and “Sustainability, Business, and the Future.” Evenings center on presentations by a series of authors and speakers, including Duane Elgin, author of Voluntary Simplicity, whose talk will focus on science, business, and the future; Russ Genet, Cal Poly research scholar in residence, who will discuss astronomy and cosmic evolution; Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, who will address cosmology and culture; Barbara Marx Hubbard, who will speak about conscious evolution; Bob Johansen, who will relate technology and the future; and others. The registration fee for the entire four-day conference, including buffet lunches, is $295; any single day is $75; with admission to the evening lectures open to anyone outside the conference for $30 per night ($15 for students). The conference will take place at the Embassy Suites in SLO. For a full description and to register, go to or contact co-chair Cheryl Genet at 438-4088. …

SLO Vespa and McCarthy Classics will open a new showroom at 43 South Higuera  in SLO on June 20, to offer Piaggio scooters, pre-owned Ducati motorcycles, and vintage sports cars. Stop in to talk racing and see the extensive motor sports display.

Freelancer Hilary Grant wrote this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to strokes@

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