In Search of the Perfect BBQ Cupcake



Ever since I started thinking about my book launch of TAKE ME TO YOUR BBQ from Disney Hyperion, I knew the launch party needed to include barbecue. I also wanted it to be in the Blue Willow Book Shop in Houston, because it’s one of the best bookstores on the planet. Enthusiastically, I imagined ribs, potato salad and bluegrass. When I mentioned this to Valerie Kohler, the girl boss at Blue Willow, much to her credit, she didn’t say “Are you crazy? Barbecue in a bookstore?” Instead she said, “I think we could do that,”  nodding toward some unseen space behind the shop where this might be possible. As I started working out the logistics, I decided barbecue appetizers would be more doable. However, none of the BBQ places I called made appetizers. I’d have to buy the barbecue and roll it or cut it and stick the toothpicks in it myself. The whole barbecue in a bookstore idea started looking less appealing.

Then inspiration struck!

What about BBQ cupcakes?

I googled barbecue flavored cupcakes and discovered that this was not a new idea. I tried a recipe I found and used Willy’s BBQ sauce recipe featured in my book. Then I offered the cupcakes to my critique group.

The responses varied from this one by Vonna Carter



To Laura Ruthven’s




Marty Graham said she liked them, but I didn’t truly feel the “like” in her voice when she said it. All agreed the icing and filling were too sweet.

They probably hoped that was the last of it.

But I made a second batch, using a gluten free chocolate cake mix this time so I could taste them myself. (Yes, I’d used my group as guinea pigs without first trying them. I know, bad.) I used a different icing. No filling. When I took them to critique group, they “accidentally” forgot to pick them up at the end of the meeting to take home to try.

When I showed up with cupcakes the third time, I can only imagine they were wondering what kind of cupcake torture they were being subjected to. But this time I’d approached the task more scientifically. Two varieties of cake, topped with cream cheese icing. Some had Willy’s BBQ sauce combined with chocolate drizzled on the top, some had a sweet roasted BBQ pecan on top, some had both. Plus I’d put the icing on with a bag outfitted with a metal tip to up the visual appeal. My cupcake weary group was requested to try them all and give their responses.



I enlarged my circle of tasters to include the booksellers at Blue Willow. I didn’t warn them ahead of time that I was bringing them by. Here are Valerie and Cathy Berner cautiously surveying the cupcakes. A BBQ cupcake isn’t something you just dive right into.


But after a while, the tasters at Blue Willow were eating with gusto.


Bookstore people must be adventurous eaters. “What’s not to like?” was one comment.

A couple of critique group family member tasters did not have such a positive cupcake experience, however.

Come to my launch on March 23 at 1:00  at Blue Willow Book Shop and you can register your opinion.  I promise to have something else good to eat for those of you who don’t like to gamble with their food.

Many, many thanks to Vonna and Race Carter, Marty Graham, and Laura, George, and Lindi Ruthven for their spontaneous and genuine responses, and Valerie, Cathy, Alice , and Janet at Blue Willow Book Shop for being such gracious tasters.

















  1. Kathy, the icing on this last picture actually looks kinda people-eater purple. Howdja do that?

  2. For the record, I never grow weary of trying cupcakes!

    • What a relief! I’m glad to know my repeated assaults with cupcakes wasn’t painful.

  3. What a great story! I wish I lived close enough to be an official taster .:) Hope your launch is all kinds of wonderful!

    • Thanks, Nikki! I wish you could be here, too. Maybe sometime soon in Austin!

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.