For years, Jeremy Braddock traveled the world as a guitarist with the Waterbury-based hardcore punk band 100 Demons. In his newest creative venture, he and his wife, Nicole, travel throughout Connecticut with their 3-year-old cupcake business, Hardcore Sweet.
Nicole, a former nurse, was a stay-at-home mom with their three children when she began baking "for fun, for kids' parties," she says. The couple decided to take a chance and put their savings into a cupcake truck, aiming to build the brand through special events. Less than a year later, Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" came calling, asking the Braddocks to send in an audition video for the popular competition show. Hardcore Sweet won the vegan cupcake battle, which sent them to the grand opening of guest judge Rob Zombie's monthlong haunted music attraction, "Great American Nightmare."
"Just to be on the show is an accomplishment, but to win it, [that] pushed our confidence level through the roof," Jeremy says. Buoyed by the achievement, the couple opened a brick and mortar bakery in the Oakville section of Watertown, where they offer 15 to 25 flavors, depending on the day, ranging from such classics as red velvet, lemon drop and carrot cake to wild, boozy and even "carnivorous" savory creations with bacon, fried chicken and Black Forest ham.
"We always say we're 'classy to crazy,'" Nicole says.
Cupcake flavors are tailored to events. A kid-friendly festival will have options like Birthday Cake with funfetti and rainbow sprinkles, or Cookie Dough with brown sugar frosting. Adult flavors feature craft beer and liquors baked into the cake or swirled into the frosting, like the Marilyn Monroe, with strawberry vodka, mascarpone and fresh strawberries, or the Aphrodisiac with chocolate merlot ganache.
Nicole says the D cake, named for a longtime customer, is a favorite — red velvet cake with cookie crust and chocolate chips baked in, then topped with cream cheese frosting and a homemade cookie. (Jeremy says his favorite cake is the maple bacon variety.)
The Braddocks now have a staff of 11 and have added a "caboose" trailer to Hardcore Sweet's mobile options. They have a bakery in the Oakville section of Watertown, and in early August, the couple signed a lease to open a second one in Manchester's The Shoppes At Buckland Hills this fall, which Nicole describes as a "more condensed" version of the original shop.
The Braddocks have already begun to increase brand awareness outside of Connecticut by vending at music festivals like This Is Hardcore in Philadelphia and GWAR B-Q in Richmond, Va. At the Oakville bakery, Nicole says she enjoys hosting cupcake classes for adults (where they often bake with local craft beer) and cupcake camps for children.
With two vehicles and soon-to-be-two storefronts, the Braddocks are busier than ever, but Jeremy says "the sky's the limit" and they'll continue to take on as much work as they can handle.
"I've always believed … if you believe in something strong enough, you'll push it and people will see that and the hard work," Jeremy says. "It consumes your whole life. If it doesn't, you wouldn't be a success. If you're not working hard, you're not really pushing it hard enough. You've got to feel it. If you put in 80 hours a week, you don't even think about the hours you put in. It's your own business, you love it, live for it."
Hardcore Sweet parks regularly at the Morris Marketplace, the Southbury Farmers' Market and assorted festivals throughout the state. Truck and bakery information: 203-768-0200 (truck phone); hardcoresweetcupcakes.com, facebook.com/HardcoreSweetCupcakes and @HardcoreSweetCT.
Find the rest of the series, with photos and video, at courant.com/foodtrucks.