Homemade Kitchen

Bo Mashburn-Hager frosts cupcakes in her kitchen at StaarrCakes Bakery. Photo by Bethany Turner

Bo Mashburn-Hager frosts cupcakes in her kitchen at StaarrCakes Bakery. Photo by Bethany Turner

Being a journalist who deals in an array of topics, I don’t encounter many interviews that make me salivate. Alas, I’d have no other choice when sitting down with Bo Mashburn-Hager, owner of Oak Island’s StaarrCakes Bakery.

She enticed from the get-go with the day’s special: raspberry-vanilla cupcakes filled with raspberry-cream cheese and frosted with raspberry-vanilla buttercream. Don’t forget the red, heart-shaped candy decorations she made by hand. And there were still over half a dozen different treats in the display case to discuss.

The store opened just one year ago on Valentine’s Day, so naturally I was curious what lead Bo to her latest endeavor.

“I’ve loved baking my whole life,” she began. “Ever since I was a little girl I can remember climbing up my mama’s cabinets to get to her ingredients. She would come in and find me pulling brown sugar out of the top of the cabinet. She would have to put stuff literally way out of my reach because I would experiment. At 4 or 5 years old I was concocting things, and they weren’t very good, but I’ve had an interest my whole life and I’ve always wanted to have a little shop.”

Eventually, Bo needed to commit to her dream or let it vanish. “When I turned 60, it was like, When are you going to do it?,” she mused. “I just decided it was a good time. Oak Island has a cake shop but not really a specific cupcake shop, and it’s kind of a nationwide craze. I thought it’d be really good to have a shop where everybody can come in and afford something. Everybody can afford a cupcake. So I just decided to take the plunge and have my dream.”

Bo grew up in Fayetteville, NC, and often vacationed in Oak Island. She spent most of her adult life, however, in Breckenridge, Colorado. “I got tired of eight months of snow,” she quipped. “I came back here for a visit in 2005 and liked the area.”

With her children having babies and all living in North Carolina, Bo found a place for herself in South Harbour Village. “I planned to stay six months in Colorado and six months here, because I had a successful real estate business there—but once I got here, I didn’t want to go back,” she amended. “I met my husband, Jim, six months after I got here.”

Bo and her husband actually grew up 20 minutes apart. “It’s such a crazy story: We went to the same bowling alley, the same swimming pool, the same stables—everywhere—because our dads were in the Army,” Bo revealed. “So we were in the same places when we were young but never met until we were in our 50s.”

Jim has been a pillar for StaarrCakes. “He’s awesome. He does whatever he can to help—he doesn’t bake—but he built my counters,” Bo shared. “He’s 100-percent supportive.”

The bakery is a small-batch kitchen. Flavors of the day solely depend on Bo’s whim. “I try to have the things I know that are going to sell: red velvets all the time, some chocolate flavor, a vanilla flavor, key lime—it’s probably my top seller,” she said. “I usually try to have at least six, so then I’ll pick something interesting that I want to make or something a customer’s asked for. The other day I had a girl want a honey cinnamon cake. I made a honey cinnamon cupcake with peanut butter frosting—oh my gosh, it was fabulous. I get a lot of my ideas from customers and things that they like. I’m happy to do it if I can get the ingredients.”

Customers can check the bakery’s Facebook page or give Bo a call to inquire about the daily flavors. “I’m not a high-volume bakery,” she reminded. “It’s like, ‘Welcome to my kitchen.’ It’s an exclusive little kitchen where you’re going to get a high-quality product made with real ingredients. There’s no fake stuff in any of the baked goods. All the icings are real butter. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

As every treat is made fresh daily, Bo only bakes a limited number. “I bake what I think I can sell. Sometimes it’s not enough and sometimes it’s too much,” she conceded. “If it’s too much, I take it to the fire department or the police department or donate it, or take it another tenant in this complex.”

The bakery also deals in mini New York-style cheesecakes every day. “I usually try to have some cookies, too,” Bo added. “I do different kinds all the time. Today I have oatmeal brown sugar. Sometimes I have chocolate chip or red velvet chip, lemon snowball, peanut butter. It really just depends on what I feel like making. I have a really good sugar cookie recipe—we’ll have some of those for Valentine’s Day.”

For now, her pies are special-order only. But the laundry list of possibilities beckons one to pick up the phone. “Chocolate brownie pie, lemon chess pie, coconut chess, apple, key lime, banana cream—I do almost any kind people ask for if I can get the ingredients,” Bo detailed. “Last summer, I probably could’ve made a million dollars if I could’ve gotten rhubarb. Everybody wants strawberry rhubarb pie. One lady actually bought the rhubarb and brought it to me. Strawberries I had plenty of. Of course, I make a homemade butter crust.”

Folks also can indulge in specialty coffees, which are roasted in North Carolina and ground and brewed fresh in the shop. An espresso machine churns out lattes and cappuccinos, too.

The first year of business for StaarrCakes Bakery has been sweet to Bo. “I was a little anxious when I opened because I didn’t know how it would go over,” she admitted. “It has been a fabulous year. It really exceeded my expectations. Summer was crazy, so busy. The connections I made through the visitor business have just been so much fun, and the local support has been awesome.

“I’ve been able to pay my bills,” she laughed. “I’m looking forward to a busier second year.”

StaarrCakes Bakery is located at 200 Country Club Dr., Suite E, and is open Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, call 512-8881 or visit www.staarrcakes.com.

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