If you think you know someone who seems like they can do it all, wait until you meet extraordinary local, Nikki Kaapke. From writing her cook book, to blogging, event planning and catering, designing her own apron collection, hosting a cupcake crawl, AND doing 2 reality shows, she gives a whole new meaning to the word multi-tasking. Nikki, 31 year-old Blue Island native, is one of the most personable people I’ve ever met. When Dana and I met with her, she made it seem like we’ve known each other for years. Kaapke attended Harrington College of Design (right here in the city) for interior design, but she couldn’t abandon her true love: food. This is why she started The Dekadent Diva.
The Dekadent Diva is a world of indulgence, exploration, and creation of Nikki’s love of cooking, eating, and discovering new recipes and places for great food. Since the DD was created single handily by Kaapke, it offers a sense of intimacy and personable attributes; which is unlike any commercial company out there. Nikki shines being in her element, which is her love for food! Maintaining relationships with clients and fans, she models what The DD is and will continue to be in the future.
Ally Lullie: So to start, the actual idea for The Dekadent Diva, how did you come up with it?
Nikki Kaapke: The DD actually started as a blog, my personal blog. Following that was the website, then the cook book, then the line of DD aprons, and then our most recent trend, cupcakes. I love food and I love to cook. I like to go out to restaurants, try what they have, and then go home and try to replicate it. At the time, a friend of mine and his wife recently had a baby so he called me up to help him plan a surprise home-made dinner for her. I gave him step-by-step directions for making two appetizer choices, two entrees, two desserts, and a cocktail. I told him to call me if he had any questions along the way, but since the directions were simple, he had no trouble with it. This kind of gave me the idea to come up with my book of favorite recipes
AL: The name, The Dekadent Diva, is something that is very unique itself. How were you able to create the name and design of the cupcake logo?
NK: The name is trademarked which is a process in itself, but I wanted something memorable, catchy, and very much me. I liked the words fabulous or elegant and had come up with ideas like: “Kiss the Cook” or “Cooking with Kaapke”. I sent out e-mails to some of my closest friends with my ideas and they all agreed on Dekadent Diva. The spelling of the DD is a bit of a twist, my name is German and spelled with four K’s, so I decided to spell decadent with a K.
When it comes to the logo, logos are like your face, screaming what you want to represent. Logos like the Nike swoosh or the Pepsi yin-yang are so widely known that their names no longer need to be put with the logo, which is what I wanted to accomplish when finalizing the marketing image of The Dekadent Diva. I wanted something feminine, yet not girly. I wanted my logo to be man comfortable and relatable, meaning that a man wouldn’t feel the slightest bit uncomfortable walking around with a bag with a cupcake on it.
AL: We’ve talked a lot about your love for food and cooking, and your logo is a dead ringer for what you’re all about. But what else does the DD have to offer?
NK: It is more than just food, it’s a lifestyle. Yes, we do showcase my favorite recipes and pastries, but I like to think of it as combining the traditional lifestyle with the modern everyday woman. So, DD in a nutshell is combining the genre
AL: You have created this company filled with all the things you love. So what would you say is your favorite part about owning your own business?
NK: It’s my creation, my concept, my say; I have complete control over it. When it’s yours, it’s your baby, and it’s also your name. You have to make sure it’s something you want to be associated with, and if you happen to make a mess of it, you have to own up to it.
AL: So as a whole, how would you say the DD is unique or different from other catering businesses or bakeries in the city?
NK: Other companies can be very commercial or completely small/grass root based; the DD is both commercial and home-based. I have used some of my friend’s expertise to help me in the process of creating The DD. I take my time on choosing who I work with, making sure they’re credible and someone I want DD to be associated with. Many of the people I work with, especially the Darlings, are those close to me. For example, if I have a friend in advertising I’ll use their advertising abilities, put them on staff, and utilize their “know how” and experiences of trial and error. I am taking my time to let Dekadent grow as a company. Therefore, it won’t be around for 2 years, it will be around for 20 and beyond.
AL: You mentioned the Dekadent Darlings, which it just so happens that I stumbled upon The DD from my friend who is actually one of your Darlings. Who are these girls and what do they do for The DD?
NK: They are a group of very lovely girls (and dear friends for several years) who, along with myself, are the “face” of The DD. They make appearances, talk about The DD’s services, and are involved in philanthropy work close to my heart, especially those that are cancer related. One great thing that was really a success with the Darlings was a fan based contest called the “Darling of the Year” competition. For the competition, each girl was given their own Facebook page that they were responsible for managing and promoting themselves in order to get votes. The Darling with the most votes at the end of the contest wins. The response was incredible with over several hundred votes for the average Darling. It works because their friends and friends of friends will see it and wonder what it is, which leads them to checkout DD itself. It helps get the word out and word of mouth is a powerful thing.
AL: So you recently completed your first Dekadent Diva Cupcake Crawl. How did the idea for a cupcake crawl come about?
NK: Being a former Chicago realtor, I’m very familiar with the areas around the city. I am constantly telling friends, who come to visit Chicago, about where to
eat, shop, etc. So then I thought to myself with the Cupcake Crawl, why not take them to such places myself? And this is how the idea for the Cupcake Crawl came into play, being a “tour” of some of my favorite cupcake boutiques in Chicago. It ended up selling out in 3 hours!
AL: What does this Cupcake Crawl offer?
NK: We had 65 guests attend the cupcake crawl in all. We separated the guests in groups of ten, who were courted around on two beautiful mini charter buses that were provided by Windy City Limousine. Before even leaving our meeting place, the crawlers were given goodie bags filled with cupcakes from Chocolate Bark and a DD cupcake, which I baked myself. All Cupcake Crawlers also enjoyed sparkling champagne cocktails while we waited for all guests to arrive and check in. We stopped at some of my favorite cupcake boutiques, including Bleeding Heart Bakery, Swirls, Sweet Mandy B’s, Sprinkles, and Crumbs. All were a great blend of traditional “ma and pa” boutiques with commercial as well. Each bakery gave our crawlers between 1 to 4 cupcakes. All flavors were pre-picked by the bakery and I as a way to save time on the tour. We also had a personal photographer from 50 mm Photography, come along with us so that the crawlers and I could remember this event. My goal at the beginning was to have everyone leave really full, really happy, and having fun.
AL: This seems like a lot of work and coordinating for one person, what goes into planning an event like this?
NK: A lot! (Laughing) Luckily, I am the friend who likes planning all of the social events. So for me the first thing you have to think is where do I want to go for the crawl? What flavors do I like? How do I get the word out? I used social networking and word of mouth for a great majority with this event, along with my Twitter and Facebook pages both. Then there is the work and research of getting the tickets out and how will recipients make payments for them. I had to do research on transportation; I researched limos, buses, and trolleys. Then there is the marketing aspects, the brochures and the goodies bags. I started calling up bakeries that I enjoy going to and eventually some started calling me and offered to donate cupcakes.
AL: Coming from what seems like a “cupcake expert”, what do you have to say about the increasing popularity of cupcake boutiques popping up everywhere, especially in the city?
NK: You need to pay attention to pop culture, where to go for the best music, the best clothes, top bars, and restaurants. Cupcakes have been around for as long there has been cake, becoming very popular in the 40’s and 50’s with the “Leave it to Beaver” genre. Then when it came to the 80’s and 90’s, everyone became really health conscious and everything was low-carb, low-sodium, and so forth. Now, everything is about portion control and being more aware of the products that are going into things. This is one of the reasons why I’ve created “Frosting Fridays”. It’s the end of the week and it can be that one sweet “cheat” day on your diet, allowing you to go and eat a cupcake and not feel guilty. I think the cupcake trend will stay around for a long time. If it were to fade out, you wouldn’t have these companies involving themselves and investing so much. Would you ever think you could have a cupcake that is gluten free? No. These companies are finally realizing you have to cater to your customers. Cupcakes are here to stay and will just keep evolving.
NK: Well, I hope to keep expanding my brand and even own my own restaurant one day. A second Cupcake Crawl is planned for August 27th, and I’m currently in the middle of planning and promoting DD’s Launch Party-“An Evening of Dekadence”, which will be on June 11th. The event is being held at Soldier Field, a black tie event, with a red carpet entrance. Guests will view a fashion show premiering the DD Couture apron line, a book signing of the published cook book titled “The Dekadent Diva~Glamorous Cooking for the Simplest of Chefs”, introductions to the Darlings, silent auctions, and DD catering and cocktails throughout the night. Portions of the ticket sales will benefit the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, along with all funding from the silent auctions. It will be a great time, tickets are on sale, and I couldn’t be more excited to enjoy it all.
The DD Cupcake Crawl was definitely an event to remember. Dana and I haven’t been to most of these bakeries, so it was nice to visit them all in one morning! Some of the flavors were so unique, like Guiness and Baileys, champagne, banana nutella, red velvet, apple cobbler, and carrot cake. The cupcake Nikki made herself was made with pineapple rum, which was just as tasty if not more.
Even though Nikki has been on The Bachelor (season 13) and The Bachelor Pad, she didn’t need any publicity from either show to be successful, doing it all on her own. I hope you enjoyed meeting Nikki Kaapke as much as we did, and getting a taste of her world.