Debra Underwood of Riverhead is taking her home baking business on the road.
She recently unveiled her truck, the Red Velvet Cupcakery, to serve up sweets across the East End.
Underwood said it’s been a “labor of love” to bring her vision to life in the converted Chevrolet P-20 truck, which she has been working to revamp for nearly four years with her childhood friend, Donna Bugdin.
“We actually reconnected at our 30th class reunion and, as we got to know each other again, I told her, ‘Don’t laugh at me, but I really want a cupcake truck. I want to drive around and sell cupcakes,’” Underwood said.
The women teamed up to transform the vehicle, which they joke resembled more of a SWAT van than a bakery truck when they purchased it. They installed a new engine, gave the truck a fresh paint job and applied graphics designed by Underwood’s daughter, Kristina, and printed by Wedel Signs in Riverhead.
Inside, the truck was gutted and fitted with new floors, walls, ceiling, waterproofing, refrigeration and a custom door and window to serve customers from.
Underwood has been a baker for more than 25 years, working in the bakery at Broadway Market in Rocky Point and as a cake decorator and recipe consultant for Tate’s Bake Shop. She launched her home baking business seven years ago after word spread about her delicious pastries among family and friends.
When COVID-19 struck, Underwood switched to an at-home delivery model with a rotating weekly menu called Red Velvet At Your Door. “My daughters put their heads together and said, ‘You know, you can still do this.’ We rebranded the name and I started delivering for free to people’s doors,” she said, adding that they wore masks and social distanced.
Underwood had been renting commissary space in Mattituck, but recently renovated her home to include commercial kitchen space, helping her centralize operations. She sees the truck as an expansion of the delivery service and now has the capability to do private events like graduation, birthday parties, bridal showers and weddings as well as special pop ups at local businesses.
On Mother’s Day, for example, she held a pop up at Long Ireland Brewery in Riverhead — and made sure to prepare a batch of home-baked dog treats for the dog-friendly spot.
You can expect to find a core menu of five items that will typically include a cookie, cupcake, brownie and specialty treat. Contrary to the name, the confections aren’t limited to just red velvet, though Underwood takes a lot of pride in her recipe.
“There’s a lot of red velvet cake haters out there,” she said. But she’s eager to change their minds. “I spent two years experimenting with a red velvet cake recipe until it was perfect.”
The truck will also feature Hampton Coffee and ice cream sandwiches made with both chocolate chip and red velvet cookies and ice cream made by her brother-in-law, Tony Meras of Star Confectionery in Riverhead.
The retro truck is now available for bookings and Underwood said she’s glad to finally be mobile.
“Even though something takes me hours and hours, as soon as someone takes a bite … it just makes people happy,” she said. “Cupcakes make people happy no matter what.”