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Driving in style

Emma Merisier knows what it means to “follow your bliss.” In her case, that bliss happens to be topped with raspberry buttercream. Merisier is the baker and the brains behind Charlotte’s “mobile cupcakery,” SouthernCakeQueen (SCQ). Painted a pretty, pale pink, Merisier’s cupcake truck can be found at various locations in the city like the Chow Down Uptown food truck rally, the Huntersville Farmer’s Market and Price’s Chicken Coop. In 2002, Merisier, who works as a beneficiary relationship manager for TIAA-CREF in UCity, decided to follow her childhood passion for baking and take a cake decorating class at a local craft store. She had always made cakes for family and friends, but her “aha! moment” was when a friend told her that her cakes were delicious enough that she could get paid for them. Merisier began experimenting with different recipes and designs in her home kitchen and founded SouthernCakeQueen, LLC in September 2008. In addition to cupcakes, Merisier also makes traditional round and square cakes, pound cakes, brownies, cookies, pies and biscuits. SCQ became a mobile dessert service in February 2011 as the truck made its debut in NoDa. Merisier says it was difficult in the beginning because Charlotte has so many restrictions on food trucks.Indeed, city ordinances were tightened in 2008. Mobile food vendors must stay 400 feet away from residential property and from each other, can’t stay in any spot longer than three months and can’t operate after 9 p.m. In cities such as Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Tenn., Seattle and Durham, food trucks are a major trend. In Durham, food truck owners say the city has created a welcoming environment. In Seattle, food trucks were recently allowed to set up on city streets, instead of on private lots alone. Charlotte Center City Partners is beginning to capitalize on this phenomenon with its Chow Down Uptown food truck festival, held on Thursday evenings from 5-9 p.m. on East Seventh Street next to Dixie’s Tavern. Merisier credits the support of Price’s Chicken Coop for helping spread the word and the other Charlotte food trucks at Chow Down Uptown for being like an extended family. She says she likes the mobile aspect of her business because she wanted something to set her apart from other bakeries and because she wanted to set a trend. It took four months to get the truck up and running, including getting the pink paint job. Merisier says shades of red are her favorite color, so she chose pink and hot pink because she knew it would help her truck stand out. Each cupcake comes in a zebra print liner to highlight her self-described “chic and sassy” personality. Flavors that can be found on SCQ’s truck include her favorite, SCQ Signature Strawberry (strawberry cake with fresh strawberries topped with pink vanilla buttercream), Willow (banana cake with vanilla buttercream drizzled with caramel and topped with a banana chip), Summer Bliss (lemon cake with raspberry buttercream), Keylime Coconut (light coconut cake with key lime icing), Lemon Drop (lemon cake with lemon buttercream), 14 Karat (carrot cake with shredded carrots and crushed pineapple, topped with cream cheese icing) and customer favorite Crimson & Crème (red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting). Prices are $3 per cupcake. Customers can also buy five cupcakes and get one free for $15, or buy 10 and get two free for $30. Merisier is even able to take credit cards at the truck and can email or text receipts to the customers.The cupcakes are beautiful to look at, but Merisier’s treats also taste delicious. The SCQ Signature Strawberry is moist and bursting with strawberry flavor and the raspberry buttercream on the Summer Bliss tastes just like a bowl full of juicy berries. Merisier notes that all of her products are made with fresh ingredients. She rotates the flavors, but some, like Crimson & Crème, Willow, Lemon Drop and SCQ Signature Strawberry, make it in every week because they are so popular with folks.SCQ also caters private parties and special events; the customer can choose the cupcake flavors and the truck will pull up fully stocked with the option of individual containers for each guest and a special personalized label. In the future, Merisier would like to have a commercial kitchen space, but says the “jury is still out” on whether she’ll open a brick-and-mortar store someday. Her favorite part of running her business is giving her clients “a little piece of heaven.”Following your bliss never tasted so good.

To find out where SCQ will be and what flavors are available, go to follow Merisier on Twitter (@southerncake) or find “SouthernCake Queen” on Facebook.