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Bubblecake is a Sweet-Tooth’s Delight

A case full of treats awaits customers at Bubblecake.

It’s sort of ironic that Lisa Rusk’s parents, Marilyn and Harvey Diamond, wrote a best-selling diet and lifestyle book in the 1980’s, “Fit for Life,” which espouses practices to lose weight that some found controversial. The multi-million seller is a far cry from daughter Lisa’s entrepreneurial endeavor; “Bubblecake” is the gourmet cupcake shop she and her husband Rob Rusk have opened in Roanoke to an already burgeoning clientele.

With the main shop and bakery located at 2123 Crystal Spring Avenue (alongside Fork in the Alley) and a smaller outlet at 16-A Kirk Avenue downtown, the fare at Bubblecake suggests leaving your copy of “Fit for Life” at home.

The tempting, eye-pleasing cupcakes are topped to overload with icing and edible decorations. Many varieties are offered, including tiramisu, black & white (“molten cake and vanilla bean icing” reads the description), banana cream pie (“runaway hit of the season”) and PBC – peanut butter chocolate.

By her own account, Lisa Rusk is a hands-on “type A” personality; she is responsible for introducing the unique flavors. Rob gets involved more on the baking side, as do the several pastry chefs they’ve hired.  “[We’ve] set very high standards,” said Rusk, who is constantly thinking of ways to improve the product, to “make them better today.” “Business has been good for Bubblecake so far,” said Lisa, with 500-1500 sold a day (both locations combined.)

Standard Bubblecakes run about $3.00 with tax, while “Babycakes” are a bit less. At Crystal Spring there’s space inside and out to enjoy coffee, tea and a cupcake, with several rooms available soon for parties, offsite meetings and children’s crafts.

The Rusks met when both worked in the food industry; Rob Rusk earned a culinary degree while Lisa Rusk used to be a food writer and pastry chef. “I always had some job in pastry,” said Rusk, who lived in South Beach, Miami before moving to Washington DC to work in a restaurant operations role. The couple came to Roanoke about eight years ago.  Bubblecake opened last summer after she had looked for the right opportunity. Rusk said niche cupcake shops have worked in bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles. “Ice cream stores are a niche business – why not cupcakes,” reasons Rusk.

After waiting for several years for the space to open up beside Fork in the Alley, (owned by Dave Trinkle) they took the plunge. Trinkle, also a Roanoke City councilman, was looking for a sweet shop of some sort to complement his restaurant. “The combination of the name, location and product, has made them successful so far” said Rusk. Word of mouth, Twitter and a Facebook page with 7000 members have helped build the clientele base.

People keep coming back – even from far out of town sometimes said Lusk – because they change it up daily. “It’s a feel-good product — and it’s fun.” A lot of people “don’t understand a store based around cupcakes at first,” she notes, but they often return after first taking a quick look around.  “People always want sweets,” adds Rusk.

A case full of tantalizing cupcakes may have something to do with that.  More and more businesses are also ordering Bubblecakes for office parties; baby showers and other special occasions provide additional opportunities for the Rusks, who juggle two small children at home with their business.

The smaller Kirk Avenue shop serves as “great advertising,” for the main store on Crystal Spring said Rusk. Locals bring out of town guests to Bubblecake after viewing the sites, and other tourists find their way to the stores. Go figure: after Roanoke and Salem, the Rusk’s research shows that the next highest number of patrons to date have come from places like Richmond and Waynesboro.

“People are coming in from all over the place,” said Rusk, who can’t really say why Bubblecake has gotten off to such a strong start; “it’s a combination of factors … and the stars I guess.”

(See for more information or call 343-cake.)

By Gene Marrano
[email protected]

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