Cupcake Battle: UTPA alums first Texas team to win championship title
Posted: 06/21/2012
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UPDATE: UTPA alums and sisters Erica and Sabrina Rodriguez were crowned the "Cupcake Wars" champions on Sunday, June 24. They are the first Texas team to win the title. The Broncs won the $10,000 prize and got the opportunity to showcase their cupcakes at the Hollywood Black Film Festival.

Sugar and spice sure does make everything nice for three UT Pan American alumni, who own one of the hottest cupcake shops in the Rio Grande Valley - the RGV Cupcake Factory.

Meet the cupcake divas of the RGV Cupcake Factory, who are also proud UTPA Broncs. Pictured left to right are Johanna Saenz (BS '08, MS '11), Erica Rodriguez (BS '02, MS '04) and Sabrina Rodriguez (BS '06).
Sisters Sabrina (BS '06) and Erica (BS '02, MS '04) Rodriguez and best friend Johanna Saenz (BS '08, MS '11), decided to take a chance and go into business together baking some of the sweetest and most original cupcakes in town named after a few celebrities you may recognize. There's the Betty White, a vanilla bean cupcake with buttercream frosting and white chocolate shavings; the Kim Kardashian, a chocolate cupcake filled with cream cheese, topped with cream cheese frosting, a red heart and chocolate drizzle; and yes, even Oprah has a cupcake named after her. Talk about yummy in the tummy; there are more than 20 flavors to choose from.

"It's been going really well for us. It has been very busy and it just keeps getting busier and busier," Sabrina Rodriguez said.

This June, the trio celebrates a year of being in business. Their storefront opened in McAllen, Texas, located at 1414 North 10th Street, on June 18, 2011, and since then the ride has been pretty sweet for the UTPA graduates, who will appear on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars. In Cupcake Wars four of the country's top cupcake bakers vie for a $10,000 prize in three tough elimination challenges until there is only one team left standing. The teams are judged by the queen of cupcakes Candace Nelson, owner of famous Sprinkles Cupcakes, and acclaimed pastry chef Florian Bellanger, chef and co-owner of MadMac, an online macaroon company.

"Every single day was just intense," said Sabrina, who spent a week in California with Erica prepping for the big production. "It was a tough show to be on."

Take a look at the tasty treats the RGV Cupcake Factory create every day. On the top tier you will find the Hugh Hefner cupcake, the second tier includes the Brad Pitt (left) and Betty White (right) cupcakes, and the bottom tier features the Nutty Professor (left) and Kim Kardashian (right).

She described their Cupcake War experience like walking into a war zone.

"People just think it's a little one-hour cupcake show, but it's not, it's very demanding from start to finish," she said. "You really have to be strong (able to take criticism) and have a fast working body and mind because it's really hard."

On a daily basis the ladies not only work with flour and sugar, they also manage to continue working in the area of pediatric and adult rehab as speech pathologists. All three earned their degrees in communication sciences and disorders from UTPA's College of Health Sciences and Human Services. The Rodriguez sisters currently own Rise N Shine Therapy, LLC in Mission, Texas where they work daily with clients while Saenz works in the home health industry with adults.

Even though they work from 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. in rehab services, before the day is done all visit their cupcake shop to help clean up and tally the day's sales. You can find all three at the bakery on weekends baking up their delicious creations with the Rodriguez sisters doing the baking and Saenz providing her decorating skills on the cupcake tops.

During the week, Sabrina estimates they bake more than 1,000 cupcakes a day and usually sell out before 5 p.m. Weekends are the busiest as the threesome works extra hard to fill orders that range from 50 to 500 cupcakes. They also have to stock their shop with these tasty delights for their customers, which is too many to count, she said.

The trio are grateful for the support their shop has received from the community, which has more than 2,000 followers on their Facebook page. Rodriguez said plans are in the works for a second location in the Valley. Not sure where, but they know it's time to expand, she said.

The natives of Donna, Texas said they are always looking to create new flavors and they love to hear the customer's ideas on fun and crazy concoctions. As for a cupcake named after their alma mater, Rodriguez said there is not a UTPA cupcake on the menu yet, but it's a great idea to consider.

Hopefully our Broncs take the crown, but we have to wait to watch the episode as the ladies are sworn to secrecy. Tune in on June 24, 7 p.m., to find out if these cupcake divas bring home the grand prize.

To connect with the RGV Cupcake Factory, "like" them on Facebook.