RANCHO CUCAMONGA - It's uncanny what a little Food Network treatment can do.
Sisters Christiana Grammer and Rebecca Ybarra, two real estate agents turned cupcake experts, knocked out their competition on a July episode of "Cupcake Wars," a cable reality series pitting purveyors of the miniature desserts against each other.
Since then, the Etiwanda High graduates have opened up shop at Victoria Gardens and are routinely approached by strangers who want their autographs.
Located in the mall's food court, Suite 106 Cupcakery typically sells eight varieties of cupcakes every day. This week, in addition to their usual double vanilla, double chocolate and red velvet, they also had banana foster - a banana cake topped
Rebecca Ybarra, left, and her sister, Christiana Grammer, set up a window display at their Victoria Gardens cupcake store in Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)
with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, drizzled with caramel rum sauce and topped with a homemade churro.
Unlike most bakeries, this one keeps long hours because it's part of Victoria Gardens. In the days leading up to Christmas, the shop will have 12-hour days.
"There's no sleep when it comes to cupcakes," said Ybarra, 31.
On a slow day, the sisters can sell 500 cupcakes, which typically go for $3.25 each. On a busy Sunday, however, 2,000 cupcakes will leave the premises.
How do they keep up with such a dizzying schedule?
"Our diet consists of Rock Star, Red Bull and cupcakes," Ybarra said. "It is making us delirious."
The sisters have been on a sugar high since the "Cupcake Wars" victory, which earned them $10,000.
Grammer, 33, a self-taught baker, likened her television debut to an out-of-body experience.
"I thought we were going home in the first round," she said.
The siblings stuck with it, though, beating out competitors who had more confidence and multiple brick- and-mortar stores. At the time, Suite 106 Cupcakery was a fledgling online startup, but according to the judges, the sisters had a certain je ne sais quoi that outshone the more-experienced bakers.
One competitor, after learning that the sisters were from quaint-sounding Rancho Cucamonga, told them, "We're not in Kansas anymore."
"We were scared," Grammer said.
In the end, they took home the grand prize, and they were ecstatic.
"Rebecca jumped on me," Grammer said.
"I did," Ybarra said. "I tackled her."
Since then, the cupcake duo has been on a tour, selling and donating their creations to community groups. Then they came across an opportunity to open at Victoria Gardens during the Christmas season. The two are now contemplating staying there permanently.
One enticing feature of their current location is the window front facing North Mainstreet. It allows shoppers to peek in to see the variety.
Their top seller is red velvet, which during the Christmas season can come with peppermint frosting and crushed candy canes.
"People freak out about it," Ybarra said.
One customer was willing to wait two hours for a red velvet cupcake. Another fan purchased the last one of the day and later sold it for $15.
There are plenty of other flavors, though, including pumpkin, chocolate candy cane and peanut butter and jelly.
Some flavors happen by accident. While satisfying a late-night craving, Grammer accidentally reached for the banana cinnamon cream cheese to spread on her pumpkin cake. It was an a-ha moment that became the tropical pumpkin cupcake, which was sold during the warmest days of a Southern California winter.
"We know that when you mess up, it's usually genius," Ybarra said.
There are also what the sisters jokingly call "iron cupcakes," creations with seemingly disparate flavors inspired by Iron Chef.
One apple cupcake is topped with an apple spiced buttercream and filled with pieces of apples poached in a balsamic vinegar reduction.
Another cupcake is made with vanilla batter and pieces of bourbon-soaked figs, topped with a vanilla frosting dusted with brown sugar. Hidden inside the cake is a chunk of cheesecake made with goat cheese.
It's no wonder that cupcake fans have developed into a cultlike following. The sisters communicate with their customers daily via Facebook and Twitter. They set aside about 25 cupcakes every day for followers who come to the store and whisper a secret word that's posted on the social media sites.
"One guy was asking at 5 a.m. on Facebook, `What's the secret word?' and I was like, `We don't open until 10 a.m.' "
Maybe that's just the kind of attention you get when Food Network is attached to your brand. Grammer and Ybarra are now flirting with plans to expand their business to Chicago, Miami and even Japan. It seems pretty clear that neither of them are in Kansas anymore.
The Food Network is also taping a documentary series that will feature Grammer and Ybarra.
A rerun of "Cupcake Wars" featuring Rancho Cucamonga's Suite 106 Cupcakery will air on the Food Network at 5 p.m. and 11p.m. today.