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On the job

Sculpting art out of flour and frosting

Adie Sprague says she always pictured herself as a baker, creating sculptures out of batter at art school.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Adie Sprague says she always pictured herself as a baker, creating sculptures out of batter at art school.

While most artists are inspired by a blank canvas, Adie Sprague’s “mixed media of choice” are frosting and batter. As head baker of Treat Cupcake Bar in Needham, she applies her degree in studio art and sculpture to cupcakes.

“There are endless combinations of options, and cupcakes are a delicious art form both in taste and appearance,” said Sprague, 27, who also serves as Treat’s general manager.

There are reports that the cupcake craze is over. What’s your take on this?

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There may be cities that are saturated with cupcake shops, but in Boston, there’s still plenty of enthusiasm for cupcakes to go around. Cupcakes are an indulgence, a low-priced luxury.

What goes into making a good cupcake?

We’re baking 700 to 1,000 a day, with 15 to 20 different flavors. It’s important to not cut corners; our butter bill is the biggest expense we have — butter is expensive, but that’s what it takes to make a good cupcake.

What do you think of off-the-wall flavors, such as bacon-flavored cupcakes?

While some cupcake brands offer savory cupcakes that feature flavors like bacon or cheese, we specialize in sweet treats. One of our funkier flavors was a spicy and sweet chai tea cupcake; we also did a faux sandwich cupcake — Fluffernutter topped with peanut butter frosting.

What’s the biggest challenging in satisfying a wide-range of possible dietary restrictions?

The biggest challenge in developing vegan and/or gluten-free cupcakes is making a delicious gourmet product without it being too expensive. Ingredients for these cupcakes are more costly, but we want them to be similarly priced as our other flavors.

How did you get started in baking?

I always pictured myself as a baker and did a lot of side jobs while going to school. For one sculpture assignment, the professor asked students to take any part of the body and use any medium to make the mold. While everyone else used clay or plaster, I used brownie batter.

What’s the most fun you’ve had with a cupcake?

One custom order was making a Mr. Potato Head out of all-edible material. The cupcake was the same exact size as a Mr. Potato Head, while white chocolate pieces were the arms and accessories. An interactive toy but edible.

Is there any innovation you’d like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it?

Cupcakes are such a delicate product. I wish there was a way to make them easier to transport and ship. It would be great to make them bottom heavy as opposed to top heavy, but you can’t change physics.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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