Weslaco had one sweet spot going for it during the slowdown and shutdown months in the spring and summer of 2020. Happiness Cupcakes never closed.
The city deemed it an essential business and the cupcake shop with an outdoor patio on Texas Boulevard stayed open. The close-to-the-nest residents of Weslaco and adjacent communities found solace in the array of cupcakes, pies, cakes and breads at the shop on Texas.
“It was the best summer we’ve ever had,” said Amy de la Pena Houston, the owner and chief baker. “The community has always been so good to us.”
Houston is an insurance adjuster-turned-baker who, in her second career, has found a true passion. She was living in McAllen early last decade during what she called “the cupcake craze” years on the cable food channels. Bakeries ran in her family. An aunt ran and owned La Perla bakery in Mercedes.
She began dabbling in some serious cupcake baking from her McAllen kitchen. The early reviews were good. Making cupcakes began to take over her kitchen.
“My husband said, ‘You need to start selling these things,'” Houston said.
Getting A Business Started
The start of Happiness Cupcakes began in October 2012 in Houston’s hometown of Weslaco. Her bake shop is a converted home with lots of windows on the southern edge of downtown. Step inside and a dazzling array of cupcakes, pies and cookies are on display in making quite a visual delight.
“People eat with their eyes,” Houston said. “Presentation is always big.”
Red velvet cupcakes with their white frosting crowns are the headliners and best sellers. Then there’s hummingbird cupcakes with a mix of banana, pineapple and pecan flavors. There are colorful varieties of other cupcakes with nuts, sprinkles, strawberries and coconut toppings.
Trays of pies sit adjacent to the vivid cupcake displays. Loaves of banana bread in wrapping are ready for sale. Houston heads to the back of her shop and bakers are at work as is a cake decorator. It’s the holiday season and customer traffic is brisk. Throughout it all, Houston keeps one core customer in mind and it’s one she knows well.
“It’s the working mom,” she said. “They’re on their way home, and they don’t have time, but they want something for dessert, so they stop by.”
What those moms will find is a bakery led by a business owner who took her own knowledge of baking, and then went to a pastry school to go beyond her techniques and recipes.
“I needed to learn more,” Houston said. “Baking on this scale requires math, precision and consistency.”
Houston’s own baking talents when augmented by further learning has led to a successful business in Weslaco. Business has grown steadily every year and she’s still having fun doing it.
“Oh God yes,” is her quick response when asked if baking is more fun than the insurance business. “I tell my husband that when it gets to be more work than fun, I’ll stop.”
It appears that will not be anytime soon.