Back when cupcakes were the latest food trend and the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars aired in 2009, Tracy Santa Cruz and Tracey Nahrwold decided to get in on the cupcake action.
Santa Cruz started dessert food truck Pin-Up Pastries in 2010.
“Cupcakes were huge at the time,” Santa Cruz said. “Everywhere you went, there was a cupcake.”
Although the cupcake craze has died down a bit, Pin-Up Pastries certainly hasn’t.
Santa Cruz doesn’t consider herself a professional baker, but she’s self-taught and has baked all her life. Focusing the food truck on desserts, rather than something like burgers or hot dogs, was something she knew how to do.
“But it was a total whim,” Santa Cruz said. “Someone I knew in Phoenix had a barbecue truck, so I thought that I could do it, too.”
“You can’t think about it too much or you’ll never do it,” Nahrwold said. “If you think about it too much, you’ll talk yourself out of it.”
Days at Pin-Up Pastries start early. Baking, production, events, loading and unloading, and cleaning the trailer are done daily.
Among the many items found on the Pin-Up Pastries food truck, guests can expect to see assorted flavors of whoopie pies and cupcakes, Jack Daniel’s cheesecake bites, brownies, oatmeal cream pies, and lemon raspberry squares.
But the Pin-Up Pastries menu changes frequently. Sometimes guests will find root beer floats, raspados, banana pudding, tres leches cake, cake pops, and many other tasty options.
“Cupcakes are our number one seller,” Santa Cruz said. “They bring people back to their childhood. We have so many comfort desserts—banana pudding, oatmeal cream pies.”
Nahrwold added that many of their desserts are retro, such as the whoopie pies.
“We change the menu constantly,” Nahrwold said. “We add and subtract things all the time to keep people coming back. Some people stop by the truck several times a week to see the different desserts we have or to order their favorites. We have a very loyal following.”
“People relate to what we’re doing,” Nahrwold said. “Our items are simple, but we try to do twists on them. It’s easy to make a brownie, but there’s something about our brownies that are bringing people back.” Instead of your average brownie, Pin-Up Pastries offers an assortment of flavors such as Mexican chocolate and Oreo.
Nahrwold noted that the duo researches food trends often. “We went through the booze phase, the bacon phase. We try to find something cool that our customers relate to, but that we relate to, too.”
Among their personal favorites, Santa Cruz loves their tres leches cake, mocha almond whoopie pie, and creme brûlée.
Nahrwold’s favorite is the chocolate salted caramel cupcake. “But I’m the test dummy, so I get to try everything,” she said.
By the end of the year, Santa Cruz and Nahrwold are thinking of adding savory items to the menu and are even considering the opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar location in the future.
In their spare time, Santa Cruz and Nahrwold are on a competition barbecue team, FORK U BBQ—the only female duo in the game.
The pink trailer pulled by their matching pink Toyota FJ Cruiser can be found at all kinds of local events. Follow Pin-Up Pastries on Facebook to find out where they’ll be next, or visit their website for special orders and catering for your own event.
Dessert in the Desert is a series highlighting desserts in Tucson. The main courses at restaurants get all the rage, as they should, but what about desserts? They deserve a spotlight, too.