Explore Seattle

Jennifer Shea's Guide to Seattle

We interview the Trophy Cupcakes owner about her Seattle loves and secrets

Jennifer Shea and her husband, Michael Williamson, founded their boutique cupcake bakery, Trophy Cupcakes and Party, in 2007. Jennifer is a life-long baker, winning 4H blue ribbons as a kid for her pumpkin rolls, and she recently published her first book, Cupcakes and Parties. Her dreamy, perfectly decadent cupcakes are made with only the finest ingredients, in flavors like red velvet, hummingbird, triple chocolate and triple coconut. We sat down with her to find out her favorite Seattle spots for eating, drinking, shopping and more.

Jennifer Shea
Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcake and Party (©Rina Jordan)

What is your fondest Seattle memory?

Meeting my husband at Chop Suey on Capitol Hill. Actually, we already knew each other, but hadn’t seen each other in about 10 years. I ran into him after a concert and knew at that moment he was “the one”! About a year later, and after hearing my wild dreams about opening a cupcake shop, he asked me to move in. Trophy opened 2 years after that.

Where do you like to eat out?

Wow, how many places can I name?! Seattle is full of extraordinary restaurants and I LOVE to eat out. Mamnoon, a Syrian restaurant on Capitol Hill, is my current favorite. The dishes are simple yet exotic, and the flavors are stunning: Try the Muhammara.  I also love Spinasse on Capitol Hill and The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard, which has the best oysters in the city! If that’s not enough, Tanakasan downtown is wonderful! Try the salted caramel chicken wings and the sake slush cocktails.

What Seattle landmark could you not live without?

Mount Rainer. It is ever present, monumental, and gorgeous. It reminds me to keep my feet deeply rooted in the Earth and my head in the stars.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Being on the Martha Stewart Show! It was a dream come true to bake cupcakes with Martha herself in New York (on live TV, I might add!). I’ve been reading her magazine and watching her shows my entire adult life, studying how to perfect “all things home making”…which has actually always been my thing. I won the Home Economics award in the 8th grade before I even knew who Martha was. To not only meet my idol, but to bake with her on her show, proved to me that anything is possible.

Do you have any plans you can share with us for the future of Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle?

We’re always dreaming up new flavors and more ways to bring happiness, magic and joy into our everyday lives. We are always cultivating wild plans … so stay tuned for what we have in store!

Do you have a favorite dessert?

I am a dessert fiend! I consider it research! I do not have a favorite type … sweet and delicious are all that matter. My two favorite Seattle desserts right now? The Joule Box at Joule in Wallingford. It’s a super light and tropical blend of tapioca, coconut and grapefruit. And The Amaretto Bread Pudding with Butter Rum Cream Sauce at Boat Street Kitchen. It's rich, decadent and just, wow.

Trophy Cupcakes
Trophy Cupcakes' Vanilla Vanilla (Courtesy Trophy Cupcakes and Party)

What makes a Trophy cupcake so special?

Joy! They’re filled with it! We may make delicious cupcakes, but that’s just half the story. Trophy cupcakes are really just a vehicle for joy … we want to bring 5 minutes of happiness into everyone’s day. Eating a cupcake is really a 5-minute party … celebrating the sunshine, the company of a friend or your kid’s first tooth. These sweet moments are all around us and we like to think we are helping people remember to enjoy them.

What is your favorite cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes?

My all time favorite is our classic Chocolate Vanilla cupcake. It’s the first cupcake recipe that I created (and worked hard to perfect) over 15 years ago. I learned through test after test that there’s nothing better than Valrhona cocoa from France in a chocolate cake and that you’ve got to splurge on really good butter and vanilla to make the very best buttercream.

Jennifer's Perfect Day

9 am: A Morning at Pike Place Market 

I love Le Pichet for breakfast.The simple French bistro fare and perfectly charming space is an inspiring way to start the morning. Pichet is also steps from Pike Place Market. Peruse the kaleidoscope of fresh local flowers, seafood and vegetable stands throughout the market, along with local crafts as far as the eye can see. Don’t miss the lower level shops (old school magic store, anyone?) and definitely stop into Rachel’s Ginger Beer for my favorite local refreshment.

Noon: Lunch in West Seattle via Ferry

Hop on the water taxi from the Seattle Waterfront to West Seattle and enjoy a super tasty lunch at Marination Ma Kai. Their view of the city cannot be beat and the kimchi fried rice is amazing! On a nice day, don’t miss the shave ice and a walk down Alki Beach.

3 pm: Shopping and Dinner in Ballard

Ballard Ave. NW is mecca for anyone who loves chic, quirky, local boutiques, restaurants and bars. I love exploring lovely little shops like Lucca, but never miss my all time favorite, Curtis Steiner. You’ll find a magically curated collection of antiques, found objects and little treasures along with Steiner’s hand made jewelry and cards. It’s like a fantastical museum where you can buy the displays. Tip: at 5 pm get your name on the wait list at The Walrus and the Carpenter if you want to eat around 7.  Stop into the adjacent bar, The Barnacle, for a pre-dinner cocktail.

9 pm: Dessert and Cocktails With a View

I love ending the night at The Art Lounge in the Four Seasons. The bar is cozy and chic and has great views of Elliot Bay, not to mention fabulous cocktails. There’s also a Fran’s chocolate shop right off of the lobby, so if you are addicted to their salted caramels like I am, you’ll be in heaven.