Local business owner serves up cupcakes for her community

Published 9:06 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2019

At 9 a.m., Shana Followell is already sporting a light dusting of powdered sugar. Although today is a time-out from her usual eight-to-five, in a couple of minutes her bakery will be filled with the “kings and queens of the kitchen,” a group of 5- and 6-year olds who are getting a crash course on cupcakes with the Boyle County Black and Gold Academy.

Shana Followell lets a bag of powdered sugar loose into a batch of buttercream frosting. (Photo by Chloe Games)

When she isn’t leading the odd cupcake-decorating class, Followell spends her time at Bluegrass and Buttercream decorating cakes and doing her best to keep the shop’s display case stocked with sea salt chocolate-chip cookies — no easy feat when they are hugely popular with her clients and her team. 

Followell kneads orange dye into marshmallow fondant as she explains the surprising way that a music-major wound up whipping up buttercream on North Third street. While her mother decorated cakes for much of her childhood, it wasn’t until Followell began to work with Pamela Birt at the Twisted Sifter that she found her calling in the world of confections.

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“I learned a lot from Pam about decorating. When her business closed, I started baking from home and coined myself Bluegrass and Buttercream.”

Followell credits chef Bill Hawkins at Stanford’s Bluebird Cafe as another mentor, and explains that her time at the restaurant prepared her well for the challenges of running her own business.  “I’ve worked in a fast-paced environment since I’ve been in the industry. We get really tired … but, generally speaking, it’s always worth it. We have a good reputation, and we like to keep that.”

Known beyond Main Street for her custom-order cakes, Followell’s Bluegrass and Buttercream has certainly established itself as a presence Danville in the two years that it has spent on North Third. Yet for Followell, it’s clear that the hours she puts in behind the counter are spent in pursuit of something beyond business. “Whenever we opened, it wasn’t because we wanted to be like, extremely wealthy and build this big cupcake empire. We knew that we were meant to be in downtown to leave a positive footprint on our community, and to be a business that does things a little bit differently.”

Students in Boyle County’s Black and Gold Academy watch as Followell whips up a batch of buttercream frosting. (Photo by Chloe Games)

Aiming for the little shop to have a big impact in Danville, Followell has several ministries operating out of the confectionery.

“Cupcake love” is her attempt to brighten up the years that throw just about everyone for a loop — middle school. Every middle-school student at Boyle County, Bate Middle, and Burgin schools can count on picking up two cupcakes, along with a hand-written card, at Bluegrass and Buttercream on their birthday.

“It’s really, really rewarding,” Followell says. “We’ve seen a lot of fruit from that. Middle school’s a hard age. … Having someone love on you that has no idea who you are makes a big difference in that middle school mindset.”

“Lunch on us” caters to Centre students, offering free lunches and friendship within walking distance of campus on Sundays.

Whether she’s working in the kitchen or the community, Followell’s work is formed by her community of faith’s outlook. “We just love on our community in a really radical way.”

When the shop fills up with students, sprinkles and smiles break out across the room.

For Followell, those smiles are the icing on the cake. “We don’t just send out cupcakes and cakes just for the fun of it,” she explains. “It’s to impact somebody’s day. That’s definitely why we’re here.”