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'Cupcake Girl' gets sweet surprise – a new, commercial kitchen

'Cupcake Girl' gets sweet surprise – a new, commercial kitchen

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TROY, ILL. • Chloe Stirling could not have known it at the time, but a Madison County Health Department decision that shut down sales of her homemade cupcakes last month would turn out to be a sweet twist of fate.

Chloe, 11, also known as “Cupcake Girl,” received surprise news Thursday that a commercial-grade kitchen — complete with appliances — would be built onto her family’s home here, courtesy of a local company and a television talk and cooking show.

The surprise was announced Thursday morning in front of the student body at Triad Middle School, outside Troy, where Chloe is a sixth-grader.

Upon hearing the news, Chloe thanked everyone and said, “It’s been really crazy, but it’s been really fun.”

Officials, citing health concerns, closed down Chloe’s business on Jan. 27, telling the Stirling family that it needed a kitchen separate from the one in their home.

Amy Yeager, a health department spokeswoman, said at the time, “The rules are the rules. It’s for the protection of the public health.”

Before that, Chloe’s business, “Hey Cupcake!,” had been earning about $200 a month.

She often got creative with her confections, making them in such shapes as high heels, Christmas trees and soccer balls.

But the family could not afford to meet the county’s requirements and had decided to close up shop.

Chloe’s plight gained national attention, including that of the producers of the “Rachael Ray” show in New York City, who had Chloe and her parents as guests for a program taped Monday and aired Thursday. Chloe and her parents watched the show with the student body on large-screen TVs in the school gym.

She was told Monday that the producers were donating state-of-the-art appliances, including a refrigerator, oven/range, double-wall oven with microwave and exhaust hood, valued at over $10,000.

Today, Jason Spengler, head of the Spengler Co., told Chloe at the school that his firm and its suppliers would provide materials and labor for the project. Spengler is a plumbing, heating and cooling business in O’Fallon, Ill.

Chloe’s father, Ched Stirling, 38, works as a plumber at Spengler.

Spengler Co. also donated $500 to Triad Middle School to salute students there who created and sold hundreds of “Hey Cupcake” T-shirts in support of Chloe. Many of the school staff sported the shirts at Thursday’s assembly.

Chloe’s mother, Heather Stirling, a real estate agent, said the prospect of two kitchens in a four-bedroom house was a “pleasant dilemma.”

“This has all been so fast and furious that I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Heather Stirling, 36. Spengler said a cost estimate for the project was not yet available, but that the job would cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

He told Chloe she could plan to begin baking treats in in the new space by the start of summer break.

Chloe already has plans for the money she expects to make. She said, “I’m saving for a car.”

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Paul Hampel is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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