Cupcakes certainly serve a purpose, but rarely do they get to do more than satisfy a sweet tooth.
During the week of March 26, local bakeries lent their cupcake-making skills for the Great Purple Cupcake Project to bring about awareness of epilepsy - the neurological disorder that affects more than 3 million people nationwide.
"I'm always looking for something … to get the word out," said Jamie Savva, retail bakery manager of Luscious and Sweet Gourmet Bakery in Galloway Township. "Cupcakes can't always do that."
Add a little purple food dye, and the cupcakes became a platform for discussion.
"I definitely (saw) a positive response to it," Savva said.
The Galloway bakery, along with Egg Harbor City's Simply Sweet Cupcakes, sold purple-themed cupcakes last week to coincide with Purple Day - the international effort created in 2008 to shed light on the disorder.
"We weren't too familiar about it," said Jacquelin Ciaburri, who co-owns Simply Sweet with her sister-in-law, Gina. "We were eager to jump into it. … We are always looking for a great cause to help with."
The Philadelphia Avenue shop displayed a $6 purple cupcake, adorned with a stiletto shoe on top, as well as assorted $3 cupcakes, dyed purple and topped with purple glitter, in order to get the attention of its customers.
The Galloway bakery tried to keep its selections as crowd pleasing as possible, putting a lavender twist on its traditional vanilla treat for $3.25, as well a smaller $2 version, decorated with spring flowers.
Depending on the amount sold, a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the Anita Kaufmann Foundation, the global sponsor for Purple Day. By Friday evening, Luscious and Sweet made almost $100 in sales and would be donating the proceeds in full. Simply Sweet Cupcakes estimated it would sell about 150 cupcakes and plans to donate more than 10 percent of the total proceeds.
"It's great to really bring this to the forefront," Ciaburri said.
But the shop owners did not come up with the idea to spread the word on their own. A 22-year-old Mays Landing native encouraged them to bake for a cause.
In February, Caitlin Kaspar, a student at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township, signed up to be a South Jersey Ambassador for Purple Day. After watching her younger sister, Ashlee, 19, struggle with the disorder, which causes frequent seizures, she felt compelled to make a difference.
This year, her older sister, Melanie, 39, received a diagnosis of breast cancer - sparking an even greater desire to make a change.
"I realized how much (Melanie) was supported in a community throughout the United States," Kaspar said. "You know pink means breast cancer. … If you see purple, you have no idea what that means, what that ribbon stands for."
Kaspar hopes to make purple as prevalent as pink, even if it may never help her sister directly.
"If it can help others like her, then I know I made some sort of difference," she said.
As the mission becomes her lifelong goal, the local bakeries plan to help her annually.
"It was kind of a no-brainer," Savva said about getting involved, agreeing to take on the project again next year.
"I'm happy to make this an annual thing for us," Ciaburri said.
Contact Caitlin Honan: