Photos by: Abby Neff // Video by: Nathan Blackburn

Tara Hupp has her blonde and blue hair tied up, talking with other bakers as she works to complete a small chocolate cake with strawberry filling in the back of her bakery. To her left, the youngest member of the team, her 8-month-old son Dax, sits in his bouncer seat smiling behind a pacifier. Her duo of bakers take the time to spray silver pans with Pam, preparing the oven to house raw, doughy treats. 

Tara Hupp stands with a confection in progress.

Pure Love’s variety of pastries ranges from super-size donuts to “adult conversation cookies” iced with mature humor. One such icing inscription is, “some days, I want to push you in front of a bus.” Quite the opposite demeanor from Hupp’s warm and inviting attitude, inspired in part from “Ace of Cakes” star Duff Goldman.  

“He’s my idol,” Hupp says. “I absolutely love him, I love his personality. He’s just very easy going. His work, that’s my goal.”  

Chocolate chip cookies are the most consistent sellers and seasonal items tend to be popular, such as pumpkin bars and maple bacon donuts. Hupp wants to introduce gluten free options next, with time. Pure Love’s Facebook presence helps customers see what is on the menu for the day and people will come into the bakery just to taste Hupp’s creations for themselves.  

Pure Love houses several different types of sweet treats, including cookies with spicy messages adorned in icing.

As she leans over to show Facebook posts that have gotten a lot of reactions, the bakers laugh and Dax giggles. Hupp looks over to them with a warm smile that reaches her eyes, before putting her phone back in her pocket, washing her hands and returning to her strawberry chocolate cake.  

Hupp started baking 14 years ago from her home. She discovered she had a flair for creativity and decided to turn the part-time hobby into a full-time job. In 2021, she decided to open her own bakery. One question remained: Where?  

“Byesville has so much potential,” Hupp says. “We had to find a building that would actually work and unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of buildings in Byesville, so you have kind of a limited pick.”   

January 2023 will mark two years since Pure Love’s opening and the expansion of the town has made Hupp feel more confident in her own business.   

Thinking of starting a small business of your own? Hupp advises finding the small business association in your area, as they will help you with paperwork, pricing and anything else you need to succeed.  

“When you do get started, don’t let your struggles be your downfall,” Hupp says. “You’re going to have your downs, right? Everybody does. But you have to grow. The ups will outweigh your downs.”   

Her staff takes care of the baking so Hupp can focus on the decorating. Hupp continuously takes on the most creative cakes she can curate. A multi-layer cake held up only with toothpicks? Not a problem; Hupp is up for the challenge. As long as it is not a standard sheet cake, Hupp will take on what other decorators may keep only as ideas.  

“I’m willing to try anything,” Hupp says.  

“There’s so many things you can do,” Hupp says. “It may frustrate me the entire process, but when I’m down to the end and I see it all, it turns out awesome.” Hupp tells a story about a time a former employee came with their little daughter. The daughter asked what she was doing and Hupp said, “I’m fighting a cake. It’s winning.”   

Scooby Doo sits at the front entrance of Pure Love Bakery. In lieu of Scooby Snax, cupcakes topped with dog treats surround him.

Hupp has been able to maintain a first name basis with her loyal customer base; some even come in daily to survey the new additions in the glass cases.  

“I definitely want them to walk in, whether it’s your first time or your 50th time, I want you to feel like you belong here,” Hupp says. “Kinda like it’s a home. We’re not going to rush you.”  

Hupp finishes pressing together the chocolate cake as a chime echoes through the bakery, signaling a customer. She takes off her gloves, wipes her hands on her apron and walks to the front, all while calling out in a kind, southeastern twang: “Hi, what can I do for you today?”   

Pure Love Bakery peanut butter cupcakes.

Make your own Pure Love Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes 

To make this tasty treat, you will need: chocolate cake mix, Reese’s peanut butter cups, buttercream icing and peanut butter.  

Here’s a step by step guide for the cupcakes:  

1. Follow directions on the box for cupcakes.  

2. Coat peanut butter cups in a bowl of flour. This coating helps keep them from sinking.  

3. Shake off excess flour from peanut butter cups. Place peanut butter cups in the center of cupcakes. Push the peanut butter cups about half way in. Do not push all the way down.   

4. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Poke center with toothpick. Make sure the toothpick comes out clean.    

5. Let cool.  

For the icing, here are the directions:  

You will need: ½ cup room temperature unsalted butter, two cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, one and a half teaspoons pure vanilla extract, two tablespoons milk and three drops of food coloring.  

  1. Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy.   
  1. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla extract.  
  1. Add milk and beat for an additional 3 to 4 minutes until smooth. Make sure to add milk one tbsp at a time, you do not want the icing to be too thin.  
  1. Add creamy peanut butter to buttercream icing until flavor is to your liking. Add more milk if the icing becomes too thick.  
  1. Using a spoon or decorator bag, ice cupcakes with peanut butter icing. Top with a peanut butter cup.  
  1. Eat and enjoy!