Making it in Germany: a purveyor of delightful Yankee desserts

The Local's series "Making it in Germany" presents Dawn Nelson, an American entrepreneur bringing quality cupcakes to Berlin.

Making it in Germany: a purveyor of delightful Yankee desserts
Photo: Dawn Nelson and her partner Daniel Bader

Behold the cupcake: tiny, sweet, and impeccably decorated. This adorably yummy dessert classic has recently become a full-fledged foodie craze in the United States, presenting Dawn Nelson with the perfect opportunity to get Berliners hooked on them too. The Local spoke to her about opening up the German capital’s first cupcake shop.


Dawn Nelson



Where do you live?


Where are you from originally?

I was born in Florida and lived there most of my life. I moved to Philly when I was in my mid-twenties and lived there for five years before moving to Berlin.

What did you do before coming to Germany?

I was a makeup artist with MAC Cosmetics and also a bartender for a variety of different concert venues.

What brought you to Germany and when did you come?

I originally backpacked through Berlin back in 2004 for the first time. I always said that one day I wanted to move here! In April of 2006 I finally made the move to Berlin following a divorce. I really needed a change in scenery and lifestyle, so I figured what better time to go.

What was your first job in Germany?

My first job in Berlin was opening the Cupcake shop! I took a year off of work to research and plan out the steps on what I needed to do to make the idea a reality.

How did you go about setting up your shop?

The idea for the concept of Cupcake started out when my best friend and I were vacationing in Prague. We were having lunch at a café and I was pondering what I wanted to do for work in Berlin, since good-paying jobs were hard to come by. She said “You love to bake and cook for other people, so why don’t you open a cupcake shop!” Then the light bulb went off. When we got back to Berlin I started researching the idea and realised that there wasn’t a cupcake shop in Berlin (or even Germany at the time!). Finally, a year later, we officially opened Berlin’s first cupcake shop!

Could you describe your current job?

Oh, where to start? I basically do everything and anything I need to do to make my business run smoothly… baking the cupcakes, doing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the shop, organizing menus, advertising, creating merchandise, shopping, ordering supplies, taxes, paperwork, and just about any other little thing that pops up in between!

What were the biggest challenges you faced? How did you deal with them?

Every day we experience new and difficult challenges. I think the hardest thing about opening and running a business in Germany are all the offices that you need to deal with. We take each problem step-by-step and figure it out.

What’s your best advice for ‘making it’ here?

I think that Berlin is one of those cities where you can really invent yourself. It’s important to be original and not follow others. Do what you love and find something you’re good at, then pursue it!

What’s the biggest difference about working in Germany?

For me, I guess it’s the bureaucracy here and all the offices, rules and regulations that go along with it.

What’s the best thing about your line of work?

Meeting new and interesting people from all over the world. Our shop is a magnet for tourists and travelers from abroad. It’s really cool that we get people from Spain or Brazil who have heard about our cupcakes and searched us out specifically!

What’s the hardest part about living in Germany?

I can’t complain really about Germany specifically. I think for me the worst thing is that I work too much. There isn’t much that I miss except certain foods, which I try to make myself.

How’s your German? Do you speak it at work?

I definitely need to learn more! I am so busy in the kitchen that I don’t have a lot of free time to learn now. I do speak German at work to the customers, but mainly I find myself speaking English at home with my boyfriend, who is also my business partner.

Do you have a ‘making it’ story? Let us know: [email protected]

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What we know so far about Berlin’s follow-up to the €9 ticket

After weeks of debate, Berlin has settled on a new budget ticket to replace the €9 ticket for a limited time. Here's what know about the travel deal so far.

What we know so far about Berlin's follow-up to the €9 ticket

So Berlin’s getting a new €9 ticket? Cool!

Kind of. Last Thursday, the Berlin Senate agreed to implement a €29 monthly ticket from October 1st until December 31st this year. 

It’s designed to bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket deal and the introduction of a new national transport deal that’s due to come into force by January 2023.

The Senate still hasn’t fleshed out the details in a written decision yet, so some aspects of the ticket aren’t clear, but we do know a few things about how it’ll work. For €29 a month, people can get unlimited travel on all modes of public transport in Berlin transport zones A and B. That means buses, trains and trams are all covered – but things like taxis aren’t. 

Wait – just zones A and B. Why’s that?

One of the sticking points in planning the new ticket was the fact that neighbouring state Brandenburg was reluctant to support the idea. Franziska Giffey (SPD), the governing mayor of Berlin, had annoyed her neighbours and surprised her own coalition partners by suddenly pitching the idea at the end of August – shortly before the €9 ticket was due to expire.

At the time, the disgruntled Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke (SPD) complained about the lack of advance notice for a proper debate. He had previously ruled out a successor to the €9 ticket in the state. Meanwhile, the CDU – who are part of the governing coalition in Brandenburg – slammed the idea for a new cheap ticket as a “waste of money” and an attempt to “buy votes” for the SPD.

The blockade meant that plans for a Berlin-Brandenburg ticket run by transport operator VBB had to be scrapped, and the monthly ticket has instead been restricted to the two transport zones solely operated by Berlin’s BVG. Since zone C stretches into Brandenburg, Berlin couldn’t include this zone in the ticket unilaterally. 

Berlin transport zones explained

Source: S-Bahn Berlin

The good news is that zones A and B cover everything within the city’s borders, taking you as far as Spandau in the west and Grunau in the southeast. So unless you plan regular trips out to the Brandenburg, you should be fine.

However, keep in mind that the Berlin-Brandenburg BER airport is in zone C, so you’ll need an ‘add-on’ ticket to travel to and from there. It’s also not great for the many people who live in Potsdam in Brandenburg and commute into Berlin regularly. 

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

How can people get hold of it? 

Unlike the €9 ticket, you won’t be able to buy it at stations on a monthly basis. Instead, the €29 ticket is only for people who take out a monthly ‘Abo’ (subscription) for zones A and B. If you’ve already got a monthly subscription, the lower price will be deducted automatically, while yearly Abo-holders will likely get a refund. 

You can take out a monthly subscription on the BVG website here – though, at the time of writing, the price of the ticket hadn’t been updated yet. According to Giffey, people will be able to terminate their subscription at the end of December without facing a penalty. 

What types of ‘Abos’ are eligible for the deal? 

According to Berlin transport operator BVG, people with the following subscriptions are set to benefit from the reduced price from October to December: 

  • VBB-Umweltkarten with monthly and annual direct debit
  • 10 o’clock tickets with monthly and yearly direct debit
  • VBB-Firmentickets with monthly and yearly direct debit 
  • Trainee subscriptions with monthly direct debit

People who already have reduced-price subscriptions, such as over-65s and benefits claimants, aren’t set to see any further reductions. That’s because many of these subscriptions already work out at under €29 per month for zones A and B. 

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train in Berlin

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train at Zoologischer Garten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Can students with a Semesterticket get it as well?

That’s one of the things that still needs to be clarified. It’s possible that universities will choose to refund part of the Semesterticket price like they did with the €9 ticket. The Local has contacted BVG for more information. 

Can I take my bike/dog/significant other along for the ride? 

Once again, this doesn’t appear to have been ironed out yet – but we can assume that the usual rules of your monthly or yearly subscription will apply. So, as with the €9 ticket, if your bike is included in your subscription, you can continue to take it with you. If not, you’ll probably have to pay for a bike ticket.

In most cases, monthly BVG subscriptions allow you to take one dog with you for free, and also bring one adult and up to three children (under 14) with you on the train on evenings and weekends. These rules are likely to stay the same, but we’ll update you as soon as we know more. 

How much is this all going to cost?

According to regional radio station RBB24, around €105 million is set to be put aside in order to subsidise the temporary ticket. However, this still needs to be formalised in a supplementary budget and given the green light in the Senate. 

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

OK. And what happens after the €29 ticket?

That’s the million – or, rather, billion – euro question right now. In its latest package of inflation relief measures, the federal government said it would be making €1.5 billion available for a follow-up to the €9 ticket.

The ticket is set to be introduced by January 2023 and will rely on Germany’s 16 states matching or exceeding the federal government’s €1.5 billion cash injection. So far, it looks set to be a monthly ticket that can be used on public transport nationally, with the price set somewhere between €49 and €69.

However, the Greens continue to push for a two-tier model that would give passengers the option of buying either a regional or national ticket. Under their proposals, the regional tickets would cost €29 and the national tickets would cost €69.