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Cupcakes, east coast vs. west coast

Just an informal observation.
West coast folks are less fanatical about cupcakes.
Do they make better cupcakes in New York, for instance?

In contrast, muffins seem to be equally appreciated on both coasts.

Thoughts?

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  1. i don't know how long the cupcake craze has been going on in the east coast, but it has been a solid craze here in LA for at least 2 years.

    los angeles has several GREAT bakeris solely dedicated to cupcakes, and last night at a very upscale restaurant we were served cupcakes as a departing pastry. YUM!

    2 Replies
    1. re: lotta_cox

      Interesting. I haven't lived in LA for a while, so I am out of touch. My visit last year was too short to notice much.

      There are some excellent cupcakes up here in San Francisco, too. Fans might tell me otherwise, but it seems less of a widespread craze I noticed in New York.

      Not an expert on cupcakes. Would like to learn more about preferences in each city, any city in America.

      1. re: lotta_cox

        The cupcake craze is relatively new in LA compared to NY. In fact, I'd go out on a limb and say that the craze began at Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village in the late 90s. That place was a phenomenom that was covered in many publications and had lines out the door at all hours of the day and night. When I loved to LA from Manhattan, cupcakes were one of the things I really missed (next to good bagels, of course). I'm quite happy now that it really caught on and think that LAs cupcake craze how now surpassed NY in it's depth and variety.

      2. I didn't grow up in California, but it seems that the cupcake rage in New York is probably an outgrowth of people who had cupcakes at school (remember, when someone had a birthday and their mom would bring in cupcakes and bug juice? well, except my mom, because my birthday is in AUGUST and so we got lumped together with the goodbye party in JUNE not that I'm BITTER about this at all) suddenly being the young 20- and 30-somethings with money to spend... and, like all people, a healthy sense of nostalgia.

        Once that changes to the kids whose schools say parents can only bring in professionally-baked items (what that's supposed to solve, I don't know), the cupcake craze will fade.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          I thought the cupcake craze in NY was started (or at least fueled) by Magnolia Bakery cupcakes being talked about on Sex and the City. Although you can buy good cupcakes in San Francisco, there's no "craze" here. I'm actually rather bemused when people get so excited about cupcakes -- cupcakes are incredibly easy to make, and I just don't understand what the big deal is.

          At any rate, how trendy something is has very little to do with how good it is.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Another Hollywood misnomer.

            I ate my first cupcake before anyone on the show was even born.

            1. re: jfood

              ??? I don't think she meant the show coined "cupcakes", just that the CRAZE for cupcakes started with the craze for the specific cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery that was spawned by SATC. Everyone agrees cupcakes existed before the 90s.

              1. re: JGrey

                Understood, but the "craze", or should I say cupcake-Americana, began at least as early as the early 60's, when you could choice from a dozen different types at any bakery. So I do not give any credit to SITS for any of it. I think that rumor should be squelched. Sorta like Seinfeld taking credit for take-out food.

                1. re: jfood

                  Right, they wouldn't have mentioned it if it weren't already happening.

                2. re: JGrey

                  Alot of people don't know what misnomer means and tend to use it to refer to any kind of misinformation.

                  But I think he means to disagree with the assertion that consumers did not flock to the cupcake, Cosmo and Appletini in response to mentions on Sex And..., on the basis that cupcakes were consumed before they were mentioned on the show.

                  The did exist and were consumed prior to the mention, generally a foodstuff must exist in order to become trendy - but the mention of Magnolia in particular and cupcakes in general did spawn the trend.

                  A cupcake is a dainty, pretty, portion-controlled sweet that is very appealling to women and promoting it to women as a sophisticated treat that they can purchase individually absolutely had an effect on consumption.

                  1. re: Kater

                    misnomer = a misapplied or inappropriate name or designation, so jfood not one of those misnomered people, but thanks for confirming my position.

                    Jfood believes that women are smarter than following the antics of four women in a B-sitcom and the idea that a TV show has a causal effect on the tastes of women to consume cupcakes, Cosmos Appletini or search for "Mr Big" is, quite frankly, her-sterical.

                    There are two theories about the origin of the term cupcake.

                    1 - The name comes from the amount of ingredients used to make the cake (a cupful of flour, a cupful of butter, cupful of sugar etc.).
                    2 - These cakes were originally baked in cups. Old cookbooks also sometimes mention baking cakes in small cups. These cups may very well have been earthenware tea cups or other small clay baking pans. These would easily accomodated baking level oven heat and produce individual-sized cakes. This is not the same thing as contemporary metal cupcake pans, enabling cooks to bake a dozen small cakes in one fell culinary swoop. site = http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes...

                    Curious how SITC not mentioned.

                    The cupcake probably appeals to children, more than women as seen by those happy "I Want" faces seen at any bake sale at church, school or boy/girl scout fundraisers, as well as every children's party I have hosted or attended.

                    1. re: jfood

                      But we're talking about the cupcake "craze," which has been mostly a phenomenon of adult women in NY (I never heard of a cupcake craze until cupcake discussions started showing up in discussion on the NY chowhound boards) -- whether kids have always liked cupcakes and whether bakeries have always made them is irrelevant to this discussion.

                      By definition, a "craze" is something becoming trendy and popular beyond it's "normal" levels. And "crazes" are usually fueled by some kind of media attention: that's how they spread, consciously or subconsciously.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        RL

                        If you are speaking about a cupcake crazr among women, I do a Snagglepuss and exit stage left. As a 51 year old male I have little data on that trend (other than Mrs Jfood has loved cupcakes for the 25 years we've been married).

                      2. re: jfood

                        With the definition in hand, the misuse of the term 'misnomer' should be crystal clear at this point.

                        Denying the effect that dopey pop culture has on trends is a pointless exercise. If you believe that the existence of these kinds of influences indicate that women as a whole are stupid, you misunderstand that very simple fact that women are individuals and some portion of us are ditzy nitwits. If we were not, the Appletini would not exist.

                        The cupcake trend is not a tragedy; there's not reason to turn somersaults in an attempt to deny it. Cupcakes existed prior to the trend and will continue to exist when the trend passes. In fact, they will probably enjoy greater popularity among grown women for quite some time because of their aesthetic appeal and built-in portion control.

                        But know that apart from adult trends, children's parties will continue to feature cupcakes. They travel well and children love them. You'll see more and more 'cakes' made of grouped cupcakes because serving is easier. And the cupcake will always be a popular bake sale offering.

                        The ladies' cupcake will likely fade with time, in fact petits fours are making a big comeback and if someone will start babbling about them on a dopey sitcom aimed at easily-led women then they're sure to skyrocket to the top of the frilly dessert lineup. This doesn't bother me. I like petits fours and I don't feel any less intelligent simply because some women (even some of my very own friends) are easily influenced by Cosmo, Oprah, and Desperate Housewives.

                        Among men and women, there are less sophisticated, perhaps even less intelligent folks who eagerly follow trends. So what?

                        1. re: Kater

                          Okeedokee, I think we have agreed on the following:

                          - Dopey pop culture effects our everyday lives - yup
                          - Women as a whole are not stupid - yup
                          - Women are individuals - yup
                          - Some are "ditzy nitwits" - yup (so are some men)
                          - The appletini exists - unfortunately yup
                          - Cupcake trend not a tragedy - yup, just didn't know it was a trend (wrong chromosome combo) and do not really pay attention to what women eat
                          - Cupcakes are forever - yup, and thankfully so
                          - Cupcakes and kids - yup, don't ya love how they study them before picking the perfect one
                          - Petit fours - not a big fan of them (once again wrong chromo combo) but hey if people like them and want to pay the price, more power to them
                          - Follow trends - yup, and unfortunately the lemming theory is alive and well in most, but not me. I'm the guy in front of you in suburban Philly who still orders a large coffee at Starbucks, no lattay frappay for Jfood.

                          So i think we have narrowed down to agreement on the basics. And as far as Miss Nomer is concerned, she can buy and eat her own cupcakes.

            2. Same cupcakes, different climate :)

              1. Jfood from the east coast here.

                Cupcakes as a craze, huh? I've been eating them since the early 60's, years before that craze called the Rolling Stones started so I would not call that sort of longevity a "craze."

                Cupcakes are one of the basic food groups. We used to eat Taskykates for 5-cents, remember those three chocolate, dried out cake, with stick to your roof chocolate icing. You then could choose the two pack with the chocolate cake, chocolate ices with the swiled vanilla stripe and vanilla cream in the middle, also for 5-cents.

                No I pay north of a buck for a cupcake. We have one bakery that has white or chocolate cake, piled high with iceing and that vanilla filling. They do not last very long in my house.

                If you west-coasters are just getting up the curve, welcome aboard. Cupcakes are GREAT!!!

                4 Replies
                1. re: jfood

                  I think the more recent craze surrounding cupcakes is a bit different than what you experienced in the 60's.
                  Agree SITC had nothing to do with creating the food fad, and were in fact influenced by it's previous existence.
                  However, the craze that hit the East Coast (well before the West) was more about "boutique" cupcakes, not your typical bakery varieties.
                  It still seems to be quite popular in LA and I hear cupcake shops are still opening, with branches even.

                  1. re: rabaja

                    Ok, so help me understand a little more what everyone is talking about. What exactly is this "boutique" cupcake craze you reference? thx.

                    1. re: jfood

                      jfood -- go to any of the cupquequerías (Leda's Cupcakes, et al.) and you'll see exactly what we're talking about, little precious adorable (did I mention little?) cupcakes that cost $1.50 for what amounts to a bite of food.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Thanks DU for a name. After a quick google I found the site. I would give it a try but it's a little out of the way fromCT. Looking at the prices, my airfare may be less than my bill.

                        Although these cakes and cupcakes look very pretty and the reviews seem 80% positive, I wouldn't pay $3 for a cupcake (I am saying that in the year 2007 for future historians) at any retail establishment. My limit right now is $1.50 and I do pay for pretty on an everyday basis.

                        For one of my kid's parties years ago, I'm would have looked into it, for one of the cakes or cupcakes. But $75 for a 8" cake, I don;t think so.

                2. "I thought the cupcake craze in NY was started (or at least fueled) by Magnolia Bakery cupcakes being talked about on Sex and the City."

                  That probably explains why I didn't realize there was one. I'm born and mostly raised here and my first thought was: since when has NYC ever been cupcake crazy? It's certainly not a historical phenomenon. But then neither was waiting 1-3 hours to be seated for dinner, so what do I know? (shrug)

                  1. The craze has been a around a lot longer in Manhattan than in Los Angeles, Magnolia being the forerunner of the craze. However, I think most Manhattan cupcakes mimic the Magnolia archtype which is unfortunate. I don't think they are impressive at all. All of that icky sweet frosting and bland cake... No flavor besides sugar.

                    However, in Los Angeles, most of the places focus on the cake and uses ganache and/or interesting fillings. We see deep chocolate, cream fraiche fillings, blood orange curd, etc. II find them more interesting, less sweet, and more about a personal-sized dessert option that a weird sugar rush for stilletto wearing city girls.