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What's with cupcake mania?

Maybe my comment may be perceived as heretical or sacrilegious, but... I fail to understand this recent mania over cupcakes. I see new shoppes opening everywhere, theme focused shows on the Food Network, etc. I just don't get it. What is so special about a cupcake? As desserts go I've always found them mediocre and unimpressive... a miniature cake, sometimes with a filling with a far too sweet frosting on top. Give me a fine french pastry any day of the week over a cupcake. If someone can enlighten me as to what I might be missing here, please do.

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  1. I think it is referred to as "personal preference". Not too much more than that...

    1 Reply
    1. re: justsayn

      It's got to be more than personal preference. It's a trend that has caught on across North America. Cupcake mania is everywhere. On the savoury side, this is the year of chipotle, on the sweet side - cupcakes continue. Just trying to understand why.

    2. You're just noticing this? : )

      I don't know, I figure it is nostalgia, wanting to enjoy those simple things from being a kid again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: babette feasts

        "You're just noticing this?"

        Ha, I agree, the cupcake and chipotle trend were definitely HUGE in my neck of the woods a few years ago, but I think they arte starting to die out. Something else will take their place Im sure.

        1. re: babette feasts

          When I was a kid, I thought cupcakes were fundamentally boring, and was always surprised when I got a good one. Any dessert is better than no dessert, of course (except for custard pie which I despised), but when some kid brought a box of cupcakes to school - you could do that then - my response was typically rather muted. I think the only time I actually bought any was with a group at Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock one Sunday, and Mrs. O wanted some because they were supposed to be so good. We got an assortment and shared them, and Yes, even the dreaded Red Velvet was nice (because of the buttercream icing!). But once was quite enough. So yeah, I don't get it either.

        2. I just had this discussion with my spouse after we shopped at a cupcake shop and bought 2 cupcakes for the price of a normal sized cake. I never understood it before either- but I do now.

          The "big deal" is....you don't have to have the entire cake sitting around, tempting you with more calories than needed -or getting stale. It was really nice that we each had our preferences (red velvet with butter cream vs chocolate with coconut frosting) we were full and had no waste. Nice. I am not a big sweet eater, but sometimes "just a bite or two" is perfect and I can't bear throwing out food. I will certainly go there again.

          1. It was a mixture of the Sex And The City episode focused on Magnolia, the actual Magnolia, childhood nostalgia, and the need for something cute and fun in the face of the national ugliness that has been the 2000's so far.
            BUT, cupcakes are over, not cupcakes in general- cupcakes can't be "over" anymore than say... lunch, but "cupcakes" as a trend has been over for a year or so now. Don't believe me? Open a cupcake shop, I dare you.
            It's all about pie now, and it's on.
            Next up? Who knows... I would guess pound, fruit, or bundt cake, but jello and pudding are due for s revival too. (seriously can you imagine a shop dedicated to any of these? but could you imagine a cupcake shop in 1998?)

            Oh, and I don't want to be mean but I feel like I should say something. The 'year of chipotle' was 1999, it's been all about bacon for quite a while now.

            Sigh, dumbest decade ever; books (thanks Harry Potter!), bacon, and cupcakes, were the hot new things. Maybe this decade we'll "discover" dance, painting, and vegetables.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Mary McChugalug

              The funny thing is...we just had two more cupcake (and bakery shops) open up recently. They are doing really well and have alot of corporate events to bake for. It will be interesting to see if they stick around.

                1. re: Mary McChugalug

                  True enough. Trends come and go. I think the cupcake thing is still lingering though. There are still cupcakes everywhere and not nearly enough pie for my taste.

                  I do think sedimental has a point though about cupcakes being easy to eat in one sitting. They score convenience/portability points . You don't have that ease with a slice of pie.

                  And I'm glad I'm not the only one who hates Harry Potter!

                2. I think we're now at 15:01. And ticking.

                  1. cupcakes are so 2010...pie is "the thing" now ;)


                    i'm another one who never understood the hype - even as a kid i wasn't crazy about cupcakes. but as justsayn pointed out, people have their preferences...and apparently many people prefer personal-sized cakes with an inordinate amount of frosting ;)

                    1. Cupcake. Is it not just fun to say the word? They are cute, personal and appealing to the eye. Claire's boutique doesn't sell cake earrings, they sell cupcake earrings (my niece's favorite). And not only are they nostalgic and cute, but intrinsically girly.

                      Plus I must say there are enough fat jokes out there involving cake to diminish its reputation in pop culture for good. Thus, cake is associated with fat, and cupcakes associated with cute.

                      1. I also find cupcakes rather bleh as far as food goes. But they come in individual servings, they are easy to make, ingredients are not expensive and they can be extremely cute when decorated. Add in some publicity from a popular TV show and a bit of nostalgia, and you have a sudden boom, particularly when people are willing to spend a lot of money on a cheap desert.

                        1. I'm with you on this one - cupcake shops are popping up all over London (along with macaroons) and I just don't get it. I just can't see how they can sustain a business around a fad, one that isn't even that great! I know it's personal preference but at the end of the day, it's just a little cake!

                          1. As much as I'm over the cupcake craze (& mostly because the over-interest spawned a good deal of lousy/medicore retail cupcake sellers) I'm not at all loving the cake pop craze. I'm with you cynalan, a finely made pastry, a delicate bread, beautiful baked goods with flavor and style...for the same price as a crummy cupcake (mind you) gets my vote too.

                            1. If the cupcakes are really good, they are a good choice for small households where a whole cake would be too big. I don't like frosting either, unless it is whipped cream, but I just remove it.

                              Not everyone lives near a bakery with good pastry. Sometimes a person does not want pastry, but wants cake.

                              1 Reply
                              1. I grew up on homemade cupcakes (during birthdays). Some were homemade, which were great. Others were made from supermarket mixes and Betty Crocker frosting. Which were also great. That being said, I was an absolute Sunny/Yankee Doodle junkie. Wash those down with an ice cold V-8 and you're set. As far as the cupcake craze now, over blown IMO. The shops are a dime a dozen where I live in the Park Slope/Prospect Heights area. And they're cupcakes are pretty uniform in taste and being unexciting. The one very good exception being Lily &Fig. Their cupcakes taste fantastic and certainly don't cost the arm & leg that is common with the others.

                                1. In my neck of the woods, cupcakes are just now becoming popular. One can't attend a shower or wedding without seeing a cupcake tower and sadly, they are always just awful, dry cake and icing that tastes like food dye. (the closest decent baker is more than an hour in any direction so I should know better than to expect a good baked good)

                                  1. I've been on a cupcake baking binge- for me, it's because I want to bake, but it's too darn hot to have the oven on for too long, so 30 minutes and it's done- I've also started filling the cakes, which makes it more interesting. I made a yellow cupcake with lemon curd filling and a raspberry swiss buttercream frosting yesterday- they were/are quite tasty.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Carpe

                                      Oooohhh, I would eat those, yes I would. Lemon curd and raspberry buttercream, oh my.

                                    2. I was never much interested in cupcakes, but then again even cake was never exciting to me.

                                      But I do not think it is just a question of fad or personal preference. I think there are two things going on here:

                                      First, there is some reason to believe cupcakes are possibly better than cake, and it has to do with the crust/cake ratio.

                                      The second thing is: there are some places that have given so much attention to perfecting the cupcake (as opposed to those simply looking for a quick profit), that they have produced some pretty amazing cupcakes. If oyu are lucky enough to be near a place like that, the result can be very surprising and wonderful.

                                      Havng said that, I am sure like everything else, 95% of what's out there is just a ripoff.

                                      1. I think they have caught on because of guilt associated with buying a whole cake. In a specialty market near my house, a ten inch layer cake may cost $22, but a six inch cake is something like $17. They get those people who don't want to buy a lot, and charge them more for it. Cupcakes are even more high margin that small cakes. If you did the math, cupcakes of standard size are a great, high margin item for a bakery. Instead of getting one nine-inch, two layer cake, which may sell from anywhere between $12 and $18 dollars, depending on filling, you can charge $3 per cup cake and make at least 15 decent sized ones from the same amout of batter. Yes, the frostings tend to be heavier (actually, just more of the same goop), but layer cakes have fillings to account for, so I think it is close to a wash. People will pay $3 for for cupcakes and come home satisfied that they didn't buy too much, even if they though they paid too much. Just my opinion...

                                        BTW, I don't find them any easier to eat than a slice of layer cake with a fork. Peeling back the paper, balancing your bite so that you don't topple the tower of frosting, and wiping crumbs from your shirt makes it seem harder to eat than a proper slice of layer cake, using a fork, on a small plate. They seem to be portable, but then so are cakes in the right container. They only thing the seem to have going for them is, as other posters have noted, is "cuteness", and no need for utensils (although I will put it on a plate and use a fork if I can get my hands on serveware).

                                        1. I heart cake and cupcakes, and always have. And of course when I say this I mean *good* cupcakes, not dusty supermarket cupcakes with whipped edible oil product smeared over the top (although I don't mind some edible oil every now and then...).

                                          1. i think it's all hype--don't believe for a minute it's because people don't want a whole cake. My friends rave about them like they actually taste better than the same kind of cake. Sprinkle's in Beverly Hills is the biggest "Emporer's New Clothes" store I have ever seen--people would line up to pay outrageous prices for what I thought were dry & powdery little rip-offs. But they did look cute. And I agree that cupcakes are a PITA to eat.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sparkareno

                                              I think it's all about trend, just like clothes..."Emporer's New Clothes" yeah. It lasts for awhile, then folks get bored and move on to something else. Maybe clothes are boring now too and that trendy new shirt may not be nearly as fun as feeding ones face.

                                              Unlike a sheet cake in a crowd, cupcakes can help when expressing one's independence and individuality, sort of like a trendy accessory to the ever so common 501 boot cut. "I love the red velvet vs. she loves cinnamon crunch. What would Betty Crocker say?

                                            2. http://www.experienceproject.com/grou...

                                              the "craze" is far from over. Just about every bake shop has a cupcake line but thankfully around here (NJ) we have lots of wonderful bakery choices beyond them. I've seen custom cupcakes hit the scale at $5.00 a piece or higher. Plenty of god-awful mini cakes covered in tacky icing but one shop in Princeton NJ does the super-basic, no frills freshly baked, glistening cupcakes right, The Bent Spoon, and if I happen to be in the area I wouldn't dare leave w/out one for my hubby. http://www.thebentspoon.net/BENTSPOON...

                                              1. People like them. chacun ses goƻts. They are trending upwards. Is the answer really more complicated or elusive?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  You said it my friend. They are fun, tasty, offer endless variation, figure friendly (unless you eat 10 of them), portable- especially the mini's...pop one in your mouth- done....and they are CUTE.

                                                  There ya go.

                                                2. They are tiny, so great for individual servings. They are tiny, great for decorating and they can all look different. They are tiny, so kids can play along when baking and decorating. They are tiny, and easy to transport. They are tiny and easy to fill. So, yeah, they're tiny, and pretty, and we all love pretty.