Is Cupcake Mania Over?

I hate to be the party pooper, but I just don’t get why cupcakes are still trendy. Unless you are totally out of the loop on food trends, cupcakes are popping up everywhere, from bakery shelves to wedding showers. The cupcake craze has spawned dozens of bakeries devoted entirely to them. There are cookbooks, blogs, a cupcake truck with over 14,000 followers on Twitter, and magazines specifically dedicated to cupcakes. Cupcakes got a lot of attention in “Sex and the City” when Sarah Jessica Parker bit into a pink-frosted cupcake outside Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street in New York City. Also, remember the cupcake-inspired “Lazy Sunday” rap video, which was No.1 for some time on YouTube?

Before I give my two cents about cupcakes, here is a bit of cupcake history. Apparently, the cupcake evolved in the USA in the 19th century, and it was revolutionary because of the amount of time it saved in the kitchen. Food historians have yet to pinpoint exactly where the name of the cupcake originated. There are two theories: one, the cakes were originally cooked in cups; and, second, the ingredients used to make the cupcakes were measured out by the cup. Cupcakes were convenient because they cooked much quicker than larger cakes. Since their creation, cupcakes have become a pop culture trend in the culinary world.

Confectionary trends are changing very fast, and cupcakes are facing challenges from several fronts. For some reason, people went nuts for macarons in the past couple of years and everyone, from Toronto to Tokyo, seemed to be fascinated by these little sandwich cookies. I am not exactly sure why so many people are fascinated with macarons. You can find them at many neighborhood bakeries and pastry shops, and even in supermarkets. You can find macarons in a wide variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate, etc.) to off-beat (marmite, matcha, etc.).

Artisan donuts are also vying to share the spotlight with cupcakes. The James Beard Foundation named artisan donuts one of its 2012 trends to watch, and there are plenty of places to watch it. Most civilized cities (yes, that’s right) now boast at least one shop offering exotically flavored donuts at prices so far reserved for something more substantial – like a LV bag. At one Brooklyn eatery, the US$11 foie gras donuts sell out every night. Closer to home in Toronto, Paulette’s Original Doughnuts & Chicken offers exotic flavors – mojito, pretzel chocolate, raspberry balsamic, rose & berry, mocha, and garam masala – at a reasonable price.

Cupcakes also have become a victim of healthy living wars. As schools across the USA started enforcing federally mandated wellness policies, many schools have begun banning the little treats. Those cupcake addicted parents are fighting back though. Luckily for cupcake aficionados in Canada, the ban-the cupcakes-movement hasn’t crossed the 42nd parallel yet.

I don’t think the death of cupcakes is imminent. But I think cupcakes are no longer in vogue. People still like cupcakes for many reasons: easy to transport in those nifty cupcake boxes; can get a higher frosting ratio than a regular slice of cake; can get your very own decorations; and, can eat them with your hands. You have to consider the nostalgia aspect as well. Especially among those over-indulged baby boomers whose childhoods are littered with cupcake liners and sprinkles forever embedded in the wall-to-wall broadloom carpets of their living rooms.

But I wish if someone could convince me that the cupcake fad will pass, ideally soon. Just imagine — people might have to eat a real dessert! What a concept, no?

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