Thursday, August 21, 2008
The Audacity of Cupcakes
The recent proliferation of cupcakeries in the U.S. gives me hope for this country. A people that, in the face of a the worst economy since the great depression, a war on terror, environmental chaos, pop-star drama, and the horrors of a reality show programming, can embrace the innocent, frosted promise of the cupcake must be optimists at the core. And that bodes well for our future. Even the most hardened cynic must be silenced by the plucky verve of ginger lemon.
Once the staple of bargain bakery shelves, their Crisco frosting in all manner of unnatural colors smashed against their sad little plastic shell cases, the sweet little cupcake has muscled its way to the top of the confectionary heap with gourmet and organic ingredients, artisan production, and exotic flavors like Chai Latte, Raspberry Dazzle and Red Velvet. Specialty cupcake stores like Sprinkles (which will soon have 22 locations around the country), Kara’s Cupcakes in the bay area, Chicago’s Cupcakes, and Seattle’s Cupcake Royale are battling it out for the lucrative cupcake coin.
There are glossy full-color books about cupcakes, cupcake crafts, and websites devoted to the topic (cupcakestakethecake, 52cupcakes). I haven’t seen such passion about a food item since the meteoric rise of Krispy Kreme. (I’m still mourning the “Hot Now” beacon that has ceased to flash in my neighborhood). I believe the cupcake craze will have a longer shelf life than its deep-fried and glazed cousin. The donut was like the Vin Diesel of bakery treats, while the cupcake is more like the Holly Golightly. A cute little thing with a slightly questionable past that has grown into a fascinating confectionary creature. Full of charm and wit, with the ability to be reinvented a thousand different ways, the cupcake never gets old.