Monday, 22 February 2010

What's the big deal about cupcakes?

I live in a rather dull provincial town. Here, if you fancy a cake that doesn't come ready boxed and poly-thened, you head to the bakers. We don't do patisseries here - far too posh and most people couldn't pronounce it anyway. Donuts, iced buns, custard tarts... that's what you get and be thankful for it.

(image credit: The Little Cupcake Company)

Fortunately, I get to travel - all around the world. OK, so it's mainly virtual travel, but don't knock it. Frankly you wouldn't believe the places I've been via my computer in the kitchen. Too bad I can't collect airmiles, but at least my CO2 emissions are low.

On my travels I have discovered a new revolution in the aforementioned delicacies. The cupcake seems to have enjoyed something of a transformation in recent years. Last time I had one it was a small sponge with some icing that was deceptively thicker around the edge then in the middle. Usually, there was a choice of four 'flavours' - orange, yellow, pink or chocolate. There was a ritual to be observed when eating. The icing was always carefully removed first and placed to one side on your plate. The dry sponge would be washed down with a cup of tea or orange squash before the sweet food colourings and additives were allowed to tingle on your palette.

Now, the cupcake has suddenly become an art form. Less topping is no longer more. In fact, I believe that unless your topping measures a ratio of at least 3:1 it can't be considered a bona fide cupcake. Colours and flavours sparkle and delight. Artists can't paint enough of the things, they grace greetings cards and gift wrap. Open a copy of Vogue and the sugar and buttercream sits strangely alongside the skeletal models - one model even claimed to eat them (though I find that hard to believe). When I was in London (for real, not virtual) I even spotted a whole shop selling nothing but them. It was very pretty!

Where did this new obsession come from? I thought we were supposed to be all calorie-conscious these days and eating our five fruit and veg? Is it a fad or are the Marie-Antoinettes of cakes set to stay?

I feel I must investigate further. Perhaps a trip here, here, or here to sample the best of British. Or, maybe I need to go further afield... I'm thinking New York, LA, Sydney, Rome, Paris... I wouldn't want to cultivate a biased opinion after all.

At the very least, I feel I must make a purchase just so I can paint one. What do you think? The perfect excuse? The question is though, would it be with me long enough to paint?


  1. When I was little - rather a long time ago now - these were called fairy cakes and were made by your mum, cup-cakes were rather over-sweet bought cakes that were flat on top which you have described rather well. I certainly haven't spotted any fancy cup-cakes round here, but perhaps I should get out more!!

  2. five inches would do for me! I love icing...and pretty cupcakes...and traveling the world via the internet works for me too!

    ciao bella

  3. ~i think i would have to take a paint...we received your beautiful gifts in the mail...your dear little are teaching him a wonderful little ones thought it was pretty exciting receiving a letter from afar...thank you for bringing a smile to us! happy cupcakes to you...brightest blessings~

  4. That's so funny, I just had a cupcake last night from Starbuck's--do you have Starbuck's there? I couldn't live without Starbuck's :) I always have to lick the frosting off first--and their cupcakes are GOOD with lots of frosting!!

  5. Cupcakes used to be what you would take in to your child's classroom as a treat since they traveled well. Nothing fancy, but easy to dole out. They have had quite a transformation since then! Little works of art, almost too pretty to eat. Note I said "almost". I could polish one off right now like the ones in your photo! Yum!

  6. I second the idea of taking a picture eating the thing and then painting it. They even have stores that only sell cupcakes. They definitely have become a fancy concoction. Hmm all of a sudden I am hungry... but alas no cupcakes to be had in my house.

  7. Absolutely take a picture, eat your your culinary work of art and then paint one to commemorate it! The appeal of cupcakes to me, is that you get to have your very own cake, not just a slice but the whole thing! Also, for holidays, I like to make mini cupcakes of assorted flavors- coconut (my fave) chocolate, key lime with strawberries on top, etc....and because they're minis, you can have a couple without feeling too guilty....

  8. I had to laugh at the title of this post! Just what I think! Yes, they can be pretty but...Perhaps you need to experiment with eating different kinds before you get enamored.

  9. one of my dear friends owns a shop called ButterCream Cupcakery and they are so busy! the deal, is that people get just a cupcake or a mini, (more my size) and a whole cake is not going to waste or waist!!! they are really fun and not as fussy as a patisserie!

  10. I've always traveled through the magic carpet of books so I totally understand this alternative journeying. And I love the changes you made to your blog!

  11. A cupcake shop--Babycakes--opened just a few blocks from my house a couple of years ago. I predicted they would fold in a few months, but they are still going strong. I think it's more affordable than a whole cake or pie, and they are really works of art. I don't go there often, but their mocha chocolate cupcake with raspberry icing is divine!

  12. you are so right, I see so many cupcakes featured in art works, I often question this. What is about about cupcakes that artists include them in their work so frequently?!



Thank you for your comments - I always love to hear what you think :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...