A new cupcake shop just opened up in the mall near me, the third one in my area that sells just cupcakes. Wait a minute, didn't I read an article two years ago in which several noteworthy food writers proclaimed that, after a long run, the cupcake craze is on its way out? In Boston, there are currently EIGHT cupcake shops, and that is not counting the surrounding suburbs. The one that just opened is one of a well-known chain of shops which sells oversized cupcakes more sugary than they are flavorful.
Don't get me wrong, I do love cupcakes. What's not to love? They are cute and oh-so portable. Unlike a slice of cake, no plate and fork are necessary with a cupcake. I think the biggest draw of all is the nostalgia factor. Because they used to be considered a "kid food," cupcakes make us think back to childhood, with its long carefree summers, birthday parties, and those old days when we could eat sweets with no guilt whatsoever. So I get the appeal; I'm just baffled that there are SO many stores in SO many towns that JUST sell cupcakes. How long can this trend of cupcake-only cafes continue when it's been more than twelve years already?!
These specialty cupcakes are great, but they don't come cheap. A one-bite mini will set you back at least $1.50, and the regular ones are $3.00 and up, depending on whether you want basic or exotic flavors. The latest thing in the ongoing cupcake trend is putting wacky fillings into the cupcakes. Unusual cake flavors and unique toppers have become passé after all this time, so now the cupcakes are filled, and they are morphing into giganto sizes.
The bakery that is usually credited with starting the modern cupcake craze is Magnolia Bakery in New York City. Even before they were featured on Sex and the City, The Magnolia bakery was known for their cupcakes. When I lived in NYC I used to go there sometimes. The store is adorable, and so are the cupcakes. Basic Vanilla and Chocolate with a simple old-fashioned butter frosting tinted lightly in pastel shades. I love Magnolia Bakery, even though I always thought their cupcakes were a tad dry. And cupcakes were never their only offering. As the story goes, the cupcakes were actually a bit of an afterthought on the menu when the bakery was first opening.
The first time I saw a shop that sold ONLY cupcakes (also in NYC), I thought it was a very clever novelty idea. They offered many flavors beyond the standard chocolate and vanilla, which made it a neat experience. But then more and more cupcake shops popped up to cash in on the craze. Weird, funky, terribly overzealous cupcakes emerged. Along came something called "Cupcake Couture." People even started having cupcakes as their wedding cake. Years passed, I moved to Boston, and yet I am still seeing new cupcake shops open each year. Haven't we reached a saturation point by now? Maybe I am just tired of it more than the average person since I have been following this trend almost from the start. Or maybe I am baffled (and admittedly a tad envious) that someone could make a living selling nothing but cupcakes day in and day out. Don't the customers reach a point where they say, "Hmmm, maybe today I feel like a Croissant instead. Or a slice of pie. Oh wait, this bakery doesn't offer that."
I guess I am just one of those people that starts to like something less when it becomes really trendy. But I feel like this one really is getting old. Can't we just go back to loving cupcakes because they are tasty and nostalgic, not gobbling up fantastical cupcake creations because they are so "in"?