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January 24, 2010

Real Talk on Cupcakes

Food and cooking

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Let's talk about cupcakes. More specifically, let's talk about cupcake-specific bakeries. I keep hoping that this trend will be over, but it keeps going. Heck, even some doctor on Mercy said that cupcakes were over. But alas. The trendiness persists. My basic problem with them is twofold. First of all, they're expensive. $3-4 for a cupcake? One? Seriously? That's highway robbery. But maybe I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't for the other problem: they're just not good*. I've been disappointed every single time I've had a fancy cupcake-store cupcake. I assume it's something to do with the mass production. If I'm going to spend that much on a single-serving dessert, I'd rather it be an ice cream sundae.

But there's a less tangible issue, too. They're just so . . . conspicuous. "Look, I'm spending $3 on a cupcake!" And they're so cutesy, and . . . I don't know. Actually, Sara Mead made this point much better over at the IFA. As she says, "Even the long lines are about the notion that this is something SO special and magical it's worth wasting half an hour of your time to get that box and show you've been at the trendy place." I like her jewelry store comparison, too.

I think there's some sort of gender thing going on here too. I mean, sure, guys like cupcakes. But these stores are clearly marketed to women. And the concept of a cupcake implies that it's small. Childlike. Maybe even miniature. (Never mind that some of these stores have ridiculously large cupcakes.) Women aren't supposed to order dessert, but since cupcakes are seen as little and cute and girlish, they're okay. Now I want to do a study: take two groups of women eating at restaurants - on dates, even. Offer half of them a really good slice of cake at the restaurant for dessert, and offer the other half a cupcake at a cupcake store down the road. I wonder if a higher percent would say yes to the cupcake? Hmmm.

But I'm getting off track here. The point I was trying to make, before I got distracted by the gender stuff, was that most cupcake store cupcakes are overpriced and taste bad. For the amount of money you'd spend on two of those, say, you could make two dozen yourself that would taste better. Try it! Three cheers for homemade cupcakes!

* Caveat: I have a good friend who is talking about starting a cupcake place. I have had her cupcakes and they are wonderful. Obviously she is the exception to the rule and I am not at all talking about her here.

Posted by Kat at January 24, 2010 06:34 PM

OMG I completely agree. I have only been to that one in Dallas with you a couple years ago. I did like the cupcakes starbucks had a while back though (haven't tried the current ones ...)

Posted by: aisling at January 24, 2010 08:41 PM

And there is not enough frosting per square inch of cake. Also, the frosting is usually nowhere as good a homemade.

Posted by: Mom at January 24, 2010 10:03 PM

Thanks for the caveat. ;) I wholeheartedly agree - I've been to a lot of cupcake shops and most of them taste like crap. They are pretty and cute but the only place I've ever had good cake AND good frosting in one is Dozen in Pittsburgh.

Posted by: alissa at February 5, 2010 11:22 AM
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