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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hello, Cupcake!

Cupcakes. What is it about cupcakes? The last few years I've witnessed cupcakes become the most popular pastry around. There's even whole bakeries dedicated to just cupcakes.

I went to one of these a year or so ago and bought an extremely over priced cupcake. Was it good? Yeah, I guess. It was a cupcake, plain and simple. Don't misunderstand me, I like cupcakes. But they're just cupcakes. Cupcakes.

Not too long ago, cupcakes were pretty much reserved for childrens parties - they weren't considered "hip" at all. Some people didn't even know how to make them. I was at a bridal shower recently where part of the decor was a very pretty cupcake stand. We got to talking about cupcakes and I told a story about something that happened to me years ago. I was in my twenties (ok, this story wasn't that long ago) and I was on a committee with a girl to plan a church activity. We went shopping together to get the food and one of the things on our menu was cupcakes. Here's our conversation:

her: We need to get some cupcake mix.
me: Ok. I think cake mix is in the next aisle.
her: No, we need cupcake mix.
me: Um. There's no such thing. You make cupcakes from cake mix.
her: I don't think that's right.
me: (Pause.....) Well, let me know if you find any cupcake mix.

Poor cupcake - it used to be so misunderstood! But now even I'm part of the cupcake craze. Sort of. I have two things against me:

Evidence #1. I bought the Hello, Cupcake! decorating book. I was taken in by the bright colors and the promise of impressing my friends with my beautifully decorated cupcakes. I've been too intimidated to attempt any of the intricate cupcake designs as of yet. Plus, some of the cupcakes in the book go against my beliefs. I think food should taste like what it looks like. For this reason I am against both popcorn flavored jelly bellies and cupcakes decorated to look like dinner. Am I right?

Evidence #2. I bought a cupcake stand yesterday. I had no intention of buying a cupcake stand when I went to the store, but there it was. On sale and so pretty. I had visions of it as a centerpiece full of beautifully decorated cupcakes. I became mesmerized by it and bought it. And now as I look at it, I have no regrets about that purchase.

Am I part of the solution or part of the problem? How long are cupcakes going to be the most popular pastry? And which pastry is going to be the one to kick the cupcake off its pedestal?

32 comments:

The Boob Nazi said...

I feel like you just called me cupcake, and that made me really uncomfortable. I couldn't read the rest of the post... haahaahaha

Also, I like the new look!!!

Sara said...

hahahaha let me know if you find any cupcake mix. nice.

That potatoes and gravy cupcake is disturbing.

From Tracie said...

Cupcakes are good..but only if I get to eat at least three of them at a time! =)

I agree with you about food tasting how it looks...those cupcakes that look like dinner kind of disturb me.

Katherine said...

I LOVE that Hello, Cupcake! book! I've made a few of the cupcakes in it and have used some of their ideas on cakes, too. (I like to mix it up sometimes and use cupcake mix to make regular cakes...) The nice thing about cupcakes is that you don't have to cut them or worry about how it's going to be served - it's ready to go! I do think that most of those cupcake bakeries are a bit overpriced and undertasty, though. And knowing what the food-looking ones are made from makes me less weirded out by them.

The next pastry: gourmet paczkes.

Ummm...I may have to borrow that cupcake stand sometime...

Adam4President2012 said...

Your my little cupcake

Lady Baillio said...

Did she ever find cupcake mix? That wasn't me was it?

Robert said...

I'm all for decrying the chicken leg-looking cupcake but popcorn jelly bellies??? Really? Are you saying you won't eat cherry cordials because you don't realize there is fruit inside your chocolate?! Teasing! I just like Popcorn jelly bellies and most other jelly bellies for that matter.

As far as the whole cupcake thing, I figured it became popular because fewer people know how to bake, so they just started buying them. After that story, I'm guessing it could be that more and more people couldn't find the "cupcake mix" at the grocery store and decided they would go to the cupcake shop like they do the chicken nugget store.

Claire said...

The dinner cupcakes are freaking me out. Can you imagine biting into that thinking you're going to get a forkful of mashed potatoes and gravy, but tasting icing? AHHHHH!!!!!

I do love a good cupcake, but I know there are waaaay better desserts out there! I'll take a legit eclair or Laduree macaron any day of the week over a cupcake.

Claire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elliespen said...

Blech. Those dinner cupcakes are making me gag. *shudddder*

On the other hand, I'm now considering how much money I could potentially make selling cupcake mix. I may have found my new retirement plan.

Masked McKenna said...

Wow....yeah. That picture of dinner cupcakes makes my stomach turn. I can't decide what would be more disgusting...if they tasted like what they looked like or if they tasted like normal cupcakes.

I think society's love of cupcakes might be linked to our growing acceptance of muffin tops. Looking around, I remember a time when girls didn't wear tight jeans and short tops if they were muffin' toppin' it. Now its everywhere!

Crystal said...

Those dinner cupcakes are seriously disturbing. However, I do love popcorn flavored jelly bellies.

I am impressed with the effort that people put into cupcakes though. I myself am terrible at making them ... perhaps because I am not using the special cupcake mix :)

Kwo Ling said...

Compliments to the new look; it's less claustrophobic. Wow, the blogger brawl was kind of a close call. Not real, but your competition was better than the DC chick.

Anyway, cupcakes tend to have only one texture, flavor and miss the best parts of cake, often with too much frosting. But, Alane too has that book.

Sarah said...

A friend of mine had multiple tiers of cupcakes layered to look like a wedding cake at her reception...I loved it! It took less time to cut, and everyone received the same size piece. :) Oh, and I liked the macaroon comment, so I think/hope/wish they will be the next big pastry item. :)

lizzie mc.- said...

So it's just you and me, Elizabeth. I'm with you, what's with the popcorn flavored jelly beans!? (I knew there was a reason I loved you!)

There are much better treats like Downie Sugar cookies. Every time a new holiday rolls around and new cookie cutters are on display I think of you, and wish we lived closer, I'd supply the ingredients and you could start the business of making me aun fatter.

Mark said...

I like cupcakes because you can mess up the frosting (or peas and carrots decoration) on one and it doesn't spoil the whole batch. Just devour the evidence and try again. You have to factor in the overage when mixing the batter and baking, especially if you have younger helpers in the kitchen.

Worst flavor for a jelly bean? Jalapeno. You know, the word looks like it should be similar to a jelly bean, but it's not the taste I expect, or want. Kind of like meeting a girl and finding out she's "experienced". Again, I voted for Elizabeth's blog.

Christi said...

Those dinner looking cupcakes were disturbing. I'm not going to lie, I'd probably still eat them though. Especially if they were made with cupcake mix and not just that generic cake mix.

Amy said...

I fell into the craze and bought a $10 cupcake decorating kit with a birthday gift certificate a couple months ago. At the time, I was thinking cupcakes provided all sorts of room for creativity, without the sense of commitment that a full-blown cake requires.

Now that that I have the kit, though, I am realizing that a) cupcakes take WAY more effort than a cake because you have to attend to all 24 of them individually, b) you can't just make cupcakes on a whim, you need a special occasion, and c) most people would just prefer to eat a cookie (myself included).

Melanie said...

No wonder I've never made cupcakes, I could never find the cupcake mix.

I wish I had a picture when I ate a donut that looked like a hot dog. It was crazy. One of my MTC companions got a whole box delivered and one of the Elders said: "I have to close my eyes to eat it!"

Jessica said...

Oddly enough there is such a thing as cupcake mix. They have it at Meijer. The only difference I can see from your normal cake mix is that it creates a different volume of batter. Though I freely admit I have used cupcake specific mix I think I bought it because it was on sale.

Elizabeth Downie said...

I know what you're talking about Jessica - they just started selling it a year or so ago. I think you're right though - it's the same thing as cake batter, it's just makes a smaller amount. I've used it too! It's nice when you only want to make a dozen cupcakes. Most cake mixes make about two dozen cupcakes or more.

Heather said...

Ok, i was going through all the posts checking to see about the cupcake mix, because ut does exist now. but it says really big "MAKES 24 CUPCAKES! (and then small) or a 2 layer cake" i have some sitting on the counter. I always make cupcakes for the kids birthday parties. You can also make a blues clues shapped "cake" really well out of cupcakes, BTW. I am SO happy you bought the cupcake stand. You won't regret it! Think of all the cupcakes happiness that has opened up to you! There's nothing like walking into a party and seeing a tower o' cupcakes! Oh, I'm so excited.

Elizabeth Downie said...

Heather, expect it at the next family birthday party. Either Paige or Polly are in for the surprise of their life!! (Am I putting too much pressure on the cupcake stand?)

Melissa C said...

Where did you score you cupcake stand? I have always wanted one of those things, but don't have anywhere to keep it. I resisted the cupcake traveling box when they had it up front at costco the other day. Williams sonoma also sells really expensive cupcake mix. I am a huge cupcake fan too. I might need to make some now. I have the Martha Cupcake book. It is pretty good.

JennyMac said...

Dinner cupcakes? NO. But I have that cupcake book and the 2nd one and they are fantastic. I have a 3 year old so we do cupcakes quite often. I am getting quite skilled. LOL.

D said...

Dinner cupcakes are good for april fools day...otherwise...why?

I've seen cupcake mix at the store recently too. So funny since like you've said it's really just half a cake mix.

Natalie said...

Oh Elizabeth...remember the good old days, back when you'd get like 5-10 comments on average? I felt like I was in on a great secret, and now, as your 27th commenter, I'm beginning to feel like I'm just part of a trend. Like that music snob boyfriend of yours...there is something to knowing something about great that no one else knows about. Don't worry though, I'll be faithful as you rise to fame. 27 is my lucky number anyway=)

Super Zero said...

I went in to a new cupcake store here in Queen Anne, Seattle; Wink's cupcakes. I got a cupcake. It was $3.50. To me, that's too much. That's 3.5 tacos. that's 3.5 burritos.
I think cupcakes are now edible solely because of Butter Cream frosting. If it was still that old super sugary and dull looking frosting of the past, I don't think they'd sell as well. Butter Cream just doesn't leave you feeling guilty after you eat it.
AND
I got accepted to a PhD program. A friend and I went out to celebrate. We saw her friend. She introduced me and said I just got into a PhD program... .. 5 minutes later their conversation was done and the lady goes, "good luck with your Pastry program". It was awesome. I should get a PhD in Pastry; its amazing how similar the two sound.

sterlingandbrandi said...

I have that book! And I have been somehow branded as a cupcake fanatic. This is the thing, they do taste good. And they're undeniably cute. And I just like doing something that feels creative occasionally. But I get cupcake books and stands as gifts ALL THE TIME now. And told I should open a cupcake bakery. And I still think, but its just a friggin cupcake...

Melissa C said...

Sorry to be commenting again on this subject, but I just wanted to let you know that I got to see the "dinner" cupcakes today in person. They were at our YM/YW dessert auction for camp fundraiser. They went for a decent amount too! So glad you posted about them, because it made them so much more funny to me! I am glad I remembered where I had seen them before

Liz said...

I am dying to know who the cupcake mix girl is. Did she attend the ward when I was there? Wink if I know who she is.

Elizabeth Downie said...

Haha, no, she wasn't in theward when you were there, Liz!