America’s Cupcake Obsession

Georgetown Cupcake | D.C.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or your town is strangely deprived of bakeries), a quick glance around makes it clear that cupcakes are in style right now — and in a huge way. I see cupcake shops popping up almost everywhere I go, with store windows decked out in folds of tulle and plenty of pink and signs adorned with pretty script. Shows like D.C. Cupcakes and Cupcakes Wars are airing on TLC and The Food Network. So, what’s up with this trend? (Which I know isn’t so new, but it still warrants a mention here.)

Sprinkles Cupcakes | Los Angeles

I have nothing against cupcakes. I love cupcakes. And my recent visit to the now-famous Georgetown Cupcake only helped to solidify the relationship between consumer and cupcake. (Fun fact: they sell between 6,000 and 12,000 cupcakes per day and, at $2.75 a piece, they are some of the least expensive cupcakes around.) The industry surrounding cupcakes, however, I find a little unsettling, and I can’t help but wonder what the deal is with cupcakes being so trendy in recent years. Something about it bothers me — maybe because they’ve become so popular that they’re no longer original or fun anymore. When something becomes mainstream, it risks losing its allure. (It also strikes me as a fairly sexist business, but that’s a different story.)

Magnolia Bakery | New York City

So, naturally, I read up on the cupcake phenomenon. Some place the blame on Sex and the City. Thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker’s cupcake stop at Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street, the area (and its cupcakes) have become increasingly popular over the years. Others find the cupcake boom to be a bi-product of the recession, and therefore claim that the industry is not economically viable. In an article entitled “The Cupcake Bubble” by Daniel Gross, the author, quoting a colleague, wrote:

“Their economic rationale withstands any and all conditions. When the economy is going well, people can afford little extras like cupcakes. When the economy isn’t going well, people can afford only cupcakes.” Indeed, they are being pitched as affordable luxuries. In an age when discretionary, feel-good spending is at a nadir, cupcake bakeries are trying to persuade people to trade up from cheaper sugar-delivery vehicles (such as, say, a doughnut).

He also proposed that people find comfort in the in-complexity of cupcakes in an increasingly complex world, especially food-wise (because, apparently, new and exotic flavors of dark chocolate confuse customers?). Both of these arguments are valid, but the first is much more likely. I still love cupcakes, but the business has become a little too prominent for it to be special anymore, especially with many new cupcake shops opening up daily.

Vanilla Bake Shop | Santa Monica

But the fact remains: they are undeniably delicious and charming. (Although in some cases they are vastly overpriced and taste like cardboard.) The cupcake will always be a go-to treat for many people, myself included — but the cupcake craze needs to stop. Cupcakes aren’t so cute anymore when they’re on every street corner.

Thoughts? What is your opinion on the cupcake trend? Do you think it’s here to stay?

{Sources: Georgetown Cupcake image courtesy of Ahn Tran, via theeagleonline.com. Spinkles image via whitenoise.net. Magnolia bakery cupcakes image taken by Alison Krause. Vanilla Bake Shop image taken by Sam Kim. All images accessed via Google Images.}

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13 thoughts on “America’s Cupcake Obsession

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  5. I adore cupcakes, and they will be a major component of the menu at my royal wedding party. However, I had heard that they were on the way out, and macaroons were on the way in. I assume this means only the best-established or most versatile cupcake shops like the Hummingbird bakery will survive.

  6. I am with you on this cupcake business
    I am sure SATC had an impact for sure, but seriously…how many cupcake stores do we need ?
    They are pretty to look at, but messy to eat in my opinion.
    Used to ban them when I taught preschool. LOL
    Brett

  7. This post completely surprised me because I never thought that cupcakes were a trend! If only… but everything that becomes trendy has a risk of losing it’s sparkle. I feel like when things become more popular, they try harder to impress and it fails. But how can you go wrong with cupcakes?
    But I adore cupcakes. :]

    Love, Cass

  8. This title should read “Tracy’s Cupcake Obsession”. Although I’ve also had some cardboard mishaps as well.

    I went to Georgetown Cupcakes in September!! My first time in DC and my friend took me there. We are both cupcake freaks. Or rather, sugar in general. Our rationale for cupcakes is that if we get one cupcake every now and then, it’s better than an entire cake every now and then. Right? But I digress….I had the salted caramel cupcake from G. C. and OMG it was the most amazing cupcake I’ve ever eaten. Do they lace them with crack or what?

    Incredible!

    xoxo,
    Tracy

  9. I’m a registered cupcake freak, so I guess my opinion is pretty biased! I think it’s a little nuts that some folks stand in line for hours to buy a $3-or-so confection, but hey — to each his own.

    The TV shows, shops on every corner, etc.? Probably overkill, and it does seem excessive. But I would agree with the “affordable luxuries” bit, and I love that cupcakes are easily transportable and relatively inexpensive to make. I just whipped up a batch last night and shared with coworkers. It’s the little things!

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