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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