When cupcakes went bonkers back in 2005, I thought this craze would last about as long as other recent phenoms—fondue, homemade ice cream, cocktails, popsicles. We’ve all seen the come-and-go cycle.
It starts when you notice a cluster of single-subject books on Borders’ hot picks table. A few days later you see it on multiple magazine covers at the grocery store checkout. Pretty soon your favorite TV host is swooning over it. Finally as you page through mail-order catalogues you can’t resist all the sexy paraphernalia. You order the thing. Next month, as if to mock you, the trend gods move cruelly on to milkshakes, pressure-cooking, espresso drinks.
Somehow Cupcakes must have slept with the right people. Five years into this craze and there’s no sign of letup. In fact, friend Karen Tack has made us all smile again with her second book (What’s New Cupcake—check it out.) There are cupcake websites, cupcake shops in all the major cities (minor too). Need a cupcake stand? Cupcake carrier? Cupcake decorating kit? Vegan cupcake book? It’s all out there, one click away.
Cupcakes clearly have more staying power than hula hoops. They’re classic, and here’s why.
Unlike fondue or popsicles, we all need at least a couple of cakes a year. Everyday on Facebook I’m reminded that one of my friends is celebrating a birthday. There are anniversaries, weddings, showers, farewells, Valentines, Halloween. Whoever heard of a wedding pie?
Given a choice, cakes are nice, but cupcakes are adorable. (Think puppies vs. dogs.) And cupcakes are easier. With cake, there are knives and forks and plates. Cupcakes? Peel that sucker and eat it like a banana. Cakes mean decisions—slice or sliver, end piece or center? It’s the stuff of fights. “His piece is bigger than mine!” Blessedly, a batch of cupcakes are as different as Oreos. After the oohs and aahs, you pass ‘em out, and that’s it. Everybody’s happy.
Although I’ve recently relaxed my standards on pie pastry (I’ve been known to use refrigerated crusts), I won’t waste the calories on a box mix cupcake. Using my chocolate cake recipe as guide, I’ve created a moist, incredibly chocolatey cupcake.
And since I have no qualms about being inconsistent, I’ve discovered if you mix a little vanilla extract and instant coffee (or peanut butter) into the store-bought frosting, it tastes rather homemade.
As for decorating, I am seriously impaired. If you’re looking for more than sprinkles, you’d better 1-click What’s New Cupcake. (Or check back tomorrow when we’ll be giving a few copies away!)