A Trend That Takes the (Cup) Cake

What’s with our country’s new appetite for cupcakes? Suddenly, we have a media-induced craving for the miniature creations and they’ve advanced from a simple dessert into a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s one I don’t understand.

I have been told that cupcakes are the “in” thing for wedding receptions and that they are showing up on the menus of fine restaurants. What used to be the afternoon classroom snack of the snotty has become a refined upper-crust confection for the snobby. A sort of culinary couture, cupcakes have been come a fashion statement. Cupcakes used to be dessert for us average Joes, but now the elite have taken our cakes and made them into something we don’t recognize. I bet Martha Stewart even has abandoned making beautiful Christmas gifts out of old light bulbs and pizza boxes in favor of giving Technicolor 3-D cupcakes with outlandish flavors such as Coconut Trout Mocha and Bacon Raspberry Tart.

I actually saw this description online of a sought-after cupcake: “Tiramisu-Vanilla cupcakes drizzled with an espresso liqueur, filled with delightful mascarpone custard and topped with fresh whipped cream.” Say what? I can’t even pronounce half of it. The description of a food should never take longer to say than it takes to eat it.

I don’t understand the new cupcake craziness. To quote Steve Martin’s character in “Father of the Bride:” “A cake, Franck, is flour and water.” That’s it. Nothing more. Yet, we’re being told that if our cupcakes are just something regular, say vanilla Duncan-Hines mix with chocolate icing, we better duck and hide, because we’re suddenly deemed uncultured. The cupcake cops may come after us. The little cakes have made us second-class citizens who have lost our high-fat snack to those more impressed with high fashion.

There is practically a baker’s dozen of websites and magazines dedicated to cakes – even some television shows, all focusing on the treats. The “competitors” on these programs take the snack to extremes. I think their batter has gone bad.

“Cupcake Wars” sounds as believable as political reform. They can’t seriously be taking cupcakes this seriously. I mean, the shows go so far as to have judges who mince at the products and describe the cupcakes as if they are commenting on fine wine. “It has a wonderful bouquet, a rich texture and refreshing aftertaste,” they say. Funny, I would have just said, “This cupcake is yummy.”

I do appreciate some cupcakes. My wife occasionally seeks out the rarest of confections: the Hostess Orange Cupcake Twin Pack. Sometimes found in roadside convenience stores and gas stations, this elusive gem is, to her, edible bliss.

Personally, I wonder how anyone can crave something that is a fluorescent color absent in nature. Oh, they’re fancy – seven squiggles of white icing adorn every one. These are treats designed for the lowly commoner, unlike artsy cupcakes priced like lobster. I expect to go into a bakery and see that the price of cupcakes is based on market conditions.

Admittedly, I’m unrefined, but aren’t cupcakes supposed to be simple? It’s a simple concoction poured into a small paper-filled pan and baked. The result is hand-sized – easy to eat in a couple of bites. Now the cupcake-elite tell us we have to admire the cupcakes, commend them and feast on them with our eyes.

I say let the experts concern themselves with ingredients and appearance. Good looking cupcakes do not matter to me; good tasting ones do. If they just happen to please the eyes as well as the palate, well, that’s just icing on the (cup) cake.

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