Ever since that Sex and the City scene aired, where Carrie and Miranda were having a cupcake outside Magnolia’s Bakery in New York, the cupcake trend has become so big that it has established a whole industry. Interestingly, cupcakes do not owe their massive popularity to the way they taste, which is exactly the same as a piece of cake. Ultimately, the cupcakes’ success is due to their architecture.
Cupcakes are the culinary equivalent of very photogenic contemporary buildings, whose design is defined solely by their flashy façades. Eye catching objects whose content is irrelevant as their purpose is solely to create an impulsive impression. A cupcake’s wrapping hides the actual cake that is its mundane looking foundation, leaving only its flamboyant frosting to be visible. What’s underneath does not matter, nor does the relationship between the top and bottom. Furthermore, the cake-frosting ratio is non proportional, making cupcakes a bit impractical to eat. Form is definitely over function.
Although a cupcake’s original context was a suburban house party for children, it is no coincidence that the cupcake craze started in New York and it developed primarily in urban areas. The frequently non-intimate scale of a metropolis contradicts that of a cupcake, whose scale indicates that it is personal and not for sharing. A cupcake is individualistic and comforting; you can have your cake and eat it too.
Moreover, the trend started to take off around the same time that the economy started to fall. Big splurges were substituted with little indulgences and the cupcake is one filled with nostalgia. Quite appropriately, the world’s first cupcake ATM was recently built in California; instead of money it directly delivers a little piece of culinary indulgence, briefly taking us back to our childhood, when everything seemed less complicated, innocent and in technicolour…