I Hate Cupcakes, and Here’s Why (Let’s Start with “Sex and The City”)

I hate cupcakes, and here’s why. (Yeah, I’m playing the cranky food blogger card.) For starters, it’s the trend that never dies. You’d think that by the time the second “Sex and the City” movie rolled around — lord, help us all — the passion for tiny, dry pastry would be long since past, seeing as how the series (which ended five years ago, I might remind you) put Magnolia Bakery and their wee cakes literally on the tourist map. (Want a reminder? See Carrie and Miranda Eat Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes.)

But no, what is this in my inbox this week (along with news of the movie seeking extras) but yet another ode to these damn desserts, this one a pear-olive oil cupcake spread with Danish blue cheese buttercream, candied walnuts, and a drizzle of port reduction, according to Chow.com’s weekly newsletter summing up their discussion boards.  (“Unbelievable,” sighs GreenTriangle. “I never thought of putting blue cheese on a cupcake, but it was so good.”)

I guess cupcakes are cute, which is a massive part of their retro-comfort-grandma’s-kitchen cakey charm. You can tell just by reading any one of the 2,029 results for cupcake cookbooks you get on Amazon: “Hey There, Cupcake!” Cupcakes!” “Crazy About Cupcakes” “Bake Me, I’m Yours…Cupcake.” “Cupcakes, Cupcakes & More Cupcakes!”

Apparently cupcake bakers also really, really like exclamation points, too, by the way. Which isn’t surprising. But here you can also get a sense of another reason I think people like cupcakes so much, which is that anyone can make them. The title of “Hello Cupcake! Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make” attests.

Unfortunately, now everybody does.
If you live in a reasonably big town with a stretch of fancy shops, you will probably have one that sells cupcakes. And it will have pink and turquoise polka dots in the logo, white wooden walls and plenty of strategically placed Ball jars. Or be something like Cupprimo Cupcakery and Coffee Spot in Austin, Texas.

Okay, SOME cupcakes are damn fine sweets, when done well and served immediately. But most are dry. The icing is too sweet, too plentiful. They’re too big for one person, they crumble and collapse. I’d take a real cake any day: they stay moister, and you get a – forgive me – better cake-to-icing ratio in every bite. Hell, every foodie worth their Maldon sea salt knows the thing to order at Magnolia is their banana pudding. Now that’s a dessert worth taking a tour bus with 67 squealing Carries for.

At this point, I’d really prefer cupcakes be more like pesto: it’s now ubiquitous, but nobody blogs about the stuff, your sister’s second cousin hasn’t opened up a shop named after her kitten selling 39 varieties, and food writers aren’t keeping up each week with charticles listing pine nut-to-Parmesan ratios. And, I might add, if cupcakes were like pesto, as they should be, you’d be able to buy somewhat decent canned cupcakes in the dairy section of any supermarket, but anybody with a lick of sense would be making their own fresh, sourcing their flour from the farmer’s market, using traditional recipes scoured from old cookbooks and maybe whipping their cream cheese topper with a mortar and pestle.

But okay, the bacon thing has maybe been around just as long as cupcakes and I’m not sick of that. You know why? Because bacon is freaking delicious, people!

Rachel Wharton is a deputy editor with Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn magazines with a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, where she focused her research on sustainab ...read more

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