Cupcake Psychology

by Valerie on October 3, 2008 · 1 comment

I like cupcakes — I remember standing in line at Magnolia Bakery more than 5 years ago because I wanted to know what the craze was about. They were good cupcakes, mind you, and I got the whole journey to childhood familiarity thing. Plus, it had been 3 years since Magnolia had been on Sex and the City, which meant the line was no longer as bad.

But, at that time, I was having a frozen yogurt obsession, so I kind of forgot about them.

And until this year, I did not really notice that cupcakes are, well, everywhere. Even Washington, notoriously slow with new food trends, has cupcake places. Yes, bakeries devoted almost entirely to one genre — the cupcake.

Which is good, because I am definitely in a cupcake phase. And I like those nouveaux cupcakes — the frosting is more intense and sugar and the ingredients are generally better than the cupcakes of old – aka cupcakes sold at places where many other baked goods are sold.

Unlike frozen yogurt, however, there is decidedly a cupcake psychology – or cupcake culture if you will. And, like any culture, there is history — and cupcakes in New York have a lot of history:

Together, Jennifer Appel and a high-school friend, Allysa Torey, begat Magnolia Bakery in 1996. When their partnership, and friendship, dissolved in 1999, Magnolia begat Buttercup. In 2003, Magnolia begat Billy’s, a bakery in Chelsea, opened by a former Magnolia manager, and Buttercup begat Sugar Sweet Sunshine, started by two former Buttercup employees. Now there are at least a half-dozen similar bakeries throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, with such jolly names as Baked, Happy Happy Happy, Polka Dot Cake Studio, and Cupcake Caboose (an all-cupcake catering company), each serving up cupcakes topped with dollops of sugary frosting swirled artfully like beehive hairdos.

Sweet and Vicious, New York Magazine, September 11, 2005

It is true that all the cupcake bakeries have jolly names — and I think they will continue to do well despite the bad economic times. Many people have cut out on eating out (you can get a table at one of the impossible-to-get-a-table-at restaurants in Manhattan just about anywhere anytime these days) but cupcakes are inexpensive enough that they will endure.

And, since I am on a cupcake phase, this is likely only the first post on all things cupcake.

Picture from Buttercup Bakery website

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1 Christina October 14, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Actually was at Sugar Sweet Sunshine last Tuesday. It was really good! I had the Pistachio, which was pleasantly flavored without beign overwhelming. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the supcakes weren’t any better than what I can find in DC. So I guess we’re not too far behind the curve. Washington Post is running Cupcake Wars right now to determine who’s the best here. We’ll have to give them a spin in the next few months.


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