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.
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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