Piece of cupcake
As the world’s economy crumblesthere’s nothing left to do buteat cupcakes
When times are tough, everybody talks about cupcakes. As you’ve no doubt heard, the economy is at its worst since the Great Depression. Everybody’s broke, but cupcakes are selling like hotcakes. Everywhere I’ve gone lately, someone has been talking about cupcakes. My mom was talking about baking some. My girlfriend, Sara, no doubt dropping some kind of hint, mentioned a new trend where people have cupcakes at their wedding instead of the traditional wedding cake. They’ve been mentioned a few times around the office. RN&R special projects editor Kat Kerlin said she noticed that recent issues of Martha Stewart Living and Better Home & Gardens have both featured stories about cupcakes.
Why have cupcakes suddenly become so topical? Is this yet another trend that actually started in New York City 10 years ago but has now finally reached our rather provincial little city?
I called our New York correspondent, my sister, Brenna, to find out.
“I believe that the whole cupcake phenomenon started with a scene on Sex and the City,” she said. Granted my sister tends to credit the show with popularizing most social phenomena—from the popularity of Manolo Blahnik shoes to the basic idea of having friends—but in this case she might be on to something. An episode of the show featured Carrie and the gang visiting the now-famous Magnolia Bakery in the West Village—cupcake ground zero.
I knew about Magnolia Bakery because of a verse in the Saturday Night Live rap music parody video short and internet viral video favorite “Lazy Sunday:”
But first my hunger pains are sticking like duct tape.
Let’s hit up Magnolia and mack on some cupcakes.
No doubt that bakery’s got all the bomb frostings.
I love those cupcakes like McAdams loves Gosling.
Two, no six, no 12—baker’s dozen!
I told you that I’m crazy for these cupcakes, cousin.
According to my sister, the lines outside Magnolia often stretch around the block, and the wait can be up to 45 minutes in line. (The owners of the bakery recently opened additional locations in uptown Manhattan.) Brenna says it’s worth it. She says they really are the best cupcakes in New York and therefore, she believes, the best in the world.
“It’s sort of like the In-N-Out craze, where it’s just something so simple and so quality,” she says, referring to the popular burger chain, known for its simplistic menu.
But what’s the general appeal of cupcakes?
“Honestly, it’s so I can indulge, but I feel better about myself if I just have a cupcake rather than a whole piece of cake.”A batched job
Lisa Angius, a co-owner of Reno “cupcakery,” Batch sums it up more succinctly: “It’s comfort food!”
She says that though you might need an occasion to buy or bake a cake—a birthday or anniversary, for example—it’s a lot easier to come up with an acceptable reason to eat a cupcake: It’s Thursday, that’s a call for celebration, let’s eat cupcakes.
“Cupcakes never go out of style,” says Angius. “There’s never really a reason, but there’s always a reason.”
Much of the local buzz about cupcakes can be attributed to Batch, which just opened a couple of months ago. Angius and her business partner, Anne Archer, started Batch as a fun small business and a place for their own kids to work. But the reaction has been so positive that they’ve hired five additional employees and are already considering expanding into a second location in Sparks. Their slogan: “Life’s a Batch, eat a cupcake.”
“We thought about making shirts for our sons that said, ‘Son of a Batch,” says Angius. “They would’ve worn them, too.”
Angius and Archer are a couple of “hot moms,” attractive and maternal, with an enthusiasm for cupcakes that would seem saccharin were it not clearly sincere.
They’re open Monday through Saturday and start baking at 4:30 a.m. They bake all day, right out in the open—their ovens are right behind the display counters. They make a point of using organic ingredients: pure Belgian chocolate, local eggs, organic raisins and Madagascar vanilla. They even offer up some vegan cupcake options, like “Peace of Chocolate,” a vegan dark chocolate cupcake.
Other flavors include “What’s Up Doc,” a carrot cake cupcake, and “PB No J,” a chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter frosting and topped with peanut butter cup. Some of the cupcake names have local connections—their “rocky road inspired” cupcake is called “Geiger Grade.”
“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” is a chocolate cupcake with “Emerald City” mint frosting.
“We had that title before we knew what flavor it was going to be,” says Angius. “I just really like that phrase. … It’s fun to hear people request these funny names.”
If you can read about some of those flavors without getting hungry then you have no soul.
For Angius, part of the unique appeal of cupcakes is the synergy and fusion between cake and frosting. “The right combination of cupcake and frosting can just make your tastebuds sing,” she says.
“Without the frosting, it’s just a muffin,” jokes Batch employee Christy Markwell.
So why are cupcakes such an appealing commodity in this wretched economy?
“In this economy—and we don’t really pay too much attention to that, though we know a little about what’s going on—people are really looking for something to hold onto,” says Angius. “And who would’ve thought that one of those comfort foods would be cupcakes? You have no idea how many people we have come in here and say, ‘Oh, this is just what I needed.’”
So cupcakes are like little fantasy items—small, delicious, handheld relics from a more perfect world. And another reason cupcakes are popular right now is that, in addition to being delicious, they’re also cheap. At Batch, they’re $1.50 apiece. That’s cheap enough that you can buy a couple—that way you can have your cupcake and it eat it, too.