Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sweetly Inevitable

Much news the past few days about the bursting bubble of the cupcake boom.  I have two reactions: a lack of surprise and horror.  Why am I not surprised?  Because it seemed unlikely that a one product business model, especially one that was so caloric, would be sustainable in the long run.  In discussions with Mrs. Spew, the closest comparison was Cinnabon, which is also fundamentally an unhealthy one product enterprise.  But there are few competitors to Cinnabon and it did not expand at the rate that I have observed (no stats here) the cupcake stores expanded.  "Crumbs now has 67 locations, nearly double the number it had less than two years ago."  Doubling?  Not a good business strategy for a luxury item.  I am glad to see that Magnolia's (NYC's most prominent cupcake company) did not over-expand and continues to do well.

But I do have some horror at the schadenfreude.
I asked Buzzfeed Food's Rachel Sanders how she felt the cupcake had impacted U.S. culture. "This is getting a little deep, but I believe they tap into our American cultural tendency toward selfishness and emotional isolation," she typed to me via Gchat. "Like, what other culture needs a kind of cake that is literally impossible to share; if you even try it just disintegrates into crumbs and sadness? You are going to be alone forever, so go ahead and carbo-load."
This is just ridiculous.  The only person I have ever seen buying just one cupcake for oneself in a cupcake store was ... me.  Otherwise, people would go to the store together, pick out different ones and then nosh together.  Or, they would be buying a bunch to share with friends.  Indeed, what is easier to distribute an office party or a picnic?  A cake you have to slice, a pie that needs plates, or a bunch of cupcakes?

I have a friend who makes heaps of cupcakes to send good will, friendship, and love.  She does cakes as well, but the cupcakes provide a bit more creativity as each cupcake can have a slightly different design even if they fit into a larger theme, such as Harry Potter as you see to the right and below. Indeed, isn't that what makes cupcakes a potentially perfectly North American food: harmony in diversity?  If you are a Star Trek fan, you would be thinking of IDIC: infinite diversity in infinite combinations.  The joy of cupcakes is simply logical.

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