Are cupcakes dead?

April 20, 2011|By Jasmine Wiggins

One drizzly Saturday a couple weekends ago, I found myself in Georgetown with my boyfriend. For whatever reason, we decided it would be fun to get a cupcake. He, like many others who came before him, wanted to know “what this cupcake business was all about.”

I had been on the cupcake train for a while. My first cupcake experience was Swirlz Cupcakes in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago a few years ago when I was in college. There was something altogether exciting and novel about a store that sold only cupcakes. Yes, I could just make them at home, but this was a store—a store that sold only cupcakes. I mean, it’s like if there was a bar that served only gin and tonics. I would totally be there in a heartbeat and never question the validity or sustainability of a specialty shop, as long as it kept me happy.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of foodie news that’s proclaiming the death of the cupcake.

“Cupcakes?” my boyfriend’s dad asked. “I thought those were out, and now the new thing is pies.” Even he had been keeping tabs.

So, how hard would it be to pop in and grab a cupcake from a “dying” establishment? We thought it would be easy. But we were wrong. At each of the three cupcake shops I know about in Georgetown, (Georgetown Cupcake , Baked & Wired, and Sprinkles) there was a massive line. The line at Georgetown Cupcake (which is featured in the TLC reality show “DC Cupcakes”) went down the street, and, yes, even snaked around the block. We aborted that mission.

Next, we tried Sprinkles, the California-based chain. A long line still. Finally, we tried Baked & Wired (which happens to be my favorite in DC) and there was still a long line. To me, it didn’t matter. Was it worth waiting 20 minutes? Well, call me crazy, but I was happy. The boyfriend, while he enjoyed his cupcake, (which involved peanut butter, banana, and chocolate drizzle) didn’t think so. 

It was however worth it to some people—quite a number of people. It seemed then that the cupcake was alive and well. A lot of people have questioned the cupcake shop. How long can the fad possibly last? Who wants to pay more than $3 for a cupcake? What’s the point?

I really don’t know the answer. I just think that several entrepreneurs have stumbled upon something. For around $4 you can buy a few moments of happiness. In a world where we’re stressed out about financial woes, natural disasters, and politics, how could we not want to submerge our troubles in a puffy pink cupcake topped with whipped sugar?

In a world too, where we’ve been strapped for cash, in the great scheme of things, $4 doesn’t seem like much risk at all. We’ve been aching to have our indulgences returned since the beginning of the recession, and I think we’ve found an attainable one in the cupcake.

Also, don’t forget about size. Not only is a small cake cute, but it’s also a quasi-reasonable answer to oversized portions. It’s less guilt-laced than a super-sized piece of cake. Whether or not it should be is another question.

So, is the cupcake dead? I was surprised to find out, no, not just yet. I think that maybe, just maybe, they might actually have staying power.

What do you think? Are cupcakes in or out? Do you care? What do you think the next fad food will be?

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