Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Cupcakes

Before the advent of the cupcake our diminutive ancestors roamed the planet with no shops to cater to their hunger for a 500-calorie snack. They would peer into the windows of bakeries like little match girls, regular cake being much too big for their tiny hands.

The present thriving cupcake culture is surprising for two reasons. First, we're getting serious about obesity for the first time and second, most cupcakes are yucky. I'm all for an occasional celebratory indulgence, but make it an excellent one. We took a trip to Chicago's Sprinkles shop last week and left underwhelmed. The cake part was bland and the frosting part too sweet. The Red Velvet cupcake was the best but would have improved tremendously had they used better quality cocoa powder in the cake and less sugar in the frosting.

Hate the cupcake not the baker
The biggest problem with the cupcake is its design. The most visually enticing cupcake boasts an generous mound of frosting. This skews the important cake-to-frosting ratio. Take a bite and you're going to end up with too much of one and not enough of the other. The best cupcake-eating technique demands breaking the cupcake in half cross-wise and sandwiching the frosting between the cake layers, destroying the visual beauty of the dessert but making it taste a lot better. This assumes the cupcake is well-made, which is not often the case. I live down the street from a purveyor whose goods are flavorless, dense and greasy. There's no good way to eat one of those.

A better indulgence is the classic layer cake:  liquor or espresso-soaked cake layered with mascarpone mousse or rum-spiked chocolate ganache, a little hazelnut praline for crunch and enrobed in bittersweet chocolate glaze. The delicate balance of flavor and texture will make you never settle for a boorish cupcake again. And you'll be supporting a real craftsman, not some yahoo with a muffin tin and a pastry bag.

Bottom line
Over the years we've supported a long line of sweet fads: Mrs. Fields, TCBY, Krispy Kreme. The cupcake's days are numbered. What's next?

1 comment:

Matthew McEvoy said...

Yes! Who are these folks who think they need bad cupcakes? Damn shops are everywhere in austin. Sugar Momma! Hey Cupcake!

Cloy names to go with their similar product.

Even my sweets loving boys cant take much of one these.

Thanks for standing up for complexity, richness and taste.