Curiosity draws a crowd to the Magnolia Bakery on New York’s Bleecker Street, but the cupcakes have established a sweet reputation that spans the nation and may have sparked the current cupcake craze. Cupcakes have become the new trendy dessert, proof of which lies in their spiked sales in traditional bakeries and the opening of several cupcake-only bakeries nationwide, according to the owner of Dallas’ Tart Bakery, Kristin Rahal.
The cupcake has always been a staple in a mother’s kitchen, made with love by the dozen, but it is now popular among the grown-up crowd.
“People came in and kept ordering and ordering our cupcakes, so we started the cupcake bar,” said Rahal.
The “bar” is the station where customers can mix-and-match their cake flavor, icing flavor (vanilla or chocolate) and topping to add to the icing (everything from sprinkles to Oreos). The product is a personalized dessert, fit for consumption.
“I think cupcakes make people remember their childhood – and they are also fun to eat,” said Roshi Muns, owner of Society Bakery in Dallas.
Society’s cupcakes themselves are child-like with a fluffy cloud of pastel cream-cheese frosting dusted with rainbow dot sprinkles. Muns and Rahal say the tiny cakes become more sophisticated when used at some Dallas weddings and parties.
“We have done several groom’s cake cupcake tiers. We also have been doing cupcake cakes for a long time – several cupcakes placed together, iced over to look like a whole cake,” Muns said.
Saint Cupcake, a bakery in Portland, Ore., also does cupcake wedding tiers. Owner Jami Curl says that brides choose cupcakes often because they are cheaper than a traditional wedding cake, and their icings and sprinkles are even dyed to match the colors used in the wedding. Curl says that Portland isn’t a trend-following city though, and wedding cupcakes are no longer on the cutting-edge.
“If you look at the ‘cupcake thing,’ cupcakes became popular for wedding cakes a few years ago. I myself got married over two years ago, and cupcakes were almost ‘over’ as a wedding cake then,” she said.
Wedding cupcakes may be “over,” but cupcake-decorating parties are the new trend at Saint Cupcake.
“We can’t schedule them fast enough. We [do] limit the amount that we book though because they take up a lot of staff time, and when we’re making 2800-3600 cupcakes each day, it’s a lot to work out,” Curl added.
Portland may not be a trend-conscious city, but Dallas residents may think differently about the Big D.
“I think that trend-savvy Dallasites pay attention to what celebrities do, and celebrities have taken to cupcakes lately,” Muns said.
Albuquerque, N.M. is paying attention to the trends too with the recent opening of its own cupcake bakery, Cake Fetish. The month-old bakery features gourmet cupcake creations with names like Devil Made Me Do It, Half-Baked, Velvet Elvis, Yin, Yang and even Zen. There is a baking schedule, though, so you may not be able to get your Love Monkey (made on Friday) fix on a Tuesday.
“We’re also working on the possibility of getting Half-Baked and Boston Cream on the menu every day. They’ve been clearly voted the most popular!” said Owner Carissa Metling.
It is clear that cupcakes can be used in all types of creative ways and seem to be trendy, but what propelled the miniature cakes’ new-found popularity? Look to the tiny New York Magnolia bakery that keeps residents of Greenwich Village happy and keeps the visitors coming back.
Caro Novick, an SMU senior says, “I have been there six times. The first time was while we were waiting for a club to open, and it was around 10 p.m., but the line was out the door. They make them fresh even late at night.”
Novick explains that the inside of the bakery is whimsical but very “cozy” with barely enough space to move around to pick out your cupcakes. Hand-pick, that is, from the trays of pastel-frosted cakes they have are topped with an assortment of sprinkles in different shapes and colors.
“My favorite is the vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting. The frosting is what’s amazing!” Novick said.
Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes may have been popular since the bakery opened in 1996, but they gained celebrity status when “Sex and the City’s” Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) ate the miniature treats during an episode. The pastel-colored cupcakes were even the subject of a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit called “Lazy Sunday,” in which the characters rap about their Magnolia cupcake cravings.
“Another thing that is great is that the cupcakes are so cheap,” Novick said.
Magnolia and Cake Fetish’s cupcakes go for $1.75 each, while Society’s range from $1.95 to $4.50. St. Cupcake’s treats sell for $2, but for $3, Tart will customize a cupcake just for you.
There are many reasons for the popularity of cupcakes, but the tiny cakes are a perfect pick-me-up disguised as a sweet treat.