• The gourmet equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb: cupcakes

    by  •  • Posterous

    It’s every woman’s new business plan — a company selling cutesy, glitter-sprinkled, over-frosted, girth-widening goo. Time for the backlash to begin

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    Ever since Carrie Bradshaw sat outside New York’s famous Magnolia bakery,
    tucking into one of their offerings, everyone from Kate Moss to Nelson
    Mandela has gone cuckoo for cupcakes. People devote blogs to them, join
    Facebook groups about them (the cupcakes fan page on the site has more than
    250,000 members), write books about them (thousands of different ones are
    available on Amazon) and even declare themselves cupcake artists (no
    sniggering at the back). Cupcake-maker is also the latest alternative career
    aspiration for a host of yummy mummies who have stepped off the corporate
    treadmill, moved to the country or want flexible working. No fashionable
    farmer’s market is complete without its home-made cupcake stall, staffed by
    fragrant women who are happy to charge £5 for each sickly creation.

    Now the backlash has started. The first anti-cupcake blog,
    cupcakesareshit.tumblr.com, sprang up last year, stating: “Cupcakes seem to
    be shorthand for some pointless version of post-feminism. Get me a real
    cake, like a nice bit of banana bread or a good old carrot cake. I’ll leave
    the nausea-inducing sugar-laden sponges to the morons.” And they’re not the
    only ones. The cookery writer Ravinder Bhogal agrees. “I’m totally over
    cupcakes,” she says. “Wheat-free, vegan, weird flavours — there has been
    such a cupcake binge, and the frosting can be so sickly. Often, they look
    better than they taste.”

    There’s also something unsettling at the heart of cupcake culture. A recent
    visit to one of the many cupcake bakeries in London saw it packed with women
    in their thirties, cooing over the cutesy, calorie-jammed treats as if they
    were newborn babies, which for many is part of the problem. “What frustrates
    me is the way cupcakes have been so completely embraced by otherwise
    sensible adult women,” says the food blogger Sophie Jordan. “Glitter,
    heart-shaped sprinkles, pink frosting: these are the most infantilised baked
    goods imaginable.” It seems the fact that cupcakes now represent a lifestyle
    choice, rather than just a nice bit of cake, is causing some serious bad
    feeling, with one dissenter describing those who like them as “the kind of
    women who speak in baby voices to their partner”.

    The gourmet equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb, cupcakes are, after all,
    essentially just tarted-up fairy cakes. They might be smothered in sprinkles
    and have enough icing for an entire kids’ tea party, but underneath it all,
    one thing remains: an overhyped fairy cake, just like the ones your mum
    taught you to make, aged four. And it’s not just the food bloggers and cooks
    who’ve had it up to their (slightly rotten) back teeth with cupcakes — you
    can now buy anti-cupcake mugs, T-shirts and even knickers. The AntiCupcake
    Company, based in San Francisco (slogan: “Down with the cupcake; up with the
    cheesecake”), has also jumped on the bandwagon, peddling mini cheesecakes.

    So what does cupcake royalty make of it all? Steve Abrams, the man whose
    bakery, Magnolia, kick-started the trend, acknowledges that the phenomenon
    has reached the point of overkill. “The minute it gets big, everyone jumps
    on the bandwagon. Then, when it subsides, those people will disappear,” he
    says. “But seriously — these anti-cupcake people, are those the same people
    who don’t like children and dogs? I understand a segment of the population
    that’s curmudgeonly and anti anything that’s popular, but how could you
    bemoan a cupcake? It’s just something to eat — let’s not take ourselves too
    seriously.”

    What started off as a cute retro trend, however, has grown into a
    (double-vanilla, red-velvet-flavoured) monster. You can now buy into the
    experience completely, with cupcake jewellery, a television show (Cupcake
    Wars) and even a cupcake-scented antibacterial hand sanitiser. Oh, and men,
    you’re catered for too: dudeswithbeardseatingcupcakes.tumblr.com features —
    yes, you guessed it — dudes with beards eating cupcakes. It’s enough to
    leave a bad taste in your mouth.

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