It appears that cupcakes are as popular as ever, with more boutique bakeries opening up and selling these diminutive little cakes each month. Despite the struggling economy, many consumers are willing to spend two or three bucks (or more) on a beautifully decorated cupcake, piled high with creamy and buttery frosting. Always a favorite with moms and kids (especially at birthday parties), cupcakes became a gastronomical phenomenon in the mid-1990s when New York City’s Magnolia Bakery began selling their designer cupcakes. Opened with the intent of being a small, neighborhood shop with limited hours, the bakery became a quick hit after consumers tasted their cupcakes. The cupcakes were originally baked from the leftover batter from their larger cakes, but there was something about their taste, size and texture that exuded sex appeal, and they became an overnight phenomenon.
Since its humble beginnings, the Magnolia Bakery has expanded its operations to include two additional stores and has a loyal following of fans who line up each day to purchase their favorite flavors. Customers are limited to purchasing no more than two dozen of their iced, whimsical treats (unless you call in advance to make arrangements). They are open to at least 10 p.m. and later on weekends to meet the demand of their adoring clientele.
The Magnolia Bakery also makes layer cakes in a variety of flavors, icebox cakes, pies, specialty desserts and a creamy banana pudding. However, their signature item remain their famous cupcake, and it is because of their popularity and media attention that the cupcake craze took off and remains strong today, with cupcakes showing up on restaurant and coffee shop menus, as well as new cupcakeries opening in cities and small towns all across the United States.
Marlo Scott was one entrepreneur inspired by the Magnolia Bakery. She is the owner of Sweet Revenge, a boutique wine bistro and cupcake bar located at 62 Carmine Street in New York City. After being laid off from her job in “Corporate America,” she followed her dream and opened this upscale and sophisticated eatery that encourages you to drink adult beverages (i.e. not milk) with your sweet and savory cupcakes. For those who are not sure what type of wine or beer goes with cupcakes, suggestions are printed on their menu, and helpful servers can explain the subtle nuances. Open for just about 18 months, Sweet Revenge has turned into a hot spot for cupcake aficionados in New York City. (You can read more about Sweet Revenge on Cunei’s FriendsEat.com blog.)
Grumpy cakes are gourmet cupcakes produced by Just Baked, a gourmet cupcake shop and bakery in Livonia, Michigan. Their hot-seller, the Grumpy cake, is a rich devil’s food cake stuffed with vanilla buttercream, topped with buttercream pillows and dipped in homemade ganache. It sells for a modest $2.25 each. Also popular on their menu is the Fat Elvis cupcake, a moist banana cake topped with peanut butter-buttercream pillows, which is hand dipped in chocolate ganache. Just Baked offers more than 40 varieties of cupcakes with such mouth watering flavors as toasted almond, Samoa, white chocolate raspberry, key lime pie, tiramisu, blueberry cobbler and trail mix cupcakes.
Los Angeles’ answer to the cupcake craze is the trendy and popular Sprinkles, started in Beverly Hills by Candace Nelson. Coming from a culinary family, Nelson was able to pursue her dream and become part of the cupcake craze, as her stores are appearing in cities across the country. At $3.25 each, Sprinkles has a sophisticated flavor calendar which lists on which days of the week each of their more than 25 flavors are available. The national media attention they have received has helped Sprinkles expand its empire, as well as keep the cupcake as an American dessert icon.
A muffin lookalike, the main difference between a cupcake and a muffin is its texture, and of course, the icing. Although purists may defend the muffin as more nutritious, if you strip the cupcake down to the bare minimum (without icing), the cupcake will probably have less calories than an equal-sized muffin. However, once you pile on a mound of icing, you’ll give the muffin a run for its money.
Hungry for some cupcakes? Try these FriendsEat.com recipes.
Sweet Revenge Vanilla Cupkcakes – The Recipe comes Straight from Sweet Revenge Cupcake Bar located on Carmine Street in NYC.
What do critics look for in a cupcake? Click here to see a cupcake tasting!
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