Is There Anything That Promises So Much Yet Delivers So Little As The Cupcake?

06/01/2011 16:21 | Updated 22 May 2015

Now I know there have been some controversial debates in this slot. But this one, I think, might just really kick off. Yes, I'm daring to ask THE difficult questions: Is there anything in the entire universe that promises so much yet delivers so little as the cupcake?

Every swirl of icing is always immaculately coiffured, as if fixed by Elnet, while potential flavour combinations hint at sophistication and glamour. Vanilla chocolate with marshmallows and butter cream. Pecan-filled carrot with cinnamon cheese. It's not exactly a doughnut at your local Greggs is it?

But while cupcakes look as dreamy as a prom queen fresh from the beauty salon they are, incredible as it sounds, even more vacuous. There's the immediate sugar-icing hit. Followed by more icing. And yet more icing after that. Before eventually - if haven't passed out from rapid-onset Type-II diabetes or died from embarrassment by having your face covered in the stuff - you discover the bun bit ... which tastes pretty much like a overly dry fairy cake without sultanas to provide moisture and variety.

And what of those tantalising flavour combinations you were promised? Well, I've tried cupcakes in New York, London and pretty much everywhere else where they exist and the taste is weirdly bland, whether you're eating chocolate, fruit or whatever.

So to sum up: lots of sugar, awkward to eat, and then a fairy cake without sultanas. As the Sex Pistols once put it: ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

But while I'm determinedly swimming against the tide, everyone else seems to be busily front-crawling the other way. Because right now cupcakes are everywhere. Everywhere! There are kosher cupcakes. A cupcake stall in Topshop. Even a book – by the otherwise excellent Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero - called Vegan Cupcakes take over the world.

And that's exactly what they are doing. Because ever since Sex and the City hit our screens at the dog-end of the last millennium, cupcakes have become a sort of must-have fashion accessory. Albeit one no one understands – baking's answer to Henry Conway.

All the while lovely regional British cakes that have existed since man (or more likely woman) first hit upon the idea of mixing flour, eggs, milk and sugar – Banbury cakes, Eccles cakes, Bishops cake, Bakewell tarts, scones, oatmeal bannocks, Victoria sponge cake to name but a handful – are increasingly brushed aside by this new, somewhat brash upstart. Fairy cakes and cupcakes were once strictly for kids, but now have become special-treat status for thirtysomething women.

I'm swimming against the tide, I know. These little imports seem set to grow and grow. But for heaven's sake, will someone PLEASE explain to me the appeal.. ?

By: Kate Carter


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