The Cupcake Craze

cupcakeWhat is it about over-priced, calorie-laden, exotic cupcakes that has everyone in such a twitter?  I don’t get it. I particularly don’t get it when a friend was telling me that she bought cupcakes for her daughter’s class at school and thought she had a bargain because they didn’t cost over $100. Fifteen cupcakes for under $100? Is that really a bargain these days?

Then I started getting review books that featured cupcake bakers who find love through exotic ingredients and piles of frosting.

First I read Cupcake Rush by Donna Kauffman, and while I understood the minimalist approach of baking small goodies rather than a huge cake, I didn’t really buy that an upscale New York baker would chuck it all to become a cupcake specialist in a downscale Southern seaside town. But I didn’t think much about the cupcake angle.

Then the avalanche of cupcake books landed on me:

Cupcake by Mariah Jones, one of the 99-cent (or free) Kindle novellas, features an overweight protagonist and a sexy art gallery owner next door to her bakery. Why, one wonders, if the protagonist wants to lose weight, doesn’t she decide to bake low-calorie, heart-healthy alternatives? Because cupcakes are “in,” that’s why!

Cupcakes and the Centre of the Universe by Whitney Moore, another digital-only book, takes a Douglas Adams approach to the universe and baking. So much for the fish. Still, are cupcakes an acceptable alternative?

The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross is the chick-lit romance answer to the cupcake frenzy. One dumped woman moves from Dallas to Manhattan and takes the city by storm with her cutely named cupcakes. Uh huh.

Cupcakes and Cupids by Jennifer Connor is admittedly one of the first cupcake romances, but it’s so short that I don’t think it quite qualifies as the trend-setter.

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue will be published in March 2012, but promises to be more chick-lit about friendship and the little bundles of fattening food.

And those are only the tip of the icing.  A veritable glut of cupcakes are waiting in the wings to be published through the spring and summer, not only in the romance realm but also in children’s literature and mysteries.

My question is: Who cares? Are you so enamored with cupcakes that you’ll scarf up these goodies as they come out? If so, what fascinates you about them? Or are you like me puzzled as to their appeal? This dieting reviewer is curious to know.

- Pat Henshaw

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30 Responses to The Cupcake Craze

  1. Tee says:

    Pat Henshaw: My question is: Who cares? Are you so enamored with cupcakes that you’ll scarf up these goodies as they come out? If so, what fascinates you about them? Or are you like me puzzled as to their appeal?

    Like you, I’m puzzled as to their appeal. And who cares? That, too. :) They look wonderful, of course, when so elaborately decorated; that can’t be denied. But are you serious when you say that person thought purchasing 15 cupcakes under $100 was a bargain? That is very, very sad. Especially when you consider how non discriminating the average child’s taste is when eating sweets.

    I don’t seek out the TV shows nor the books about them. If I go to a bakery, I’d rather have a donut or glazed coffee cake. If I want cupcakes, I’d buy a box of Betty Crocker mix and make them. They’re way too easy. Can’t do the other goodies that well.

  2. louiseaar says:

    This had me laughing so hard, Pat! I don’t get the cupcake craze either. The funniest part is the local Cupcake store in my town has cupcakes made to look like Hostess Cupcakes. Upscale versions of the chocolate cakes with the white swirlies on top. Now tell me, why would anyone pay $5 for one of those, when you can buy a whole box for the same price – and get the added advantage of the childhood comfort food that you know and love? I just don’t get the appeal!

    Great blog! Thanks!

  3. Leigh says:

    I just finished Meet Me at the Cupcake Café and before that I have read numerous books featuring cupcakes. The appeal for me is not cupcakes but baking, since I love books about either that or cooking.

    There is something so nurturing and appealing about a hero or heroine that can create great food. But it has to be believable. I read one book where the hero created a gourmet meal in just a little over 30 minutes.

    Cupcakes look wonderful but I don’t want all that icing on four bites of cake. Surprise me with something in the middle not a tower of sugar and lard.

    I suspect that when Mrs. Fields was so popular that there were lots of books about heroine creating wonderful cookies. It is a fad and will be replaced by something else.

  4. Lynnd says:

    I don’t get this cupcake craze either, and the prices that people are willing to pay for them are nuts. As Tee said above, cupcakes are among the easiest things to make, even if you make them from scratch. I don’t get the cupcake themed/titled books either. Oh well, chacun a son gout.

  5. Love them, but they’re a special treat, and I don’t particularly want to read about them.
    Is it cos they’re cute?
    But – every year I bake a Christmas cake and every year at least half of it is left over. This year, I did Christmas themed cupcakes instead. They were more fun to make, and they looked great on the stand as a centerpiece.
    They all went, too.

  6. lauren says:

    I don’t understand it at either…but what I do understand is it is another way at befuddling a consumer into spending their hard earned dollar on another frivolous thing. My daughter made 82 cupcakes for her baby shower they were blue with chicks on top and then presented on a cake tower it cost about $35 for the whole lot and the end result was really cute. It took her about 4 hrs with the help of a friend.

  7. ZS says:

    To me, cupcakes = ultimate bimbo product. What is it with all the shops and magazines and parties and wedding “cakes”? It’s so easy to suck women into a fad, and it’s kind of sad that’s it’s gone as far as being popular in books.

    Plus… it’s really doing a good thing for the obesity epidemic!

  8. wenmc says:

    I don’t really like to read books that involve food plots. I like to bake and eat sweet things way too much as it is, and those books just make me hungry. I also do not understand the cupcake craze. $100 for kid’s cupcakes sounds absurd!

  9. Carrie says:

    I don’t get the gourmet cupcake craze, but I thought it was just me. I don’t like icing on cake (I always scrap most of it off) so buying a mini-cake with a mountain of too-sweet frosting doesn’t appeal. If I want a fattening treat, give me a scone any day over a cupcake.

    On the other hand, for occasions that call for cakes, cupcakes can make sense. When my daughter got married a few years ago, we saved big on the cake by having a very small decorated “wedding cake” (enough for maybe four slices) and then had cupcakes for the guests. We saved two ways, First, we didn’t have to pay someone to slice the cake (yes, you have to pay the caterer for that task) and we bought the cupcakes through a well-known local grocery store. We taste tested a lot of bakeries, and this store was one of the best tasting, and their prices were incredible. It helped that the cupcakes were on sale when we ordered them, and they gave us that price even though the wedding was a month or so away. We got the small decorated cake (for bride and groom) and 100 cupcakes of varying flavors for well *under* $100. Since wedding cakes started at $2-3 a slice, we saved a bundle!

    Plus the cupcakes arrangements made great decorations. We used stands like the one in the above photo.

  10. maggie b. says:


    Laughed all the way through your blog. I may have to look up Cupcakes and the Center of the Universe – I’m a huge Douglas Adams fan.

    I too don’t get the cupcake frenzy. I prefer cakes – more bang for my buck. But cupcakes have the advantage of being easier to eat – no plate or fork required – portion controlled (they are already set up in portions, it’s not like people have just half), and being fun for kids. For some reason a classroom full of kids with cupcakes make a lot less mess than a classroom full with cake. So I guess I do understand why people like serving them. But I would never spend a 100 on 15 of them. That’s just a tad too crazy for me.

  11. Blythe says:

    Confession: I like cupcakes, and I am tempted to buy books when they are on the cover. They are calorie laden – but tiny. Admittedly, I have a big time sweet tooth, which is one of the many reasons I work out every day. And yes, I would (and have) paid five dollars for one (in Denver, go to The Shoppe!). But I wouldn’t take expensive ones for an elementary school child’s birthday; I always made them myself.

  12. LeeB. says:

    I like cupcakes too but have never bought one at any cupcake shop. And don’t forget that you have to stand in line to buy them at some of the more popular places. As if!!!!

  13. leslie says:

    I think the craze started in NYC when a beloved neighborhood bakery/cafe was about to go under. The baker was thinking of how to generate some fast cash with low overhead. Cupcakes are very inexpensive to make. Very serendepitious. Article in NYT Food section. Then said article syndication. Voila Instant Cupcake Craze! What kills me is that they are so tiny!! 2 bites and it’s gone. I’m with Carrie, scones over cupcakes anyday.
    Tassajara Recipe Book has an easy, fast and delicious scone recipe.

  14. Nathalie T says:

    I’m also a fan of scones and since I can make them myself I also save money. Cupecakes aren’t for me since I don’t like frosting.

  15. PatH AAR says:

    Thanks for all your wonderful comments, everyone!

    Since I wrote that piece, I learned my daughter, mother of twins who are in two different classes at school, just baked 48 cupcakes to take to their peers for their birthday. She did this in Rome, Italy, where the concept of supermarket and boxed mixes aren’t easily available.

    Added to this, the twins go to an international school–aptly named AmBrit for the majority of American and British children although there are a lot of Italians and other nationalities included. But because it’s so heavily American, there are the American dietary guidelines for any food brought to school.

    So not only did she find the ingredients for these little masterpieces, but they were made to the dietary restrictions of the school. So much for quick and easy!

    Again, thanks for responding to this blog. You made my day!

  16. AAR Sandy says:

    Cupcakes are just the newest book trend, like knitting and quilting before them. Confession time: I like cupcakes too. Georgetown Cupcakes (TLC’s Cupcake Sisters show) is delicious and nearly always has a line to get in.

  17. willaful says:

    I certainly don’t get it. And since I haven’t eaten sugar in over a year, I’m really not crazy about fiction books that glorify sweets.

  18. xina says:

    I’ve been to a couple of gourmet cupcake shops here, and I’ll admit, they were delicious, but really expensive. Still, a nice treat. I’m not a huge cake fan though, more of a brownie lover. Can we talk gourmet brownies???

  19. JMM says:

    Yikes! I can buy cupcake mix and frosting for under $2.00!

  20. Jean Wan says:

    See, I thought cupcakes were old hat, and cake pops were in. We’re getting tonnes of cake pop books at Chapters.


  21. Moriah Jovan says:

    @Jean The general trends are WAAAAAYYYY behind Pinterest. LOL

  22. Krista says:

    I also live in DC and we love cupcakes! They are such a fun treat to get when you’re wandering around in the spring and need a snack. Plus I like comparing them from all the dozen cupcake bakeries. Although I admit I am a baked goods person so I am naturally inclined towards them. Would love to read about them in romance, thanks for the suggestions!

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  24. Maria D. says:

    I’ll admit that I bought one of the books you mentioned but only because I like the writers style of writing…there is no way I would buy the others though- one is enough. I’m not sure what the appeal is for the overpriced baked goods these days but they sure are getting pricey…lol…..

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  26. Laine says:

    I love the little cupcakes as I don’t feel so guilty eating one and there are so many yummy flavours. I don’t buy from the chain that makes the larger ones.

    I don’t want to read about baking them. My interest is solely in eating them – especially the honeycomb or lemon merringue ones.

  27. Sandy C. says:

    I guess I missed this craze until now. However, after reading this I Googled “cupcakes” and what popped up? A store called “Yummy Cupcakes”; there are three locations in the L.A. area! Who knew? Apparently this company is now offering franchise opportunities; hmm, makes me almost want to quit my job for a new career! ;) (Honestly, I don’t get it either. Yes, they’re easy to eat, but I’m not really into all that icing!

  28. Nikki H says:

    I love cupcakes, but only homemade ones. The ones I have eaten that are lavishly decorated by a professional always taste very dry to me. I am always amazed by the parents of my sixth graders who purchase cupcakes, when 30 cupcakes cost anywhere from $15 to $30, and homemade ones are so inexpensive. My student who brought them yesterday was so proud to tell us he helped make them himself. Just makes sense to me.

  29. Javier Demar says:

    My personal favorite a part of Christmastime may be the tree with colorful lights during my family room. It can make the entire house feel more magical. And I enjoy take a seat on the couch and drink hot cocoa and browse a magazine using the tree twinkling nearby.

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