Burned Out on the Cupcake Trend

EcoSalon’s Foodie Underground columnist explores the cultural ramifications of cupcakes.

A matter of grave importance. One that divides educated women everywhere. Hotly debated in the halls and Skype chats of EcoSalon, one editor loves it; another dismisses it as “glorified gluten” and a columnist – yours truly – despises it.

It’s the matter of cupcakes. And the fact that they’re everywhere. No really, everywhere. Even in mini versions.

Trendy cupcake stores are one thing, and even if I can’t get behind the popularity of the baked good, I’ll agree that they’re colorful, cute and, if you have a sweet tooth, taste good. But restraint is not a virtue Americans possess, and so we weren’t satisfied with adorably stenciled hole-in-the-wall cupcake shops. Instead we had to make the cupcake a national trend on a level of the beanie baby. Cupcakes have literally taken over. I’m too frightened to check QVC.

It Began with Cupcake Crap

When I saw the package of cupcake push pins at a local bookstore, I immediately snapped a photo and sent it to two fellow cupcake haters. “No. Just no,” was the immediate SMS.

iPhone covers, baby blankets, semi-scandalous Halloween costumes, tattoos…you can get it all a la cupcake. But really this is just another symbol of our need to consume more. It’s not that this stuff is covered in images of a saccharine baked good, it’s that none of it is stuff that we really need. But marketers know our sweet tooth, and they know what feeds it, and a cupcake product is apparently it.


Just take a quick second and Google “cupcake blog.” The variety and quality out there is about as bad as the tumultuous sea of mommy blogs and World of Warcraft art. There are some decent ones which actually take cupcake baking to the next level, and as a foodie with a love for good food photos, even I can appreciate, and then there are the ones that make This Is Why You’re Fat look good.

Cupcake Creations Gone Wrong

At the grocery store last week I stopped and stared at the latest copy of Women’s Day, which prominently featured what looked to be corn on the cob as the cover story. Upon closer look, it turned out to be a photo of “corny cupcakes,” brown butter frosted cupcakes covered in jelly beans so they looked like sections of corn, oddly positioned next to a “15 minutes to a trimmer tummy” headline. Well, then.

The only thing worse than a cupcake is another food product that incorporates cupcakes, cupcake stuffed strawberries being a prime example. No, not a cupcake with strawberries in it, but vice versa. Like a culinary science experiment gone wrong. Equally as bad as a Push Pop Cupcake and a cupcake kabob. Or you can always go for a raw cupcake, which in my book is up there with the weirdness factor of veggie bacon.

TV shows

In a recent discussion with some friends, I asked, “did you know that there’s a reality show about a cupcake shop in D.C.?”

“Yeah, and then there’s Cupcake Wars,” another friend pitched in.

Helpfully, Cupcake Wars features thrilling food competition, cupcake style, vetting the best of the best cupcake bakers against each other. DC Cupcake is a little more absurd; think Real Housewives meets fluffy frosting. Did you know you can make an engagement ring and even a wedding dress out of cupcakes? Pardon me while I ponder the impending demise of our society.

Hygiene Products

As if stuffing yourself with overly sugar filled baked goods wasn’t enough, now you can brush your teeth and keep your lips hydrated with the stuff. You can even make your dentist happy by keeping your gums healthy with cupcake flavored floss.

Cupcake Camp

Just like good ole summer camp, but replace the sleeping bags and mosquitoes with frosting and sprinkles. And this in one of the pastry capitals of the world? Non merci.

Sure, they might help fight terrorism, but at the end of the day, do you really need another cupcake, cupcake?


Image: kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)Cupcake ProjectMagazine Time, TLCLost at E Minor, Sugar Daze, lamantin


Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.