Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Apple #456: Cupcakes

I completely forgot all about the Daily Apple this past Sunday.  Incredible, I know.  But I did.

One of the things I was doing instead of coming up with a new Daily Apple was eating cupcakes.  So here's some trivia about cupcakes.

Cupcakes from The Magnolia Bakery in New York City.
(Photo from Things to See NYC)

  • One of the earliest known recipes for cupcakes, from 1796, calls for
    • 1/2 pound sugar
    • 1/2 pound butter
    • 2 pounds flour
    • one glass of wine
    • one glass of rosewater
    • two glasses of emptins, or dregs, perhaps of cider or beer
    • nutmeg
    • cinnamon
    • currants
  • They didn't have cupcake tins back then.  I'm not sure what they would have baked them in, but by the 19th century, people were baking cupcakes in ramekins, which are individual ceramic bowls that are smaller than the typical cereal bowl.  If you've ordered creme brulee in a restaurant lately, chances are it was served to you in a ramekin.
  • Some people make cupcakes in actual mugs.  People like to do this because, with a microwave oven, these can be made right in the mug, no extra bowls or dishes necessary, in five minutes.  One baker said that five minutes is too long, that the cupcakes turn out rubbery and inedible, and that 2 mins 30 secs works much better.  
  • Cupcakes have become enormously popular lately.  I've been noticing lots of blogs springing up that are devoted specifically to cupcakes.  Stores have opened in my town that sell nothing but cupcakes.  In 2008, Google reported that the greatest increase in the number of recipe searches was for cupcakes. 
  • I did a quick search for cupcake blogs and found thousands.  One hit listed the top 50 blogs solely about cupcakes.  So if you're mad about cupcakes and you want new recipes strictly for cupcakes but on a regular basis, check out this list and you'll probably find a blog or 5 or 10 that you might want to follow.
  • For decades, a phrase has been passed around in the product development and marketing world, which is that if you want to make a product sell really well with women, "shrink it and pink it."  That is, make it smaller and make it pink and it'll sell like hotcakes.  Or should I say, cupcakes?

The cute and the pink factors are very hard at work in the cupcake world.
(Photo from Hostess blog.  There's no recipe, it's an entry only about cupcake photos. Saturated with cuteness and pink.)

  • A lot of feminists say, don't keep using that "shrink it and pink it" phrase because that's demeaning to women and it's not accurate anyway, products that are small and pink don't necessarily sell better than others that are neither.  (I, for one, try steer clear of pink most of the time.)  But apparently the phrase seems to be pretty apt as far as cupcakes are concerned.
  • Another sign of cupcakes' popularity:  a search of Amazon for books with the word "cupcakes" in the title brought up 518 hits. Granted, not all of them are cupcake cookbooks.  One of them was this murder mystery:

I don't know why this is, but new copies of the above cupcake recipe book sell for about $7, while used copies sell for $63.  Usually that means they've been signed or something, but there's no indication of that in this case.  Perhaps this is a real-life cupcake mystery?

  • In England, cupcakes are called "fairy cakes."  
  • Some people say that fairy cakes are different than cupcakes because they have a dome on top.
  • Others say that fairy cakes have "wings" on top that look like fairy wings.  Still others say those aren't fairy cakes, those are butterfly cakes.

Fairy cake or butterfly cake.  That's butter cream spread in between the "wings" on top of the cake, with powdered sugar dusted on top.
(Photo from Absolute Astronomy)

  • Then there are cupcakes decorated all sorts of ways, for all sorts of purposes.

Darth Vader cupcakes from katiepeck on Flickr.

Lego cupcakes.  Don't know who made these originally, but Forever Geek picked up the photo.

This idea has become popular lately, too: serving a tower of cupcakes rather than cake at wedding receptions.
(Photo from Kate's Wedding, but I think the cupcake wedding cake may actually be from the Vanilla Bake Shop)

This isn't that appetizing, but it's really funny.  It's cupcakes with portions of Stonehenge replicated on top made from, I believe, pieces of Twix candy bars.  I found this posted on a blog that's not about cupcakes, but rather Stonehenge replicas of all sorts.  Definitely check out Clonehenge.
(Photo and cupcakes by tokyopop)

This might be the fanciest cupcake I've ever seen.  This is a strawberry-lime stuffed cupcake from the Food Network.  There's actually a recipe on that page.

Hey, remember these, everybody?  The Hostess cupcakes with the cream filling?
(This is actually an oil painting of the cupcakes in question by Pamela Michelle Johnson)

  • The first Hostess cupcake was made in 1919.  That's way older than I would have thought.
  • But it was in 1950 that the signature squiggle was added on top and which, I think, gave them their true character.
  • I've always suspected that they shoot the filling into the cupcakes with some sort of cream filling spray gun, but I wasn't able to find out whether that was the case.

Food, Cupcake
Absolute Astronomy, cupcake, ramekin
Enterprise Nation, Cupcakes: the facts, figures, and how to get started
lemondrop, "Shrink It & Pink It" -- The Sad Truth About How Tech Markets to Women, February 19, 2010, CupCakes


  1. But no love for the cupcakes we recently looked at that resembled certain lady parts?

  2. An article in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly suggests that Sex in the City is responsible for the cupcake resurgence (and Magnolia's popularity in NYC).

  3. I love cupcakes. That's all I have to say.


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