It's 2013 and cupcakes are still going strong.
Once again cupcakes made year-end hot lists like The Year on Twitter and Google Zeitgeist. Their images are re-pinned endlessly on Pinterest and their recipes are among the most searched-for on cooking sites. They're still the fastest-growing segment of the baked goods industry, and there's no end in sight.
It seems like only yesterday that cupcakes were a humble homey dessert, just one of the pack, interchangeable with cookies and brownies. Then, in a perfect storm of economics and Sex and the City, cupcakes caught fire. Today, cupcake bakeries dot the landscape of gentrified urban neighborhoods and suburban strip malls. You can get a cupcake in a deli or a burger joint, waiting for a plane at the airport, in a hospital cafeteria, or a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Doomsayers have predicted a post-sugar rush crash for years.
Cupcakes are derided as tedious and over-exposed, 'fake happiness, wrought in Wonka unfood colors,' and 'the favorite greedy treat of the me-generation.' Washington City Paper dubbed them 'the cockroach of the culinary scene,' but the way they multiply is more like fruit flies. If it's a cupcake bubble, as some say, when's the burst?
Countless column inches have been devoted to media predictions of the 'new cupcake.' Once we had our fill of cupcakes, they wondered, what would be the next it treat to feed our sugar lust?
We scurried after macarons and whoopie pies, chased down cake pops and donuts, and listened to stray rumblings of support for dark horse candidates like bread pudding and bundt cakes. While each of these pastries might, in turn, have its pop culture moment, we don’t see cupcakes stepping aside anytime soon.
Cupcakes are shaping up as the pastry equivalent of the Bush tax cuts.
When they first popped up a decade or so ago, nobody expected either to stick around for long. But here we are in 2013 and both cupcakes and the tax cuts seem to have become permanent fixtures.
Just like fiscal policy, the rationale for cupcakes is a slippery one, capable of transcending the vagaries of our economy. You're doing well? Trade up from cookies and treat yourself to a cupcake. Times are tough? For just a few bucks a cupcake will soothe you, body and soul. Cupcakes can be an indulgent treat or an affordable comfort. Just like tax cuts.
It's all a matter of perspective. And that, it seems, is the secret to their longevity.
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