Tuesday, December 13

Is the Cupcake Era Over in NYC?

Cupcake display at Magnolia Bakery
(photo credits: http://culturemob.com/get-your-sweet-fix- milk-magnolia-bakery-and-simplethings-open-late)
Rarely does a day go by in New York City where, walking down the streets or riding the subway, one does not see someone carrying a bag full of cupcakes.

Type in the word “cupcakes” in the Yelp search bar, and 1,698 results will appear for the area of New York. A feature article in New York Magazine written by Adam Sternbergh attributes the rise of cupcake culture to the combination of “a post-diet-fad craving for sugary indulgence, the girly-girl culture that spun up around Sex and the City, and a regressive nostalgia that spurs adults to seek out the comfort foods of some idealized, vanilla-scented childhood.”

Nicole Chu, 19, bought a Red Velvet Cupcake for $3.75 at the Crumbs Bake Shop at Union Square. “It’s a way for people to get their sweet fix on,” she said when asked about what she thinks attracts people to cupcakes, “it also has a nostalgic feeling.” Cupcakes remind her of the birthday parties of her childhood where her mother would bake homemade cupcakes. “When I am having a bad day, cupcakes remind me of those good days,” she said.

The portability of cupcakes is also a reason for their popularity. Chu mentioned that cupcakes are not actually her favorite dessert, she prefers frozen yogurt. “You can’t take a dozen frozen yogurts to someone’s house,” she joked. Her favorite cupcake bakery in Manhattan is Magnolia Bakery, because their frosting is “very buttery but not too sweet.”

Chu believes that cupcakes are overpriced and that people are in fact buying the experience of going to the bakery, looking at the display, choosing one flavor, and watching the cupcake get wrapped up. “The build up is very comforting,” she said, “nothing can go wrong except for gaining a couple pounds.”

Some foodies trace the beginning of the cupcake craze to July 9, 2000, when the fifth episode of season 3 of Sex and the City aired. The audience saw Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) eating pink frosted cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. More than a decade later, foodies are spotting a new dessert trend on their radar—macaroons.

Macrons from Laudrée
(photo credits: http://www.flickriver.com/ photos/chachahavana/popular-interesting/)
The dainty French cookies are “more sophisticated than cupcakes,” said Sarah Tenaglia, senior food editor and resident macaroon expert at Bon Appetit in an online article. Many foodies agree that macaroons are harder to make than cupcakes. Prices for these elegant cookies range from $2-$3 for one macaroon. In the November 1 New York Times article, “Airy Macarons,” Ligaya Mishan wrote about the eight best macarooniers in New York. “The macaron is the anti-cupcake,” she wrote, “a cupcake comforts. A macaron teases.”

When asked if she would rather have a cupcake or a macaroon, Chu answered, “That’s like asking the ‘Are you a Marilyn or Jackie O’ question!” 

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