Saturday, April 25, 2009

What's next . . . McCupcakes?

In the last five to ten years, depending upon whom you ask, cupcakes have taken on an entirely new aura. The cupcake extravaganza, expressed in terms of shops dedicated almost solely to the petite cakes, presumably began in New York City. What was once just a chic Manhattan fad, like most chic Manhattan fads, eventually infiltrated even the most white-bread suburban hideaways of the not-altogether-sleepy Midwest.

No longer just a fad, independent cupcake shops of every stripe abound these days, sprouting like dandelions where one least expects. They entice with their unavoidable cuteness, their coy come-hither window displays (often featuring color schemes heavy on pale pink and chocolate brown), and--most critically--their promise of a momentary return to those vanishing memories of childhood bliss. In other words, they are virtually inescapable. But then, who would want to escape? Not I. Nor you? I didn't think so.

Of course, there are those among us who believe the flurry of such shops opening in the last few years is directly related to a sense, at least among society's more enlightened members, of the value of moderation in all things. That moderation includes the need for dietary self restraint, coupled with the irrepressible hedonistic and very human urge to indulge impulsively from time to time.

The demure cupcake, though majestic in its own quiet way, satisfies this urge perfectly. It's relatively inexpensive, certainly so when compared to the cost of purchasing a whole cake. It discourages the opportunity for one to eat to excess, especially given that its size is fairly standard and predictable. It arrives on your plate, or in your white paper bakery bag, as a single self-contained unit, making it easily portable and thus eliminating the need to wolf it down immediately if one chooses not to do so.

So there it is, in a nutshell (or, more appropriately, a cupcake liner). Whether motivated by nostalgia, economics, moderation, portability, or the simple unquenchable craving for something soft and sweet, there is always a good reason to invest in the tender joy of a cupcake. What harm can it do?

And as far as the ongoing proliferation of cupcake shops, where to draw the line, you may ask? Well, don't start worrying about that just yet. Don't you have enough on your mind already just wondering where your next cupcake will come from?

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