Cupcakes are delicious. I love cupcakes. I draw my culinary Maginot line, however, with those cupcakes purchased from boutique bakeries throughout our region. This, of course, if a gross generalization - have I eaten some spongy goodness from every small business? No. But I've had enough to know what's good and what's not. And what's even more shocking to me is that simple cake should be something every American holds at minimum a master's degree in; all of us have eaten it since our first kindergarten birthday. We should all know what's average - but the cupcake craze has come and continues and continues and continues.
Anyone can make a cupcake if they try. It's not cassoulet. It's not even a sheet cake. Dollops of batter lovingly plopped into cheerfully decorated paper wrappers, they're virtually impossible to destroy; any easy-to-follow recipe can be had on the Internet or on a bag of flour. Sure they'll take about 30 minutes from start to finish, but the final product will be more than worth the effort. And I promise, they will taste just as good - if not better - than those you've purchased and you'll get a dozen for the cost of just one.
Store bought cupcakes are convenient. I agree. And the icing is usually tasty. But a great cupcake should be like a fifty-year marriage between cake and icing - comfortable, seamless, and complimentary. If you need some sugar, buy a tub of Duncan Hines and grab a spoon! Don't spend $3.50 for a few tablespoons of creatively flavored cream cheese or butter cream with a chunk of mediocre cake. If you don't bake because you only want one, eat your one and bring the rest to work. You'd be amazed at the co-worker goodwill created with baked goods.
As the weather gets warmer, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that our minds will soon turn to frozen yogurt and the super hip tartness scale. I say break free from the hold of these boutique bakeries! Leave them to the cake making; the cupcake is their version of the checkout aisle chocolate bar. It's impulsive and costly - the grande latte of the bakery world! You have a Jacques Torres within you...just set him free!
Editor's (JAY's) note:
I can't help myself - sometimes I just have to share a story. ;)
I had the pleasure of meeting Jacques Torres at The Chocolate Show in NYC several years ago. He was selling his wares: *Insert French accent here*
"Men, buy my 'shocolate,' the ladies will love you...ladies beware, I'm eating some now." ;)