In a recent interview Elle magazine asked me why the cupcake market is booming in Scandinavia? My response was: can we please stop calling our obsession with cupcakes a trend.
A Booming Industry
Clearly cupcakes are now a booming mainstream industry gone absolutely mad. It was on a visit to New York in 2005 that I first encountered cupcake-crazed women at a singleton’s birthday party. I simply didn’t get it but suddenly I noticed stylish cupcakes splashed all over every fashion magazine, from Vogue to Nylon. The rest of the world followed when Carrie Bradshaw in ’Sex and the City’ visited the Magnolia Bakery to comfort her heartache with a pastel specimen.
Cakes Baked in Cups
Obviously cupcakes didn’t just happen overnight. According to Wikipedia the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796, and the term was first recorded in Eliza Leslie’s 1828 cookbook “Seventy-five Recipes for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats”. Before muffin tins were widely available, cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups and perhaps that’s why any teacup-sized cake is now called a ‘cupcake’.
Food Meets Fashion
The latest ‘sweet move’ was when Marc Jacobs, creative director of the French design house Louis Vuitton, launched a whole collection in pastel chiffons and sugary hues inspired by the macaroons from Parisian bakery Ladurée which, by the way, I just love (the macaroons that is). The patisserie has long been hailed as the Louis Vuitton of edible treats so now the affiliation has gone full circle. Similarly, Copenhagen-based La Glace, a famous patisserie founded in 1870, has a long-standing and popular tradition of collaboration with designers during Copenhagen Fashion Week. And recently the ‘80s celebrity shoe designer Patrick Cox opened the very successful Cox Cookies and Cakes in London’s Soho, taking the fashion + cake association to a new level.
Sweet ‘Movers and Shakers’ It’s not just cakes but everything ‘home-made’ – preferably with an authentic and rediscovered regional feel or über stylish presentation – that has seen a huge revival over the last decade. Try typing in ‘C-U-P-C-A-K-E’ on pinterest.com – the social pin board – and you will get an idea how big this phenomenon has become. I’d argue that culinary storytelling is accessible for all and a socially acceptable fascination even in times of recession.
The Cupcake Index I’m wondering if cupcakes are something special. Rather like the Leading Lipstick Indicator or the ‘Lipstick Index’ phenomenon first recorded by Estee Lauder – where lipstick sales go up as consumer confidence goes down. Perhaps cupcake sales are actually a barometer of our mood and a small personal luxury in hard times? If that is the case, it is going to be very interesting to follow the ‘Cupcake Index” in the year ahead.
* Patrick Cox: Cupcakes, Celebrity and Controversy >>
* I loved Cupcakes before they were cool: Daydream Lilly >>
* Cupcakes: The tasty London Trend that’s Become Big Business >>
* Battle of the Cupcakes: Things That Thrill my Heart >>
* Cupcake Wars: How ‘Sex and the City’ Ruined my Neighbourhood >>
Anne Lise is a futurist and keynote speaker working across the world