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You’ve come a long way, Cupcake!

October 25, 2008

It’s hard to believe cupcakes have grown up into a big money business across the country in less than 10 years. Check out this New York Times article, circa 1999, about the humble resurrection of the cupcake.

January 24, 1999
PULSE: Baby Cakes Grow Up!

”The reason they’re popular with adults is they’re
a way to re-experience childhood,” she said,
”and they want them to look childlike.”

”A lot of customers claim they’re buying them for the child in the stroller,” said David Starr, the vice president of Ecce Panis, a bakery chain. ”Usually the kid ends up with the biscotti, while the mother eats the cupcake.”

Once seen only at bake sales and single-digit birthday parties, cupcakes are turning up as adult fare at corporate events, dinner parties and fancy-food shops. Why? ”They’re a decadent snack in a reasonable size,” said Jennifer Appel,* the owner of Magnolia Bakery, at Bleecker and West 11th Streets. The shop’s cupcakes ($1.25 each), with swirls of pink, lavender and pale blue frosting, are now so popular that customers are limited to a dozen a visit.

At Cupcake Cafe, at Ninth Avenue and 39th Street, the run on cupcakes, with delicate frosting flowers (above, $2), heats up on weekends. ”On weekday mornings we get moms and kids, but on Friday afternoons, the cupcakes start going out to adults for office parties, for people to take to dinner parties, for people to take to brunch,” said Camilla Wardeke, an employee. A block north on Ninth Avenue, Mitchel London Foods has a grown-up size cupcake — a giant version with frosting an inch thick ($2; $2.95 at Mitchel London’s East 65th Street shop and at ABC Foods). And Ecce Panis sells big ones, too ($2).

Some still prefer the kiddie style. Yura bakery, at 1645 Third Avenue (92d Street), makes cupcakes sprinkled with sugar beads that sell for $1.75 there as well as at Campagna Home, a grown-up Italian specialty shop, and Suzie’s Kitchen. Leah Holzel, Yura’s catering manager, said that staff members recently met to consider using more adult designs but decided not to. ”The reason they’re popular with adults is they’re a way to re-experience childhood,” she said, ”and they want them to look childlike.” ELLEN TIEN.

Zen Cupcake footnote: Jennifer Appel is no longer owner of Magnolia Bakery. After a ugly feud with her partner she opened the Buttercup Bake Shop which turned into Buttercup vs. Little Cupcake, which was chronicled in New York Magazine. According to the writer of the New York Magazine, Appel is known as New York’s “Don Corleone” of cupcakes. Of course, that means she is a successful woman and ahead of the pack.

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