Starting in the 90s and accelerating in the past decade, gourmet cupcake stores have popped up everywhere.  Magnolia, Crumbs, Sprinkles.  Do we really need stores devoted entirely to cupcakes?  No, we don’t.

Gourmet cupcakes are evil.  Not just bad, over-hyped, or unhealthy — evil.  Here’s why.

A cupcake is a miniature cake.  Cakes are for special occasions and celebrations: birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings.  We eat cake at times that have meaning and purpose.  Times when it is natural to want to feast and indulge.  Mama Rose, my lovely grandmother, always made a stunningly delicious angel food cake with coconut shavings on our birthdays.  It was out of the ordinary, and it signified and enhanced the greater meaning of our celebration (comfort food).

Enter the cupcake.  A mini-cake in a little cup.  Not only is the cupcake a physically smaller version of a cake, but it also requires less psychological justification to eat it. It’s cake’s casual cousin, and it can be eaten just for fun.  The very act of eating a cupcake can be the cause of the mini-celebration.  Rather than having a special occasion that merits indulgence (birthdays, weddings), the act of indulgence is the cause for celebration.  

And here’s the kicker.  There used to be a stigma to eating cake on ordinary days.  And there still is, to some extent.  Few people go around eating cake on a regular basis.  Nice cakes are too big, too expensive, too luxurious.  The challenge that the cheap, standard grocery-store cupcakes always faced is that they were too cheap, too standard, too inexpensive.  They weren’t special enough — conscience and the last vestiges of social stigma could outweigh enjoyment.  But when gourmet cupcake makers fancied cupcakes up a bit and started charging $3.25 a pop, it provided that little excuse: "Now THIS is a special cupcake."  And eating this gourmet cupcake is a special occasion.  It’s all backwards.  Evil, thy name is comfort food.

Comfort food is a mood-booster.  Kind of like a little drug.  Actually, exactly like a drug.  One day we will call comfort food by it’s true name: a sugar addiction.  A manageable drug addiction that won’t bankrupt you, won’t put you out on the streets, and may not have noticeable health consequences for 20 years or more.  Kind of like smoking.  But it’s a drug addiction nonetheless.  And just like cocaine is the upscale version of crack, gourmet cupcakes are a rich girl’s Twinkie.

What happens if people don’t get their fix?  Beware the man who gets in between a Manhattan woman and her gourmet cupcake.  Get your Sex and the City cupcakes here.

 


20 Responses to “Why gourmet cupcakes are evil”

  1. Corinne says:

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s best to save such treats for special occasions.

  2. Arjune says:

    John,

    Since you began eating paleo do you now decline your Grandmother’s angel food cake? I suppose you don’t live close enough anymore enough for her to make you one…but if she presented you with a slice, would you eat it? Do you make any exceptions from eating paleo?

    • rob says:

      i was thinking of trying palo but will miss cupcakes! lol

      cupcakes

    • Admin says:

      My grandmother is too old to make it anymore, but I would absolutely eat it if offered — and no snarky commentary about it either.

      I’ll do a post soon on exceptions that I make.

      • Alishahndra says:

         John, I don’t think any of us would make a snarky comment about you eating a slice (or the entire cake, really) of something that is a reminder of your childhood and the way your grandmother expresses love.  We don’t seem to be that type of group of people.  I am sure we each have a food that goes beyond comfort food and straight into how we define ourselves (for me it’s the Portuguese sweet bread: massa souvada, which I plan on reinventing because being without it over the holidays was painful; eating it is a communal event…much like making it).

        • Alex Good says:

           The single best comfort food is fish and chips. And no I don’t mean the soggy crap from deluxe, I mean the crispy yumminess you only get by the ocean and in some pubs. The one bad food that I’ve never regretted eating.

        • John says:

          No, sorry, I meant I wouldn’t make a comment. So often when people have strong food preferences, even if they eat normally, they let you know that they’re doing it.

  3. Alishahndra says:

     Really great post, John; thank you.  My only problem is that I am an EXCELLENT baker, and to a certain extent, I have advertised myself as the person who shows love through desserts and baked goods.  (I just baked my dad a Father’s Day cake the other day.)  While I no longer cook with refined sugar, gluten or dairy (I tend to use agave or honey, almond flour, coconut flour, and hemp or almond milk), I  still feel like my talents are in direct opposition to my stance on what we should be eating.  I couldn’t even eat the family sweet bread at Easter, as it would have made me sick, despite the fact that this bread has been made by the family for generations.  That bummed me out something fierce.    Is there any place in the paleo community for a cookbook/blog that provides recipes that are probably cheating but don’t use the key bad ingredients?  (I just made this chocolate lavender fudge frosting the other day with hemp milk and agave, and I don’t know how not to share it…I’m a paleo baker and I feel like that makes me a cheater.)

    • ginastarke says:

       A lot of us in the low carb world cook  with  nut flours like almond  and hazelenut , and  even coconut . I haven’t  experimented with it much, because I’m trying to leave sweets behind me.  However I made low carb brownies from hazelnut flour when non-dieting hubby was  going to DIE if he didn’t have junk  food (yeah,  right)  They turned out  great!  

    • Admin says:

      Sorry to hear that you’ve been burdened with a talent for baking! I usually make mild exceptions for major holidays, but like I said, mild ones. I know there are a bunch of paleo recipe blogs, but I haven’t been following recipe sites much. Melissa over at huntgatherlove.com did something on paleo ice cream recently.

  4. Richard says:

    Oh my gosh!  Are cupcakes like the new donut? Seriously John, what have cupcakes ever done to you? I mean besides make you fat.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think this post is a little sexist. Beware the man that gets in between a Manhattan woman and her cupcake? That line, along with the picture, is quite a jab at women. I think men are just as likely as women to crave comfort food. It’s not fair to paint women as the frivolous, indifferent, tutu-wearing perpetrators of guilty pleasures.
     

    • John says:

      You’re absolutely right that my post is sexist! Agreed that both men and women are hooked on sugar. But in the case of gourmet cupcakes, it’s definitely a chick thing. Don’t worry, I’ll offend guys too — probably with all the beer we drink.

  6. David Csonka says:

    "gourmet cupcakes are a rich girl’s Twinkie"

    Classic!

    • DAve, RN says:

      Ha! Yea, John, tell it like it is! I work for a cardiovascular specialty home Care agency and what do we have sitting in the kitchen almost daily? Cake and cookies and candy and those awful coffee-flavor thingies. Ironic isn’t it?

      Everyone at the office knows how I eat. They all ask what I have for lunch. While Im re-heating grass fed deliciousness of one ilk or another, and savoring asparagus or some such,  they put their frozen carb-laden "Smart Meals’ in the microwave. Or eat popcorn. You know, so they can lose weight and be healthy.

      Keep tell’n it like it is!

  7. yvette says:

    interesting article… but nothing wrong with a cupcake and a latte on a special catch-up with a friend date!

  8. Doug-e-fresh says:

     Not surprising really when you consider that we live in a society that eschews self-denial in everything.

    Not only is the cupcake a physically smaller version of a cake, but it also requires less psychological justification to eat it. It’s cake’s casual cousin, and it can be eaten just for fun.

    - Cupcakes are the hot whore cousins of the girl next door.

    The challenge that the cheap, standard grocery-store cupcakes always faced is that they were too cheap, too standard, too inexpensive.  They weren’t special enough — conscience and the last vestiges of social stigma could outweigh enjoyment.  But when gourmet cupcake makers fancied cupcakes up a bit and started charging $3.25 a pop, it provided that little excuse: "Now THIS is a special cupcake."  And eating this gourmet cupcake is a special occasion. -Funny how people respond to perceived value.  "If I have to pay more then it must be better."  

    - Again, any bit of exercised self-restraint should grant a person enough time to think beyond the knee jerk reaction.

    And just like cocaine is the upscale version of crack, gourmet cupcakes are a rich girl’s Twinkie.

    - I agree, this is classic.

    Great post overall John.

    • j says:

      "Cupcakes are the hot whore cousins of the girl next door."

       

      I can’t believe you just compared human beings to food. Women are not things to be consumed, believe it or not.

       

  9.  Great post, John.  These sorts of foods might be okay if they were few and far between.   But there are so many products using the "treat yourself to a little something special just this once" idea in their ad campaigns that it’s easy to ignore all the OTHER products you’ve used recently to "treat yourself to a little something special."  And all those treats add up. 

    It’s better not to make the first exception, and rather treat yourself well ALL the time by ignoring all this poison – period.  

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