Cupcakes: Why sponge and butter icing do not a revolution make.

The cupcake ‘trend’ continues apace. I swear to God if I get one more cupcake-related press release I will do something drastic. And it may involve a spatula.

Cupcake recipes, cupcake moulds, cupcake cases… not to mention all the cupcake-printed oven mitts, chopping boards, tea towels, cushions, bed linen, loo paper (probably); it’s all pouring into stores and into my inbox on daily basis.

Seemingly unfamiliar with the concept of market saturation, companies are now bringing out cupcake kits. Yes, kits. Of course all it really constitutes is a recipe book and a few packs of pink cupcake cases. But, but… NOW we can buy both together in one “delicious pink and chocolate-coloured” presentation box. Doesn’t it just make you swoon with covetousness?

Yeah… not so much.

Even if the recipes for sponge and butter icing were not readily available in every cook book since Mrs Beeton, do we really need another pink and chocolate (which was known as brown last time I checked) recipe book, whether or not it comes with paper cases?

The problem is, cupcakes are in. They are the confectionary of choice for the hoards of cutesie, dishevelled little things in vintage tea dresses. All red lipstick and Topshop leggings, giggling over the naughtiness of it all. And the frenzy shows no signs of abating.

Last week I received a press release inviting me to “join the cupcake revolution.” I assume it was an invitation. Perhaps it was a call to arms. In which case, what I took to be a innocuous, if unimaginative, product pitch was actually the preliminary stages of a coup. Perhaps I shouldn’t have joked about that spatula.

Imagine, if you will, a band of cupcakes storming the palace. Now that’s the kind of surrealist nonsense I could get on board with.

When it comes to press releases, though, the majority are not of this ilk. Instead, oozing with adverbs such as ‘adorably,’ ‘irresistibly,’ ‘deliciously,’ ‘moistly,’ the promotions are as sugary as the cakes, and twice as ridiculous.

Ladies, please. Cupcakes are not some kind of illicit dalliance and physical manifestation of of your post-feminist domestic attitudes all rolled into one. They’re just shit cakes. Pimped out lumps of sponge.

“No,” cried a friend, when I raised this concern. “Not all of them. The good ones are really good.”

Ye-es. And good chips are really good. Good coffee is really good. Good King Wenceslas was, by all accounts, really quite good. But would you decorate your entire kitchen with a ‘kindly-king-feeds-passing-pauper’ motif? If so, do post the images, won’t you?

It isn’t just the eating of cupcakes, though, it’s the resurgence of the supposedly retro pastime of baking. Unlike cooking, which is viewed as either an enthusiastic, almost visceral expression of sensuality and worldliness, or as a perfunctory means to an end, baking is considered rather twee. As a result, it’s had an almost gender-political revival in circles of girls who wouldn’t dream of giving up their careers to spend life in a pinny. Unless of course it was to open their own boutique bakery in Shoreditch, in which case it would be a vintage pinny, which totally doesn’t count as regressive by the way. Sigh.

It can’t just be about reclaiming domesticity, though. Because I don’t see too many of these girls down on their hands and knees scrubbing their doorsteps. In these cynical times, the cupcake craze is an attempt to return to innocence. To cling, childlike, to the skirts of nostalgia and hark back to a time when pleasure came in pretty colours and a hit of sugar would sky-rocket you all the way to playtime without so much as a flashback. Cupcakes require no thought. They just take you to your happy place.

In fact, when you put it like that it is rather sinister. It brings to mind the village madwoman, stumbling aimlessly with bits of wool and knitting needles strewn through her hair and a liberal dusting of flour about her person.

“Aye, I know the one,” says the shopkeeper, leaning over the oak counter. “Lost ‘er ‘usband in the war, she did. And ‘er mind followed not long after.”

She pauses, thoughtfully. “Shame it was,” she says. “She mostly bakes now.”

“Bakes?” you ask. “What, cakes and things? Well, that sounds harmless enough.”

“Aye,” says the shopkeeper. “But who is there to eat ’em?”

Lowering her voice the shopkeeper beckons you closer. “Rumour ‘as it, ‘er ‘ole ‘ouse is filled with stale cupcakes.”


Picture by Dora Dewsbury for POW. Cool, eh? You can buy it as a print for £55. Go to


One thought on “Cupcakes: Why sponge and butter icing do not a revolution make.

  1. Pingback: Teen angst revisited: Porn, pubes, and personal privacy at Fannying Around « Francesca Da Rimini


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