Dietribes: Cupcakes

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During college I worked part-time at a daycare. My first day I was with the two-year-olds, and someone's mother brought in cupcakes. The kids regarded the cupcakes warily, then one by one they applied them directly to their faces. Forget taking the paper off, they felt it was sufficient to open their mouths a tiny bit in trout-like fashion, and smush the cupcake, icing first, all over their little faces. After hosing off the squirts, I can give you some advice: despite folklore, cupcakes and toddlers don't mix. But in a less messy fashion, here are some interesting facts about those nevertheless yummy sugary treats:

"¢ According to Crazy About Cupcakes, "The term 'cupcake' is first mentioned in E. Leslie's 'Receipts' of 1828. Breaking with tradition of weighing ingredients at this time the ingredients began to be measured in cups. According to Baking in America by Greg Patent, this was revolutionary because of the tremendous time it saved in the kitchen. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America explains that the cup name had a double meaning because of the practice of baking in small containers—including tea cups."

"¢ Though its true origins are disputed, Hostess cupcakes can now brag about being the best-selling snack cake in history. In 1950 baking executive D.R. "Doc" Rice added the signature seven squiggles and vanilla-crème filling that makes Hostess familiar to us today. And in a move reminiscent of the Twinkie Defense, in 1985 a man sued Hostess claiming that their cupcakes caused him to fall out of a tree and break his bones. Yep.

"¢ American hysteria for cupcakes is well documented. Hillary Clinton even recently promised every American a yearly cupcake on her birthday. But not everyone is so pro-cupcake. In fact, some schools have chosen to ban them as a result of rising rates of obesity.

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"¢ Of course, what would a true trend be without a trendy HQ? Magnolia Bakery in New York sees lines around the block for their popular pastries, at times bringing in over $40,000 a week in cupcake sales. It has also, of course, been the inspiration for a very famous SNL Digital Short.

"¢ Speaking of lazy (Sunday or not), there have been several campaigns to get microwave cupcakes off the ground, including Duncan Cups in 1991 and Betty Crocker MicroRave Singles. In the end, it seems the old fashioned way is the best. And if you're planning on doing some baking for others, what's the best way to transport a cupcake? Check this out.

"¢ If you're interested in bucking fashion, forget a traditional cake (how pedestrian!) and consider having cupcakes for your wedding.

"¢ Still can't get enough? Check out this link. Although cupcakes are seen as a kind of wholesome American goodness, one of the editors of this blog is a contributing editor for Penthouse and a former sex columnist for the Village Voice. Still, look at those cupcakes!

Does anyone have any cupcake stories to share? Memories? Mishaps?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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April 16, 2008 - 3:54am
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