My wife - a lovely woman and an ideal personification of the cupcake target market - recently tasked herself to try every cupcake in town. Of course, I was along for the ride.
I'm not mentioning any names - though I have my favorites - because I've come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a great cupcake. And there can't be. By its nature, the cupcake is little more than a glorifed muffin stump.
I reached enlightenment fairly simply. All it took was a slice of full-sized cake eaten after binging on nothing but cupcakes. OK, a huge hunk of cake, indeed a massive flank of moist-est, tenderest chocolate. Nothing special of itself, and yet containing all that the cupcakes failed to deliver.
Unlike crusty breads, I find the drier, tougher outer layer of cake flesh simply less appealing than the moisty innards. Cupcakes, by their nature, have the worst tough/tender ratio of any cake. At best, a tiny oyster of pure perfection encased in a somewhat leathery layer of outer flesh. At worst, the thick, dry heel of the cake world, slathered in an insipidly sweet baum. By any measure, a lesser creation than its moister, tenderer, larger cousins that are served by the slice.
Of course, there's the undeniable nostalgia factor, the joys of grammar school when another boring day was broken up by the delivery of a box of birthday cupcakes. And maybe also those little paper tubs of ice cream with the wooden spoon affixed. Sentimental signifiers of youth for each of us of a certain age, there is a certain undeniable joy in their remembrance. But what appealed to my 10 year old palette doesn't quite hold up over the decades. In fact, who doubts that a special delievery of those youthful joys to our adult selves would fail utterly to match our memories?
So, I say forget these overpriced paeons to lost youth. Resist demographication, you post-boomer nostalgics. If you must brand yourself, then buy the t-shirt. But eat the sliced cake.