Cupcakes have had a good run.
It seems like only yesterday that cupcakes were a humble homey dessert, just one of the pack, interchangeable with cookies and brownies. Then, in a perfect storm of ease, economics, and Sex and the City, cupcakes caught fire. Today, cupcake bakeries dot the landscape of gentrified urban neighborhoods and suburban strip malls. You can get a cupcake in a deli or a burger joint, waiting for a plane at the airport, in a hospital cafeteria, or a Michelin-starred restaurant.
High time for the next ‘it’ treat.
Eye-rollingly common, greedy little treats for our sugar-riddled souls, trend watchers in the media have dedicated countless column inches to predictions of when these precious nubbins of fake happiness will ride off into the sunset. There have been a few lone voices in the wilderness calling out for dark horse candidates like bread pudding and bundt cakes, but most arguments have coalesced around a few credible contenders.
Looking like tiny, colorful hamburgers, macarons are a French confection of meringue and ganache. The beauty of the macaron is its pastel-shaded beauty; its insubstantial nature and particular challenge to the home baker limits the appeal.
Another treat best left to the professionals, donuts will need to overcome the stigma of deep frying if they are ever to fully realize their potential, though it breaks my heart to say so.
Fancy ice pops came on strong this summer. They’re easy to make at home, take well to unusual flavor combinations like mango mint and basil watermelon, and traditional versions in lemon and cherry are perennial crowd pleasers. But outside of a few tropical zones, these are strictly a seasonal treat.
Hand pies have been getting plenty of recent buzz, which no doubt pleases the pie contingent, after they’ve been so sorely and repeatedly disappointed by the failure of their favorite pastry to break through. Move inland from the two coasts and you find that it’s nothing new; pie has always been a big deal.
Cake pops? You’ve got to be kidding.
Whoopie pies are essentially inside-out cupcakes. The frosting in the middle gives them an edge on portability, but otherwise, why bother?
Each of these pastries might, in turn, have its pop culture moment, and we’re even hearing rumblings of support from the rugelach, cream puff, and funnel cake camps, but we don’t see cupcakes stepping aside any time soon. Their longevity defies trend forecasting, their rationale—comfort and luxury for just a few dollars—transcends the vagaries of our economy. Cupcakes continue to multiply like fruit flies.
We’re still waiting for the next cupcake, and it could be a while.