Cupcakes have taken on a whole new persona in recent years, from miniaturized cake-bites often served to children or at parties, to gourmet individualized treats served at the finest bakeries and appearing on hit television shows. Some say that the cupcake culture has always been prevalent in the United States, but a recent explosion in cupcake popularity and steady sales even after this initial surge suggest that cupcakes are a permanent fixture in how we eat. Cupcake recipes first began to appear as miniature cakes in cup-sized containers in the late 18th and 19th centuries. From October 2010 to October 2011, 669.4 million cupcakes were sold, demonstrating the lasting popularity of cupcakes appearing in specialized bakeries, food trucks and other outlets. In fact, cupcakes have been largely credited with the rise of specialized bakeries, giving consumers an opportunity to purchase an individualized, gourmet treat at an establishment a step above the common drug store or candy store. With the current state of the economy, cupcakes fit perfectly into most people’s budgets and appeal to their spending needs. Purchasing a cupcake from a bakery or a cupcake truck creates a profoundly different emotional reaction in consumers than buying a candy bar or a packaged dessert from a local convenience store. Ultimately this gives people an affordable means to reward themselves or others. According to consumer trends analyst Chris Carbone, cupcakes appeal to a post-modern culture that values creativity, authenticity, personalization and locally sourced materials. Cupcakes offer more than just a sugary treat, but an experience. By patronizing a boutique cupcakery, consumers become part of a larger story. Cupcakes also give consumers an opportunity to discuss what they’re eating, and share opinions and photos through social media. Less favorable opinions about cupcakes dub them as part of the ‘me-generation’, giving people the ability to self-soothe with a sugary treat, and contribute to a sense of isolation and loneliness. Cupcake haters can be just as vocal as cupcake supporters, blaming a slew of problems from obesity to depression on personalized treats like cupcakes. In moderation, experts say there is no harm in indulging in cupcakes. And while personalized, they tend to reveal a great deal about peoples’ personalities, based upon their many different flavors. In the end, cupcakes continue to be a multimillion dollar industry, and certainly seem to have staked a place in our world of food.
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