Opinion Columns & Blogs

Making the case for the classic cupcake

Alright, I’m going to say it.

And I know this won’t win me any friends. It’s even possible I might alienate every reader I’ve ever had. But here goes:

I don’t like modern day cupcakes.

Clearly, I’m the odd man out, because cupcake sales are soaring and there is even a televised baking contest, ’The Cupcake Wars.’ Every person I know just loves how, nowadays, the icing on top is applied to look almost like soft-serve ice cream, with a sort of light, fluffy, dollop. And that’s my beef.

Because me no likey the soft, butter cream goo that adorns the top of cupcakes, today. I remember, with great fondness, my mother making cupcake icing. OK, she didn’t actually make it, she scooped it out of a Betty Crocker ready-made tub when she got too lazy to open a box of Duncan Hines and pull out the little packet of frosting mix, but that’s my point. There is nothing that gives me a cozier sense of nostalgia than my mother’s handcrafted, homemade cupcakes adorned with her secret recipe: Sugar, Water, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Palm Oil, Corn Starch, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Canola Oil. Contains 2 percent or less of: Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid. Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbet.

Oh, the memory of her applying that frosting with a putty knife (it was quite effective as bondo, too), building it up to impasto perfection. However, as a true aficionado, I must proclaim that the frosting of the 1960s, while America was still having a passionate affair with DDT, was superior because, Ms. Crocker, up to her elbows in the well known, original ingredients of icing: refined sugar, egg whites and flavoring, had not yet figured out, chemically, how to keep frosting soft for a shelf life of 1,700 years, so it hardened beautifully, and when you actually bit into the cupcake, it ripped the sugary flesh of the cake right off with it.

No licking off any whipped, airy-fairy nonsense, followed by nibbling the cake.

Oh, no, baby, you had to plunge in and bite through that hardened frosting and commit to the entire confection.

In fact it was possible to chip a tooth. It was sort of like a chocolatey chew toy, cemented Nutella, working admirably to loosen every filling, every crown. But later, with the advent of laboratory experimentation, the softened version, with the consistency of melted fudge, appeared. And do not even try to pretend that you haven’t, when faced with an empty refrigerator (or a very full one, for that matter), and a broken heart, pried off the top of one of those Betty Crocker “Rich & Creamy” Milk Chocolate tubs, and freebased the entire thing, your soup spoon flashing back and forth at Mach 5, while watching “Dirty Dancing,” before rolling back and forth on the floor, your head between your hands, moaning, with a sugar rush that is intolerable enough to drop a Hell’s Angel.

That was a great cupcake. And that’s why it’s called a cupCAKE, people. It deserves cake-quality frosting, applied thickly, with a knife, not, Saints above, piped on with a pastry bag. Is nothing sacred, anymore?

(You do realize my sole reason for writing this column is to be on the receiving end of several angry emails from well known bakeries, requesting me to sample their creations in order to change my mind, right? Next week, PIZZA!)

Reach Pam Stone at pammstone@gmail.com.

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