Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The “Real” Cupcake Wars

Cupcakes are sooo 2009! Or else that’s what I’d like to say to that snooty cupcake queen sitting on her high horse anyway. And, unlike my other battle-related post about DJ selections, which I carefully altered in order to let the disc jockey we didn’t pick have complete anonymity, I have no problem at all calling this cupcake diva out by name … but I won’t. Still, those of you familiar with popular cupcakeries in the area will likely know who I’m talking about. But let me backtrack a little first.

Five years ago I never ordered dessert when I went out to eat. As delicious as those sugary treats looked, it was hard to imagine finishing off an entire brownie sundae on my own after just completing a full dinner. Splitting with someone also could prove challenging depending on hunger levels and sweet tooth preferences. Plus the inflated price tag left much to be desired. Then came the era of the mini desserts served in shot glasses. Suddenly dessert was not only cheap, but also properly portioned. While those are still prevalent on menus, the emergence of cupcake shops boomed onto the scene a few years ago, taking over bakery retail space and quickly became the new “it” dessert. And they’re still booming, though I would argue that the crest of that wave has likely peaked. In my neighborhood at least the new thing is frozen yogurt. I have 5 FroYo shops within 5 minutes of my house. All with a bevy of flavor selections and make-it-yourself topping bars (which is what distinguishes it from the TCBY craze of the 90s I suppose), and distinct fans and followings for each brand’s taste. Yes, yogurt is the new cupcake. And soon something else will be the new yogurt. And with each new craze I think the cupcake’s popularity will lose a little steam. Because, well, that’s how trends work.

I talked a lot about food trends when it came to selecting our wedding menu. And so it’s no wonder we put the same amount of thought into choosing the cake that would be served at the end of this meal. There’s only one problem – neither my fiancé, GAR, nor I especially like cake (and don’t even get me started on my disdain for pie – yuck). And, while I have had some decent wedding cake, I generally find it to be too dry. After all, it was made in large quantities, sometimes days in advance, and then left to sit out in a hot room for hours on end. But, while I would be fine substituting this fondant covered wedding staple for a dessert of another type, I know well enough that people expect cake. And it’s not enough to just say “Let them eat cake!” No, they also expect it to be on display… to take photos of it… to gawk at it… to see you cut it… to see if you shove it angrily in each other’s face (a tradition that continues to puzzle me).

Initially GAR and I decided to serve one kind of cake we do actually enjoy – cheesecake. But apparently it’s not only too unstable to stack, it also has to stay refrigerated up until it’s served, making it an undesirable option for an event such as ours. GAR then lobbied for a cake shaped like a guitar, which I’m sure would be perfectly constructed by the Cake Boss or some other TV baker. But, after pouring over countless examples featured in the portfolios of our local bakers (who do not have their own reality television shows) we learned just how wrong – terribly, terribly wrong – a guitar cake can look in reality. Still refusing to simply offer up a traditional stacked-layer confection, we explored the concept of a cake buffet figuring that, if you’re like us and don’t enjoy most cakes, perhaps if we offer a wide variety of selections you can find something that suits your palate. And when this idea got a little too messy to serve up we decided instead to consider those trendy individual-size creations known as cupcakes.

Cupcakes are fairly common for weddings today. They offer up variety and, heck, they’re easy. After exploring the options at many local cupcake dealers we were drawn to one popular shop that’s wise enough to combine several recent trends by serving tiny, bite-size cupcakes, as well as frozen yogurt. While FroYo doesn’t travel well, we were drawn to the mini sized cupcakes because we felt it would allow us to get even more choices for our guests, and allow them to sample a whole variety of flavors without getting too full. But without bothering with too many details (which you must know is hard for me to do), I’ll say that our meeting with the current reigning cupcake queen of Orlando (a title that is, as yet, unconfirmed. She was hard to reach when we first contacted her because she was competing in the TV program “Cupcake Wars.” I can only assume by the attitude she gave us when we did speak to her that she must have done well on said program) did not go well. She wasn’t personable or even remotely pleasant, and she certainly felt that deigning to meet with us was a huge waste of her time. And, well, I guess she was right because we won’t be using her services. While some of her cupcakes are quite tasty, overall they are – yes, I’ll say it – too sweet (until now I didn’t know there was such a thing). Cavity inducing actually. And after telling us that the price per cupcake for a bulk order was actually 80 cents MORE than they cost in the store (not to mention an additional 50 cents per on top of that if you want the sprinkles to actually be a color of your choosing, plus delivery fees, set-up fees, cupcake tower rental fees, etc.), we were baffled. Why on earth would you charge more for ordering in bulk? It’s unheard of and, yet, questioning this logic got us some snotty retorts from the shop’s proprietor.

And so she can keep her pint-sized sugary and over-frosted concoctions. And we’ll keep looking for the perfect cake option for us – preferably one that’s not quite so trendy … or on the downward slide from trendiness (remember Miss Far-Too-Sweet Cupcake Queen, you need the same people on your way down as you did on your way up). Besides, we’ve already hatched the new, new, new, new cake plan for our wedding and it’s super cool, completely delicious, very rockin’, and you’ve never seen it before. It’s so good, in fact, that it could be the new trend that will knock the FroYo craze right off the map (though probably not). For now, however, we’re keeping our million dollar (or more like dozens of dollars) wedding cake idea under wraps.

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