Cumberland Times-News

February 8, 2014

Only one person doesn’t like cupcakes

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Cupcake-wise, the last four or five years have ballooned into a huge plus for almost any bakery that attempts them. (Not to mention the ballooning of many of the individuals involved.) You could call cupcakes the up-cakes of our time. Well, you could, but I guess only I would, and even then only in a column on a very good day, when everything else was go!

That would be today, in case you hadn’t noticed.

The thing I hesitate to mention about cupcakes, which are at this moment experiencing the best days of their lives, is that I don’t much care for them! It seems to make me out of touch with the times. Everybody loves cupcakes, right? Who can resist them, really?

Well — me?

What I don’t like about cupcakes is — they are too sweet! Yes, you read that right — sweet! Now, I know that sweetness is the main attraction of cupcakes. Double the sugar, pile on the icing, and then do it all over again. The truth is, faced with most cupcakes, all my taste buds come to a crashing halt and scream “No!. I will not eat this!”

The appropriate amount of icing on most cupcakes I have met appears to be about three times the volume of the cake that supports it. Whenever I have to eat a cupcake, I automatically wipe off at least half the icing, and even what’s left is close to too much, the way I see it.

But I have never noticed this problem mentioned in all the articles about cupcakes that fill up the literature these days. Mostly, the attitude is the sweeter the better. And things can get even more serious, if I may quote from cupcake literature.

Psychotherapist Paul Hokemeyer, out of the Dr. Oz stable, says, “The popularity of cupcakes directly tracks the rise in cultural narcissism,” so that “we’ve become a culture of emotionally disconnected individuals who live in socially isolated cyber-fantasy worlds.” And as if that isn’t bad enough, cupcakes assist in our creation of these fantasy worlds so that they “are an equivalent of the modern myth of Narcissus, where we spend hours” puffing ourselves up “in an isolated aggrandizement of self.”

Try to keep in mind that we’re talking cupcakes here.

Chris Carbone, a market researcher, says that buying a cupcake is different from buying a candy bar, because “cupcakes appeal to post-modernists, who value creativity, authenticity, aesthetic design, personalization, and locally sourced goods.” (All of this foolishness — excuse me, I mean “insight,” is from two 2012 articles in the Washington Post by Ellen McCarthy and Andrea Adleman.)

Psychiatrists see things their own way. Carole Lieberman, from Los Angeles, says, “ People are lining up not just because the cupcakes taste good. A lot of things taste good. They’re looking for that same feeling inside. They’re all hungry for hugs.”

Hokemeyer lays it all at the feet of the Internet. “Through our over-reliance on the Internet we’ve become a culture of emotionally disconnected individuals who live in socially isolated cyber-fantasy worlds.” He thinks cupcakes have a lot to answer for. “Through cupcakes” we get to “cruise the sugary world of self-indulgence” and you end up with “self-realization through cupcakes.”

I could quote much more of this kind of thing, but the truth is that people like cupcakes because people like sweets. You can trace this preference down through history — up until the last century or so, sugar was relatively scarce. The only difference is that nowadays we can pretty much get whatever we want. And now that we can get all the sugar we want — our ability to police our diet is mostly missing, because we have so little practice in it.

Still, that doesn’t account for the fact that I don’t like cupcakes. Candy is sweet too, but I like it. I have given this a lot of thought in the past few years, and I haven’t been able to come up with any really good reason not to like cupcakes. Actually, now that I think of it, I like cupcakes when they are made like a streusel coffeecake. It’s those smoothie icings based on butter and stuff that turn me off.

Just keep thinking, Maude. I bet you can come up with more reasons to dislike the things, if you keep working on it.

Have another cupcake.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on Sundays in the Times-News.