The Cupcake is a highly recognisable option for any cake business owner today. If you want to survive in the harshest of economic environments the cupcake needs to be on your menu. But where did the cupcake evolve and why do you need to be making them to succeed.
Cupcake, n. Originally U.S. A small individual sponge cake baked in a cup-shaped foil or paper container, typically covered with icing or other topping…originated 1828.Source https://www.oed.com/
Where did the Cupcake Evolve?
Where did the cupcake evolve? In a word (or actually 4 words), The United States of America.
American author, Amelia Simmons, first wrote in her book American Cookery, in 1796, about 'a light cake to bake in small cups'. This was the first time the words cup and cake appear to be documented together. Amelia, seems to be the first person to suggest that a cake in a cup was a good idea! Nice work Amelia.
However, it wasn't until 1828 when popular American cookbook author Eliza Leslie first wrote a recipe for cup cake in her book Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Personally I love a historic cookbook. I love to see what people of yesteryear were using to bake their cakes with. In Eliza Leslie's cookbook a Cup Cake recipe appears on page 61. Interestingly Eliza was making her Cup Cake by using a tea cup to measure the ingredients. It appears she also loved a spice or 2, as the recipe calls for half a cup of allspice and cloves, and another half a cup of ginger. Now that's a fiery cake! The recipe also included eggs, cups of sugar, cups of flour, cups of molasses, a cup of butter and a cup of milk.
It doesn't, however, say what the size of a teacup should be. It simply says 'large tea-cups'. The instructions also say the cakes should be baked in 'small tins'. Again, no dimensions or accurate volumes are given, so when she says at the front of the book she is confident these bakes will be successful no matter where you are in the world baking them, I am a little cautious.
How the Cup Cake became a popular dessert.
Even back in 1828 the first recipes basic ingredients are the same as you would use today. Eggs, Sugar, butter and Flour, with added flavours.
It is not certain if Eliza was intending her cakes to be a smaller cake, small enough to be baked in a cup. However, whatever her intention, the name of the Cupcake had been born.
Back then muffin tins weren't so readily available, so cupcakes were baked in individual pottery cups or ramekins. This reflects Amelia Simmonds original sentiment about baking a cake in small cups.
Its from the mid-19th Century that the history and evolution of the cupcake starts to take shape.
The U.S. food manufacturer Taggart Baking Company released the first Hostess brand of Chocolate Cup Cakes 1919, becoming the first commercially produced cupcake on the market. It then expanded the range to include fillings and icing. They included a chocolate frosting and a 'loop-de-loop' white icing, creme filling, an orange cupcake and even a malted frosting.
As technology and flavours developed, so did the evolution of cupcakes. Both the professional and home baker saw the possibilities of these small cakes.
How cupcakes thrive in times of economic difficulties.
Fast forward to the late 2000's when recession hit on a global scale and the cupcake craze really kicked off. In the UK the recession lasted for 5 quarters, whilst in the US the recession officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.
But this was exactly the same time that Cupcakes hit their peak in popularity. Why?
When times are hard, we as humans naturally cut back on spending frivolously. So a nice layer cake, or birthday cake may be seen as an extra expense that we can do without. However, we still like our little luxuries. The new cupcake craze came about when we sought out small, inexpensive luxuries. Sweet treats, in the form of small size cakes were in big demand.
The TV show Sex and the City accelerated the demand by featuring Miranda and Carrie eating cakes from Magnolia Cupcakes. Sprinkles Cupcakes by Candace Nelson was founded in 2003, and Candace later went on to be a judge on TLC's Cupcake Wars. And Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington DC featured on a TLC TV Show. All this fuelled a craze that whilst may have died down a little has never really gone away.
The benefits of Cupcakes
The benefits of cupcakes is that they can suit any occasion. Gourmet Cupcakes for weddings and special occasions. Cute decorated cupcakes for baby showers. Colourful cupcakes for children's birthday parties. The possibilities for perfect cupcakes are endless.
Cake recipes used for larger cakes can be scaled down for these mini cakes. You still get all the variety of flavours, but use less of the ingredients. In recent years pull apart cupcake cakes have been fashionable, combining the benefits of both the miniature cakes and larger cakes all on one cake board.
This is why, any good cake business owner should embrace making cupcakes, especially in times of economic hardship.
How Cupcakes can help your cake business today
By offering cupcakes your cake baking business gives the option of a smaller cake, with a dainty appearance in different flavours. You can still showcase your work, and encourage customers that wouldn't normally have the funds to purchase from you. Cupcakes are quick and easy to make. As said previously they don't require as many ingredients as larger cakes. And if you charge for your time effectively, the decorating time should be factored into the cost.
Personally I would set a minimum order, for example a box of 12. Because you don't want to be turning you oven on for too little. However ,12 cupcakes can range from £2.50 per cake to £5.00+ per cake, depending on how they are decorated. Giving you an order of £30 to £60 plus.
So if you are finding clients are turning down quotes because times are hard, why not offer a cupcake alternative and see how many takers you get.
History of Cupcakes Timeline
1796 - Amelia Simmons writes in her book American Cookery the words 'a light cake to bake in small cups'
1828 - Eliza Leslie publishes a recipe for a Cup Cake in her book Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats
1919 - Hostess Cup Cakes were first released by Taggart Baking Company
1950 - Hostess Cupcakes were updated to include the cream filling and their signature loop-de-loop white icing
2000 - Sex and the City characters Miranda and Carrie seen eating cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery
2003 - Candace Nelson founds Sprinkles Cupcakes
2003 - Crumbs Bakery opened in New York
2004 - Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas found Primrose Bakery in London
2004 - Hummingbird Bakery opened first store in Notting Hill, London
2008 - Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington DC was opened