Food Nation

Food Trend Prediction: The Giant Cupcake

A few weeks ago, Katharine Shilcutt issued predictions for 2012 Houston food trends. Commenters wrote in with their own suggestions, including one from Stacy Zane:

I was just in NY and saw that Doughnut Plant. But something else I saw was Baked by Melissa - quarter-sized cupcakes! I know the last thing we need is another cupcake trend but I was really into them! They're so teeny tiny and you can sample a lot of flavors without feeling like a complete fat ass.

Stacy, you're right: the last thing we need is another cupcake trend. However, with regards to the rise of the "tiny cupcake," I respectfully disagree. In fact, I foresee the very opposite trend: Giant Cupcakes.

The giant cupcake is, of course, a contradiction in terms, as a cupcake by definition replicates a cake in smaller (cup) form. Enlarging this baked good is akin to making a large "shot," filling a pint glass of straight alcohol to quaff in one swallow instead of the standard one-and-a-half ounces.

I first encountered the giant cupcake in the summer of 2011 at Bittersweet, an independent Virginia bakery, which for $30 offers a nine-inch-tall cupcake topped with buttercream frosting. I dismissed it as a bougie phenomenon of the Old Dominion.

But then in late fall of last year, I was racing through the Newark airport with two over-size carry-ons when I saw a Crumbs bakeshop. Sex and the City has garnered Magnolia Bakery fame for its cupcakes, but my heart belongs forever to Crumbs, which offers more varieties, including caramel apple, milkshake, and grasshopper. I picked up a red velvet and cookies and cream as a "you survived a transatlantic flight with three connections" present to myself, got the "Colossal Cupcake" ($42), a six-and-a-half-inch tall cake designed to feed six to eight people.

But these are shops, specialty bakeries and cafes. The true barometer is the mainstream grocery store, yes?

Lo and behold, just a few days after the new year I went to a Trader Joe's, whose hodge-podge baked goods section included three giant chocolate-peppermint cupcakes.

They're coming, Houston. Parents beware. That gourmet dozen from CRAVE that replaced the homemade batch of Duncan Hines cuppy-cakes will soon be supplanted by an even more expensive dessert: the monster cupcake. Impossible to serve and even messier to eat, this treat is the worst nightmare for the party host intent on equitable servings.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joanna O'Leary