Cupcakes Courtesy of Robicelli’s

Cupcake Wars

Apr 23, 2013 · 12 min read

Cupcakes are officially over everybody!

The internet says so. Let’s all celebrate the destruction of millions of American jobs by going on overpriced juice cleanses that don’t work. Wooooo!

In the event you’re attempting to interrupt me with, “But Allison, doesn’t the media say this every single week?”and can’t because your mouth is full of cupcakes, the answer is “pretty much.” However, last week the Wall Street Journal officially reported the demise, so according to the rest of the media it’s finally super duper true. CNN even pinky-swore on it.

What led the Wall Street Journal to sound the most recent death knell for the lowly cupcake, after years of speculation that the nearly two-decades-old bubble was going to burst any freaking minute?

Crumbs’s shares are down.

That’s it. One company. One that aggressively expanded to a billion units in a matter of years. One that was founded not foremost as a quality bakery, but rather as a rapidly expanding business model. I’ve heard of burger chains going under because they tried to expand too quickly, yet this “burger bubble” hasn’t burst yet so that can’t be the answer to why something so popular is now, according to the WSJ anyway, totally kaput. Maybe the shares are tanking because of the quality of Crumb’s product? Maybe because the company became ubiquitous, with stores seemingly everywhere, before it built a fanatical fan base? Maybe because its product, at two servings per “jumbo” cupcake, was just too damn big for people to want to eat on a regular basis, or even in one seating?

As expected, every media company that needed non-Boston coverage last week jumped on this story. Why? Because not only do cupcakes sell in the real world (our sales have been growing by over 100% every year, and are up 20% in these past two weeks alone), but cupcakes also sell newspapers. They make for articles that get lots of pageviews, draw lots of comments, and make websites look super-attractive to potential advertisers. Remember when pie was the next cupcake, and then it wasn’t? The Wall Street Journal didn’t cover pie at all. In fact, nobody did. Because nobody cares about pie. I eat more pie than just about anyone and I honestly couldn’t give two craps about what pie is doing today.

Of all the media outlets who like letting everyone know about how much they hate cupcakes, perhaps none has been as vocal as Grub Street (even though it did call my company the “best cupcake in New York City”, but I digress). When news broke of (one single company’s stock price falling) the death of cupcakes, the site posted a nine-point list to explain to everyone why betting on the cupcake had been totally wrong, and why we are all so stupid and don’t really know what we like. So without further ado, here are all nine of Grub Street’s “Reasons Why the Cupcake Boom Went Bust.” Let’s review , shall we?

1. “They went corporate: Magnolia Bakery opened in Dubai. Kuwait, Beirut, and Doha. Crumbs went public.”

This is true. When you see a product start to get successful, rake in hundreds of millions of dollars, and create lots of jobs for people, you know something is wrong. I heard about this place called Domino’s that apparently makes pizza and went public, and there’s this other joint called Pizza Hut that’s all over the world. I tried to find a “Pizza Bubble Deathclock” on the internet to cite in this article but couldn’t. Could you get on that, Grub Street?

2. “They became symbols of female depression and loneliness. Remember Bridesmaids? And Lena Dunham eating a cupcake in a bathtub on Girls?”

And what’s the fucking problem with that? You know what we did before cupcakes, Grub Street? We ate an entire goddamn cake in the bathtub. Or a whole pint of ice cream, or a box of cookies. Cupcakes are at least portion-controlled. Fuck, the other day I cried for about ten minutes because I couldn’t find my car keys and I ate a cupcake I had in my freezer. You know what? It made me feel better. And that’s what cupcakes do — when you’re having a shit day, you can have a little party, just for yourself, to cheer yourself up a bit. Women get sad sometimes and eat. It’s not shameful, it’s not pitiful. It’s goddamn delicious. Now stop judging me and my emergency cake.

3. “Businesses keep blaming Hurricane Sandy for their troubles. Magnolia Bakery claims that flooding brought in vermin, and Crumbs attests that it only closed stores because of the storm.”

And obviously Sandy rolled in just to burst the cupcake bubble and skated out of town leaving our restaurants, boutiques, bars, theaters, etc. completely unscathed. Obviously.

4. ”Losers eat them. Just look at this photo.”

Holy shit, Mitt Romney eats cupcakes?!?!?! Son of a bitch! Mitt Romney is also drinking a Diet Coke! It’s all over for Coke! And he’s wearing a shirt! I’m no loser — no more shirt! (No pants either, to be safe.)

Now that I’m safely nude and keeping it real, I can Google “celebrities eating cupcakes” to find out who else to shame and find ... wait, what?

Steve Martin?!?!?! Steve Martin, funniest comedian in history, noted playwright and author, enthusiastic scholar of the arts, banjo savant and all around greatest human being alive eats cupcakes? Why the fuck did I just burn all my pants?

5. “They became the grounds for a bad sitcom. The entire premise of 2 Broke Girls is that the characters are saving up to open a cupcake shop. Nobody wants this to happen.”

I thought that show was about Kat Dennings’s boobs. Regardless, it’s a huge hit, and everyone involved is swimming in more money than most of us will ever see in our entire life. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with cupcakes because boobs.

6. ”Cupcake ATM machines exist. If there's any indication that this dessert has become ubiquitous and lowbrow, it's Honey Boo Boo's involvement.”

Yeah, this is pretty dumb. You should go tell that to the people on the lines that stretch down the block. There’s a demand for cupcakes twenty-four hours a day. People can’t get enough of them.

Is the cupcake ubiquitous? Yes. So are sandwiches, burgers, pizza, Chinese take-out spots, expensive coffee houses, fried chicken joints, and more. These things are omnipresent because people like them. Ubiquitous is not a bad word.

And what isn’t Honey Boo Boo eating? She was hawking Girl Scout cookies for a bit. You want to try to destroy those, too? And I swear to God, If you motherfuckers in any way affect the CheezBall industry, I will make it my mission to destroy every single one of you.

7. “Cupcakes are anti-feminist. Jezebel says they ‘represent prescribed modes of femininity and our cultural fixation on eternal girlhood’ and ‘cupcakes are small, and small is cute, and women are supposed to be cute.’”

Whoever wrote this A) really looks way too much into cupcakes, and B) is about as far from a feminist as you can actually get. If anything, cupcakes are the ultimate feminist food.

Hard truth is that most food businesses are owned, operated, and branded by men. Yes, we now have “lady chefs” who the media loves obsessing over, like they’re unicorns or something. “Lady Chef Business Owners,” though, are far fewer. The U.S. Dept of Commerce has found that women have less access to start-up capital, and are less attractive to sources of outside financing such as venture capitalists. Some banks still require a husband’s signature in order to secure a business loan. (If you want more inside scoop on what it takes to keep a business going and growing with no financing, feel free to take me out for coffee and a cupcake. I’m a good time.)

Then in the 1990s small bakeries that featured cupcakes became big business, and women flocked to the idea in droves. There was a relatively low cost of start-up; it was a tremendously popular product that everyone loved (seriously, who hates cake?), and, in many states, you could easily operate the business out of your house while growing a clientele and doing the ten thousand other things women do — whether it’s working a nine-to-five job or raising a family. Female business owners began to have their moment. Women from all walks of life started opening their own shops, hiring mostly female staffs, catering to a (assumed) mostly female clientele. This should be a good thing, right? We should be supporting and encouraging this new wave of female entrepreneurs, right?

Of course not!

Instead, let’s talk about how stupid and small and cute they are, and how that makes them “anti-feminist.” And then let’s talk about something totally not lame, like macarons. Macarons are also small and brightly colored, but they can’t possibly be “cute” because for the most part, the big names in that niche are all men. How about donuts? Most of the famous donut shops that have graced the pages of many a food blog are also owned by men.

Women of the world, it is totally okay if you want to work in the kitchen in your vintage aprons and make cutesy- wootsey things that look like teddy bears. But, if you bitches think for a fucking minute that you guys can start owning food businesses, you’ve got another thing coming. Get back in the kitchen and shut the fuck up (unless, of course, you need to be paraded around for a photo op).

So what cupcakes are cute? There are lots of women out there who like cute. I’m not one of them personally, but I’d much rather support women who are braving entrepreneurship and creating jobs in this country than sit here and dismiss them all because they don’t have the same tastes as I do. Those women need us to have their backs. What they don’t need is a bunch of “feminists” talking shit and putting them down because they don’t like their style. This isn’t high school.

And let’s talk about telling millions of women across to feel bad about themselves because their love of cake implies “eternal girlhood.” Huh? I remember lots of little boys eating cupcakes at third-grade birthday parties. On that note, why assume only women are enjoying these things? Over 50% of our customers are men. When we cater weddings, I’m sure there are men there. When we do corporate events, there are certainly dudes there, too. Are there separate areas for the men to eat Buffalo Wings and drink beer while the women eat cupcakes?

Women, if you like cake, eat the fuck out of cake. Start businesses. Do what you want. Don’t let anyone out there make you feel like a loser because of that. When we support women, all women, and their choices; when we celebrate what we’re all doing instead of ripping each other down to make headlines or increase traffic, that is feminism.

And Jezebel, for the record, I am incredibly, incredibly disappointed in you.

8. “Too many damn cupcake blogs.”

Also, too much porn on the internet, but you don’t see anyone bitching about that!

9. “Real cake is more fun, and it's not that hard to purchase by the slice. You can share it with friends. It's messy. It's sexy. You can get ice cream cake. The possibilities are limitless. Eat cake!”

Real cake is more “fun?” Really? Please explain this to me. Is the act of cutting things into slices and trying to get them onto a plate in one piece really that exciting?

Yes, you can divide it among eight-to-ten friends, but what if you want cake and you don’t have eight-to-ten friends hanging around that share your unbridled enthusiasm for cake? Oh, and it’s messy. You know what I love? When my eight-to-ten friends come over and get cake all over my shit. Really, nothing more fun than that. Or you can get ice cream cake ... which is just regular ice cream, but a crapton more of it and pressed into the shape of a cake. That makes total sense if we’re talking about the fun department.

You want to know why more places make cupcakes rather than slices of cake?

  1. It’s more cost effective. If I sell one slice of cake in a day, the rest of it will dry out in hours, and the whole thing should go in the garbage. But in the real world, no one wants to take that sort of financial hit, so the customer rolls the dice when ordering cake by the slice — there’s a 10% chance they’ll get the the first slice and it will be amazing, and a 90% chance they’ll get a piece that’s in various states of going stale. Cupcakes don’t have an exposed cut side, so you’re always getting the “first slice”.
  2. On the production side, depending on the day or season, cupcakes can be baked to precise numbers; this tactic reduces loss. All hail the mighty mathematics, blowing the shit out of your “funtime cake” argument.
  3. You need to sit down with a fork to eat cake; you can eat a cupcake while walking down the street or sitting on the subway. Or, we can eat cupcakes in the bathtub while crying like the pathetic losers you implied we all are.
  4. Let’s say your favorite thing in the world is peanut butter and you want nothing else for your birthday but a buttery, goopy chocolate peanut-butter cake. But what’s that? One of your friends is allergic to peanuts and gluten and eggs, you say? Well now everyone has to change what she’s eating to accommodate said food-sensitive friend. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some sort of magical cake that could make everyone happy? Or maybe you could get a selection of small cakes in different flavors so that there’s something for everyone and no one feels left out … Oh my God, that’s fucking cupcakes. Mind. Blown.
  5. You be the assface who brings a cake to the office and gets crumbs all over the break room. See how much everyone loves you. Then, try to get chocolate frosting off formica with nothing but some water and a cheap paper towel. You just lost your entire afternoon, buddy.
  6. Do you have any idea what happens when I buy an entire cake? I eat the entire cake. I’m not even going to lie and pretend that I have an iota of self control. I could be 300 pounds if it wasn’t for the portion control that cupcakes provide. This begs the question: Is the entire “anti cupcake” movement perhaps secretly funded by The Hoveround Corporation? Hmm?

Know why cupcakes aren’t going anywhere? Because you need something to be “the next cupcake” just like you need something to be “the new black.” It’s not a bubble; it’s a genre — individually portioned dessert. You can talk about feminism, and Sex and the City, and nostalgia all you want; it comes down to the fact that just about everyone on earth likes cake. Not rocket science.

What can we learn from this “bubble bursting” hoopla? Ultimately, your company is only as good as your product. This applies if you’re Crumbs, or a small independent bakery, or a French bistro, or a software developer, or anything else. There’s only so far sleek branding and venture capital can get you. People don’t judge you on your logo or your photography; they judge you on your product and customer service. It’s lack of attention to those last two details that will cause bakeries to close.

And if you honestly have such a huge problem with small pieces of cake that you feel like you need to constantly gun for business owners and pray to God that they’ll all eventually fail and be left with nothing, you may want to consider some sort of therapy, because that is really, really fucked up. Or, maybe you should go eat a cupcake. Those usually make me feel better.

Allison Robicelli is the co-owner of Robicelli’s, a specialty bakery that makes lots of delicious things, though most people only like writing about their cupcakes. Her first book, Robicelli’s: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, will be released on October 17, 2013 by Viking Studio. It contains even more profanity than this article did. Visit her blog and find out where you can get yourself some cupcakes at

    Allison Robicelli

    Written by

    D-list celebrity chef, best-selling author, food and humor writer, fancy award nominee, professional pain in the ass.

    Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
    Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
    Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade