Ever since bursting onto the scene since Carrie Bradshaw unwrapped a sponge topped with a dollop of frosting and tucked into it whilst pondering life's big questions (like, is it going to be the blue Manolos or the red Pradas with her LBD for that evening), cupcakes have shown some serious staying power, well past its screentime on SATC.
It was Magnolia Bakery in the USA that was credited with being at the fore-front of this worldwide trend. But should we even call it a trend considering it's been more than two decades? Prior to which, we already had these things called fairy cakes in Blighty, so arguably they'd been around long before we saw Carrie scoffing one.
You'll find cupcakes everywhere across the UK - supermarkets, high street bakeries, and countless bakeries, many been and gone, dedicated to these little cakes in paper cases with swirly icing. A lot of its appeal was aspirational - here was now a treat that was affordable, and stylish because, well CARRIE eats them! You may not be able to wear Pradas, but you could now have a taste of a little luxury. They were also convenient and portable, encased in their own packaging so you could eat one on the go.
Back in 2011, I remember cupcakes from London cupcake bakery chains costing £2.20. Now in 2023, the same bakeries charge £3.60. That's almost a 65% increase in price. But bearing in mind that's over a decade...it's not too surprising.
However, cupcakes have now hit £7.20 in some London bakeries. This seems rather jarring, especially when you consider the fact that you can get a kids meal including a drink for under that price, eating in that too.
Now, £7.20 and upwards is also how much you'd look towards paying for a dessert at restaurants, so by that logic, £7.20 for a sweet treat doesn't seem so wild. Except it is, because the value proposition of a dressed up muffin vs a warm sticky toffee pudding served with ice cream is pale. And then there are plenty of other popular treats within the same category of convenience that come well under that price - doughnuts from Donutelier are fancy, delicious and between £5-£6.
Objectively, £7.20 may or may not be over-priced. The cost of living crisis affects business massively where rents, bills, rates, fuel, ingredients etc have all spiked in recent times. Some cupcakes are decorated so elaborately, beyond just sponge and frosting, with fillings of ganache or jams, and hand-made embellishments that it takes longer to make a batch than it would to makes a layer cake.
So are cupcakes now at the risk of becoming unaffordable luxuries? Would you still be buying them as an on-the-go treat? Were they always under-priced or are they bad value for money? To me, it's still always worth making your own at home - with our Hero Sponge Recipe...you could make a whole batch of the most delicious and moist cupcakes in various flavours for under £3, less than the cost of one mediocre cupcake from a high street bakery.
Let me know your thoughts!