How the Recession Became the Cupcake’s Best Friend

cupcakeHow the Cupcake Craze Began
It all started on the popular TV show, Sex and the City, when Carrie bit into a decadent cupcake made by the small New York-based shop, Magnolia Bakery. Soon the bakery was making cameos on movies and TV shows as well, such as The Devil Wears Prada, Prime, and Spin City. The small shop that started out with only three employees in 1996 baking four types of bread quickly figured out that bread-baking proved to be too time-consuming, so it quickly switched over to making desserts and focusing on cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery quickly grew to having several shops around the city and even introduced its brand in Dubai in 2010. It’s now raking in an average of $20 million dollars per year. And to think, it all started with three employees and some cupcakes.
The Cupcake: Here to Stay?
While many critics dismissed the cupcake craze as a fad that will quickly pass, it has proved to be a food trend that has staying power. As the economy weakened and many people lost their jobs, cupcake sales shot up as a surge of local cupcake-only bakeries popped up around the nation. According to market research firm, NPD, 669.4 million cupcakes were sold between October 2010 and 2011. With little money left to spend on the big-ticket items, cupcakes became an indulgence that was affordable. While these gourmet cupcakes aren’t going to cost you $1.00-2.00 like the cupcakes you’ll find at your local grocery, it seems consumers are eager to spend a little extra on such a small luxury. The Washington Post reported on the cupcake bakery trend, quoting Paul Sapienza, vice president for the Retail Bakers of America, who declared of cupcakes, “They are cute. They are an economic treat, which helps out in the recession. They are a little decadent, so you get cake, frosting and sometimes filling all at the same time.” Yet, in their report, The Washington Post declared that the trend would fade. They were wrong. According to an article in, Packaged Facts Fresh Baked Goods in the U.S “…projects that the market will grow by 26% between 2009 and 2014, to reach $20.1 billion at retail.”

Gourmet cupcake shops have become so trendy that L.A.-based bakery, Sprinkles, is now establishing a 24-hour cupcake-dispensing ATM in New York City for patrons that need to grub on their goodness during the late-night hours.  Now that’s customer service!

Brides Choosing To Serve Cupcakes Instead of Tiered Cakes At Wedding Receptions
The decadent, yet economic, dessert is even affecting the wedding industry; many brides are choosing cupcakes to serve to guests over the traditional tiered wedding cake, which has, in the past, proven to be an expensive part of the wedding reception. The cupcake is not only economical, but also comes in a variety of flavors. Is the bride a coffee lover? She can choose a coffee-flavored cupcake with chocolate frosting. Is the wedding in November, close to Thanksgiving? The cupcakes can be pumpkin-pie flavored. Does anyone in the wedding party need gluten or dairy-free cupcakes? Those are also an option. The varieties of flavor and levels of creativity are endless, without the price tag of a traditional tiered wedding cake. The impact of serving cupcakes at weddings has even affected Hollywood—in 2010, country star Carrie Underwood cupcakesserved cupcakes during her reception when she married hockey pro, Mike Fisher. While most brides are choosing cupcakes over tiered cake for economic reasons, celebrities are choosing them more for the “coolness” factor.
The Recession and Cupcake Sales Go Hand-In-Hand
Although the economy has tanked in the last five years, with many Americans without jobs, struggling to pay mortgages or car payments, it seems the cupcake is a diamond in the rough. Even though each small cake sells for $4.00-6.00 a piece at a gourmet “cupcakery”, it seems a small price to pay for such gooey goodness that can help us escape for a short, but sweet while.


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