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Tiny Trends Big In the World of Desserts
by Joseph Weagley
“Americans are in love more than ever with cupcakes,” says Hydie Fulk, General Manager of HubCity Cupcakes and Gandolfo’s New York Deli at the Hagerstown Premium Outlets. A long-standing staple at picnics and children’s parties, now you can find cupcakes at all kinds of occasions, including professional events, fundraising events, baby showers and even weddings. The homemade treat that we all remember from our youth is now a medium for professional bakers and pastry chefs to express their creativity.
No longer limited to just chocolate and vanilla, cupcakes are now baked in a countless variety of flavors and topped with more than simple icing. Upon request, Cindy Long, owner of Cindy’s Sweets and DeLite-ful Treats at the Valley mall in Hagerstown has gone so far as to whip up batches of cupcakes where the entire top is decorated to look like flowers, animal faces, or even baby faces. But the diversity in appearance is just the tip of the icing.
With more than 25 years of professional baking experience, Cindy knows the importance of fresh concepts and staying ahead of the curve. “I think the future of cupcakes is like the styles of clothes. In time the excitement may die down. As I obviously hope not, I still have to prepare for that by always introducing new ideas,” she says. Her latest brainstorm is a cupcake parfait, which is a layer of cake, filling, icing, cake, filling, and icing in a glass jar. It’s an iteration of the cupcake that makes for a much neater traveling companion, but maintains all the range in flavor of a traditional one.
A Confection of Your Choice
“Cupcakes offer a lot of variety,” Hydie says, pointing out that a traditional cake is only one flavor, but a dozen cupcakes provides her customers with the option to select up to a dozen different flavors — offering a little something for everyone’s taste buds. “It increases their variety of flavors without breaking the bank.” Cindy agrees saying that the variety offered with cupcakes instead of a one or even two flavor cake makes for a “smorgasbord of desserts” — a smorgasbord as vast as 50 flavors for them, including Cindy’s Sweets specialty: peanut butter cup, which is a dark fudge chocolate cupcake filled with their own blend of peanut butter filling, topped with chocolate peanut butter icing and decorated with 3 mini peanut butter cups.
Over at HubCity, their oversized cupcakes are available in almost 30 flavors, 17 of them offered daily. Their biggest sellers are Cookies and Cream, Birthday Cake, Blueberry Lemon and Peanut Butter Cup, says Hydie, with popular specialty ones including tiramisu and Almond Joy in the rotation. Cupcakes with fondant decoration are offered throughout the year, but are especially popular for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. The July 4th Cupcake, decorated in red, white and blue, is topped with a miniature American flag. With an emphasis on fresh ingredients, each HubCity cupcake is a gourmet experience, which is evidenced in the juicy blueberries and lemon zest in the their blueberry lemon cupcakes.
Although flavor and freshness are important, Hydie believes it’s the cuteness of the single serving size that gives people the impression that a cupcake is an individual treat.
“When you have a cupcake, it’s something special and it’s like your own the cake,” she says. “We feel very blessed to do something that makes so many people happy.”
At Tea Time Tasties in Mercersburg, PA, owner Jean Woodring has been baking delicious desserts and treats since 2002. Her cupcakes are decorated in a more traditional way, using sprinkles and decorative picks. “Lately, I've been doing specialty gender-reveal cupcakes,” Jean says. These cupcakes are served at baby showers or “gender reveal” parties where the filling in the center of the cupcake — pink for a girl or blue for a boy — reveals the sex of the expected baby. Cindy’s Sweets has also partaken in the baby shower scene. “A few prospective parents don't even know what they're having. They bring the results in an envelope to us and they find out when everyone else does,” says Cindy.
Not limited to just specialty items, Tea Time Tasties’ recurring treats include a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting that is a big perennial seller and the red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting is the most popular during the holiday season. “Cupcakes are popular year-round, especially for children's parties and weddings,” Jean says, “Cupcakes are convenient because you don't have to cut a cake and use utensils.”
The Bride & Groom and All Those Cupcakes
At wedding receptions, cupcakes displayed on a cupcake tier can offer guests a variety of flavors and is a contemporary alternative to the traditional wedding cake. At Cake Walk in Hagerstown, Pastry Chef Katie Martin allows each couple to select any flavor combination off the menu. ”And with cupcakes, people tend to choose a large variety of flavors,” she says, “Wedding guests are able to help themselves and select their favorite cupcakes.”
The chocolate and peanut butter combo is a proven winner at Cake Walk as well — in the form of their chocolate cupcake with peanut butter buttercream. Hagerstonians also flock to their red velvet delights. “My personal favorite is the Almond Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream,” Katie says.
Before Cake Walk opened in January 2011, Katie worked as a cake decorator at Just Cakes in Bethesda, where she noticed the growing popularity of cupcakes. She points out that it takes some time for trends to make their way out of the city, but over the past two years she has noticed more customers in the Hagerstown area asking about cupcakes for their own occasions. “When they hear the options they can get with cupcakes,” Katie says, “People definitely tend to lean towards the cupcakes.”
As Americans of all ages continue to enjoy cupcakes, they will continue to love the convenience, sweetness and variety that cupcakes offer. Whether served as a delectable dessert or a succulent snack, cupcakes are always a delight. “There’s something very special about cupcakes,” Hydie Fulk says, “There is no denying that.”