Red Velvet: A Cupcake Postmortem
|Trendy? Or just plain tasty?|
The cupcake fad seems to largely be "over" now, a statement made so forcefully by some that it seems like the small, frosted cakes are suddenly extinct, impossible to purchase, bake or eat. Macarons, they say, are the new pastry to covet. But aren't cupcakes still delicious, even if eating the right flavor from the right bakery doesn't make you in vogue anymore? My ten year-old self is certain that they are, so I tracked down a few for a comparison--one from the old-guard Long Beach bakery and restaurant Jongewaard's Bake n' Broil, the other from the trend-riding cupcakery Frosted, in Belmont Shore. Red velvet--the standard-bearing flavor of the cupcake fad--was the common denominator, because as far as I'm concerned, cream cheese frosting should always be in style.
The Frosted Cupcakery is a much less homey space, with the design leaning more towards the modern, the cupcakes displayed like jewels or watches in a glass-fronted case, small candy circles marked with a cupcake image dotting each crown of frosting. Frosted has a broader, more creative range of flavors, including their ice cream-filled cupcake creation, with other contemporary flairs including cakes with Nutella-flavored frosting. Their cupcakes were smaller than those from Jongewaard's, with the prices notably higher despite the lesser serving. The red velvet flavor was dotted with a red candy, the frosting boasting enough cream cheese, but a bit too much sugar, making it lean a too far towards cloyingly sweet. The cake was moist and very red, but the chocolate was less noticeable than in the Jongewaard's pastry, making the Bixby Knolls bakery and restaurant the victor in this episode of the Dueling Dishes.
The cupcake may be slipping out of style, but that could be a good thing. Instead of biting into one and having it mean something, an act of eating wrapped up in pop and consumer culture, the sweet will go back to being something that can be enjoyed with the messy, reckless abandon of those grade school birthday parties. And if the tastemakers are right, we could get some excellent macarons in the near future, which I, for one, would certainly have no problem with what so ever.