The Glamorous Little Cupcakes Tantalising our Taste Buds from the Early 19th Century

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In the early 19th century, bakers developed a new recipe based on ‘cup’ or volume measurement. They were called 1234 cakes. I cup butter, 2 cup sugar, 3 cup flour and 4 eggs. The name quarter cake is also used for the same reason. Soon they were called cupcakes because they were made in cups. One sees the first mention of a cupcake in a 1796 cookbook by Amelia Simmons. She refers to it as ‘a light cake to bake in small cups.’ Eliza Leslie’s 1828 book gave a recipe for cakes made in tin cups. Lily traces the antiquity and popularity of cupcakes, in the weekly column, exclusively for Truths.

Cupcakes and their mysterious glory caught me unawares as I grew up. Why was there such a hullabaloo about these little fellows I couldn’t stop wondering!

Now, my first memory of this confection is rather nostalgic. I remember waiting during sultry summer afternoons for a vendor, who sold goods on his bicycle. He carried a tin trunk tied to the carrier of his bike. This trunk was a treasure trove of goodies. While my mother bought bread from him, I eyed the cream rolls and the baby cakes, which I knew she would buy for me eventually.

A cupcake is a small cake made in such a way that it can serve one . The ingredients and the recipe are the same as a large cake. They are individually baked in cupcake liners or aluminium cups. Just like large cakes, cupcakes are also decorated with sprinkles, frosting buttercream, icing, fruits or other toppings.

In the early 19th century, bakers developed a new recipe based on ‘cup’ or volume measurement. They were called 1234 cakes. I cup butter, 2 cup sugar, 3 cup flour and 4 eggs. The name quarter cake is also used for the same reason. Soon they were called cupcakes because they were made in cups.

The British named them fairy cakes and the Australians call them patty cakes.

One sees the first mention of a cupcake in a 1796 cookbook by Amelia Simmons. She refers to it as ‘a light cake to bake in small cups.’ Eliza Leslie’s 1828 book gave a recipe for cakes made in tin cups. The cups were mostly for convenience as the hearth ovens took extremely long to bake a large cake for early cakes were humongous! Often they got burnt. A tea cup seemed a brilliant alternative for single portions.

Cupcakes were mostly made in moulds, ramekins or pottery cups before the availability of muffin tins. Near about the mid-19thcentury, paper lining moulds and muffin trays were invented.

Hostess Cupcakes were the first to sell cupcakes commercially at 5 cents each. After World War II, paper liners became available. 

The last two decades saw a huge surge in their popularity. Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles Cupcakes are immensely popular in the United States. 

I can never forget the startlingly long queue lined up outside the Georgetown cupcake shop, during my visit to Washington DC. The shop was like any other in that little town across the Potomac River, but the crowds jostling to stand in line, much before the doors opened were spectacular. Ah! All for the love of a tiny little bits of bliss. They sell 3000 to 5000 cupcakes a day. Interestingly, 30% are the walk-in customers and 70% are pre-ordered.

I would like to share with you some of the fun facts that amused me about cupcakes. The fastest one could eat is 29 cupcakes in 30 seconds, according to statistics. That’s mind boggling! 

New York City schools have banned them to reduce obesity rates. The smallest cup cake is 1.5 cm tall and 3 cm wide. Suzanna Roland, the founder of Hostess Cupcake Club claims to have eaten 50,000 cupcakes. The food network show about cupcakes, Cupcake Wars, hosted by Jonathan Bennett has 1.6 million viewers.

Cupcakes, I must agree, seem perfectly and uniquely suited to our modern sensibilities for they are portion controlled, easy to make in batches, portable, inexpensive to make and open to numerous decoration options!

In the third of the television show Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw was seen munching on a Magnolia Cupcake. It is believed to have triggered the craze for these glamorous little chaps.

I add an enormous amount of weight whenever I visit the United States, and one of the culprits is this lovable delight that makes an at baby showers and special high tea menus! 

Painted and adorned as miniature Kangra paintings with delicate strokes these finger licking fellows can easily hypnotize both children and adults with their vast repertoire of flavours and looks!

licking off the creamy texture till next time!

©Lily Swarn 

Photos from the internet.

#Cupcakes #FairyCakes #Muffins #TeaCakes #Delicious #DessertAndHistory #HistoryOfCupcake #HistoryAndMystryOfFood #DifferentTruths

Lily Swarn

Lily Swarn

Lily Swarn won the Reuel International Prize for Poetry 2016, Global Poet of Peace and Universal Love, Global Icon of Peace from Nigeria, Virtuoso Award and Woman of Substance. A postgraduate in English from Panjab University, she taught at Sacred Heart College, Dalhousie. A gold medallist for Best All-round Student from GCG Chandigarh, she has University Colours for Dramatics. Widely published and interviewed, she authored, A Trellis of Ecstasy and Lilies of the Valley.
Lily Swarn
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