Tuesday, 26 June 2012


My first article for Shire.

The Cupcake: Traditional or Nouveau?

The cupcake is a modern take on the traditional ‘fairy cake’ and is most definitely the modern generations guilty pleasure. They may be small, but they are becoming more and more popular, with cupcake businesses popping up all over the globe. But the question is, is this tiny treat going to lead to the extinction of the traditional cake? Kiera Beasley sheds some light on this, her baking world and the creation of the cherry Coca-Cola sponge cake.

Kiera runs her ‘Cupcake Factory’ from home in Great Hale, Lincolnshire, taking pride in her unique designs and cupcake courses, she says. “I am absolutely passionate about baking in general and of course about cupcakes and cakes.” Like any baker, Kiera loves starting with the raw ingredients and creating a masterpiece, adding. “Well that’s how it works most of the time!”

Kiera’s passion definitely shows in her designs and it’s said that cake makers are artists, she says. “You need the decoration to be good to entice the customer but of course the cake must be wonderful for them to keep coming back.” It takes great skill to create the perfect sponge and distinctive decoration to go with it. They do come as a package after all.

Just when you thought that cupcakes were done. Just when you thought they’d done everything that could be done. They fought back. They started appearing in shops, not as cakey treats, but as decorations for your house and as patterns on your clothes. However, Kiera thinks that this is also a regional trend, she comments. “I find down south the craze is far more popular than it is here in Lincolnshire, but it is growing.”

But, is the cupcake extravaganza almost becoming an obsession? It’s now seen as a fashion icon, whereas the traditional cake was served and judged on taste. It is almost as if the classic ‘birthday cake’, Victoria Sponge and the fruit cake have created offspring. The cupcake is taking over the world.
Although this isn’t seen as a negative within the baking world. Kiera agrees that this tiny cake has raised the profile of baking greatly within society and it has almost become fashionable, she continues. “Seeing young, modern chefs making wonderful creations and the fabulous baking programme, ‘The Great British Bake Off’, highlighted that anyone can learn to bake.”

For special occasions, instead of the classic cake, some people are opting for ‘cupcake towers’. Taking each individual cupcake and layering them in circles to create a tiered effect, just like the traditional wedding cake. However, Kiera does think that there will always be a place for the wedding cake, even if the designs are becoming more modern. But, she does love this modern idea, proclaiming. “Cupcake towers are a great way to exercise some creative designs and to provide different flavours and toppings in one go and of course they give a wow factor.”

Kiera explains that she hasn’t dropped a cake yet and that the most bizarre sponge she has ever made was a Cherry Coca-Cola recipe which was requested for a special occasion. And believe it or not she has never had any traumatic experiences in her baking life so far, saying. “I really haven't been traumatised by a particular event, every day on my day courses we laugh with each other whilst we are chatting and creating.” She talks proudly about her courses were she teaches a range of different people from children to experienced bakers and has great fun doing so.

There are no answers as to why the cupcake became such a phenomenon, but the obvious explanation would be their individuality. This means that a good comparison for the cupcake would be the old fashioned box of chocolates. The unique flavour and decoration on each chocolate is the same as that of a cupcake.
No one likes sharing, especially not cake, and the uniqueness of a tiny cupcake can reflect an individual’s personality, making them feel like it is their own special little goodie. This could be another explanation to its popularity. Although, it could be argued that people prefer cupcakes because it makes them feel less guilty than eating a huge slab of cake. However, the people who use this as an excuse are usually the people you see going back for a second cupcake (and usually the people who finish off the box of chocolates, then tell themselves “it was only a little box!”)

The truth is that the cupcake is only a sophisticated twist on an old-fashioned favourite. Give it as many different toppings as you like, change its shape and colour – but the cupcake’s closest relation will always remain the traditional Victoria Sponge, extinct or not.

Some of Kiera's cupcakes...www.kierascupcakefactory.co.uk

Talking of which, check out my new 'bakers blog'!

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