My Overly Close Personal Relationship with Cupcakes

Do you know cupcakes have taken over the Middle East?  Humble cupcake stands and swanky little cupcake boutique stores are sprouting everywhere from Jerusalem to Dubai to Damascus.  Muslims and Jews, veiled and unveiled, be-robed and be-blue jeaned — they’re all queued up for the pastel buttercream icing, the tiny flowers, the chocolate, the devil’s food, the red velvet.

It figures.  Cupcakes are universal these days.  For women — and I’m going out on a presumably sexist limb here, so don’t beat me with it till you chop it off — cupcakes look benign and dainty, a controlled and ladylike panacea for all that ails you.  Who knows?  You could be carting off a dozen of them simply to  give to your neighbors or make yourself popular at a dinner party or drop off at your local fire station.

But let’s be frank.  You’re probably not sharing, are you?  You’re probably hauling them home and keeping them all to yourself so you can gorge behind locked doors.

I should know.  Since we’ve come to New York, I’ve discovered the Magnolia Bakery, so chic and delectable that you have to wait in line forever.  (Try the banana pudding, too, while you’re at it; creamy, comforting, pure heaven.)  Sex in the City featured Magnolia.  Michelle Obama recently dropped by with her daughters in tow.  I myself was there last night, foot thumping impatiently while I waited in line to purchase three cupcakes and a banana pudding.

It was all for me, all for last night.  (My husband has some kind of mysterious gene that makes him loathe most sweets.)  I don’t know why I bought so much and ate it all.  I wasn’t that hungry.  It’s just something I do every two or three weeks when I’m lazy, bored, feeling sorry for myself.  Who cares?  I have no good reason.  Waiting in the line, I wondered how many other women were doing the same thing I was — engaging in this shameful, semi-secret behavior, driven by some kind of hunger that was beyond the physical.

I went back to our apartment.  I ate the whole damned thing(s).  As usual, I felt worse and slept badly afterwards.  I told myself to remember the aftermath, but knew it wouldn’t make a difference.

It’s an odd, uncomfortable thing for me to write about.  I’m not overweight, I don’t do this constantly, I assume it’s probably no big deal.  But I just wonder why I do it, why so many women load the carbs and sweets, what we’re looking for, why we keep doing it.  I don’t sit up late at night pondering this — but I do wonder.  Is it really that big a deal — or is it simply a cupcake?  And why is it so fucking embarrassing?

P.S. And, by the way, it was a large banana pudding.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts on don’t you dare give me that for Mother’s Day

12 comments… add one
  • Winston Link

    Well, I suppose its all in the name.  You are not secretly gorging on POUND cake or LAYER cake, but a cup cake.  A cupcake!!  A cupcake can’t be a real transgression.  After all, a cup is so small.  A teacup, a china cup , fragile, tiny.  The word itself even sounds small.  I mean, it is called a cupcake, not called something with even a bit more heft, say, a mugcake.   Eating a  mugcake might weigh heavier on your mind, heart, conscience, not to mention your stomach.  It’s about like drinking.  If you stick to martinis, you can’t have a drinking problem.  Martinis are served in those wee glass vessels perched on delicate stems.  Whereas a drink like scotch-on-the-rocks arrives in heavy thick-bottomed tumblers.  You have to spread your hand wide to even grasp and hoist the drink to your lips.  And, anyway, the very word rocks imply heaviness.  And the phrase on-the-rocks drives the mind straight to images of devastation, of wreckage.   Consuming concoctions on-the-rocks would surely lead to personal wreckage and a stint with AA.   But we’re limiting ourselves to libations perched on glass stems, and to treats of only cupcakes.  So all is well, you need not worry.  No, you’ll never have to stand and face an anonymous group and make heart-rending confessions with buttercream frosting oozing from the corners of your mouth.

  • I do the same thing, and always have. You nailed it exactly. I think they do appeal to women for the “controllable size” reason and also how pretty they look. Cupcake emporiums have cropped up here, too. My stepsister-n-law started a company called Velvet Cupcakes. I went nuts over her business cards, before I even had a bite…

    So, no, you are not alone. I covet/hoard sweets and get surly if anyone wants any of my stash. 🙂

  • Can’t fathom the attraction of cupcakes, never could, never will. Don’t get me wrong, I have sweet tooth binges too, but cupcakes just can’t cut it for me. They’re too insubstantial. Please don’t hate me for admitting that I love fruit cake – the denser, fruitier, boozier  and richer the better. I could quite happily pig out on a whole one, if I didn’t know it would probably cause me to have a stroke!

  • I’m like your husband, not so much a one for sweets. Except I have a weakness for certain cheap candy.
    I’m fond of the mini-cupcakes, because the regular size are usually too big for me, but there’s something nice about having a bite-size one, and I love the way they’re decorated.

  • I LOVE CUPCAKES and ALL SWEETS (well mostly all sweets). Today I ate half of a giant pink peanut patty from Tyler, Texas. I’m addicted and cannot control myself. Afterward, I felt really gross. I’ve eaten cupcakes like this too. Feeling bad later is not disincentive to do the same thing again in a couple of days. Oh my….
    I get it. I so get it.

  • Anne Link

    Cupcakes are perfection and should be enjoyed daily. Plus, they’re one of the only things you’ll find cheaper in NYC. Good cupcakes in Austin are $1 more, if you can believe it. So, you’ll really be saving money by eating them there. You MUST go to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. It’s on the Lower East Side – Rivington. I think it’s way better than Magnolia.

  • Cindy A Link

    Cupcake frosting makes my teeth hurt.  But chocolate makes everything feel better.

  • You mean you didn’t save any to share? Shame on you, Ruth.  It does sound like you really gave in to your sweet tooth in a big way. (Next time, I’ll join you, ok?)

  • For me, the culprit is chocolate.  Impossible to have chocolate in the house without my raiding the stash until I can eat no more …. yes, more often than not, when feeling sorry for myself.

  • Ellen Link

    I haven’t had anything to do with cupcakes since we ruined that batch for Teal’s primary school class some twenty years ago…and then plastered the rocky cakes with canned icing, sickly sweet as toothpaste.  Or were those supposed to be muffins?   

  • I don’t know about the Middle East but here in the UK cup cakes are much, much smaller and modest than their American cousins and usually referred to as fairy cakes.

    I’m usually not a cake eater, cup, fairy or otherwise. 

    I’d rather binge on charcuterie.  That might make me unfeminine.  I’ve long had a theory that there are sweet people and fat people and have meant to have a blog about it.  Might your husband be a fat person?  (not the same as an overweight person)

    It’s probably my internet (always dodgy) but I thought you hadn’t  blogged for a couple of weeks… then I log in to find all kinds of missed posts.  So now I will go and enjoy a fortnight of RP.

  • When my husband I were in NY alone we bought 4 cupcakes there and each ate 2 sitting on a bench nearby. I adore cupcakes. And I totally understand the impulse to do this once in a while.

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