Our world is faced with an astounding array of problems. A short list would include global warming, overpopulation, pollution and the depletion of natural resources, terrorism, war, famine, disease, and political corruption. Bummer, no? And this list doesn’t even include cupcakes.
Cupcakes are apparently bent on world domination, one wedding at a time. I’ve been to half a dozen in the past two years, and they all featured cupcakes in lieu of traditional wedding cakes. I think cupcakes for a wedding are perfect – if the bride and groom are six years old. Otherwise they’re kinda weird. I go to a wedding and see table covered in cupcakes, I almost expect the happy couple to toast each other with chocolate milk, or decline their first kiss for fear of cooties.
Austin now has at least five trailers (all of them the requisite Airstreams, of course) and three storefront bakeries that do nothing but cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes, sure, and tons of options – but that’s it. Just cupcakes. No breads, no rolls, no pastries, no cookies. Muffins? No way. Profiteroles? Forget about ’em. Rugelach? Get outta here. But if it’s cupcakes you want …
I was in Houston a couple of weeks ago, and made the mistake of mentioning this phenomenon. Someone then insisted we go immediately to his favorite boutique cupcakery near the Galleria, so that’s where we went.
Maybe the Houston heat had melted my brain, but I was expecting something small and low-key – something like … oh, I dunno … a bakery, maybe. But this is Houston we’re talking about. Small? Low key? Near the Galleria? Please.
The parking lot was a madhouse – we had to circle a half-dozen times before we found a spot (and honestly, this place was so twee I’m surprised they didn’t have valet parking). After standing in line for 15 minutes just to get in, I finally got a look at their bill of fare. I was expecting the standard, pedestrian choices like chocolate and vanilla; and again, standard and pedestrian? Near the Galleria? I’m surprised they even let people like me through the door.
They had chocolate and vanilla — chocolate espresso, or chocolate and crème, or white chocolate macadamia nut, or Madagascar vanilla. They also had key lime, and hummingbird (hummingbird? They claim their flavors are all-natural, so I really don’t wanna know). At the cashier’s suggestion, I opted for the key lime, handed her a fiver and got back a buck and some change.
Yup – almost four bucks for a cupcake. One cupcake. A very good cupcake, to be sure, but still — four dollars for a cupcake? Really? Three minutes later, the cupcake was gone and all I had for my money was sticky fingers, a sugar headache and a wicked case of cotton mouth.
For my baked-good dollar, that’s not a very good return on investment. Compare my Houston cupcake with a dessert experience I had at the Abraxas coffeeshop in Amsterdam, where a brownie set me back three euros. I’m not sure what was in it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t hummingbird. At any rate, two hours after eating it, I was convinced I could speak Dutch; it may not have been Dutch, but it clearly was not English. The rest of the evening is hazy but I woke up the next morning up on a houseboat, wearing a pair of clogs and sporting a tattoo of a tulip in a place I could see only with a hand mirror. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call ROI.