Recent years have seen a massive increase in the popularity of cupcakes. People are baking their own cupcakes in volumes never seen before, and many are even starting to see cupcake design and making as an opportunity for making more money for themselves. The less entrepreneurial among us might not be making cupcakes, but instead are buying them to enjoy with their morning cup of coffee or as a special treat on Friday evening or at the weekends.
However, it would be wrong to assume that cupcakes have only been around for a few years. A rich and storied history to cupcakes exists and goes back a lot further than you probably think. We’ve looked at the history of the humble cupcake.
Origins of the Cupcake
It is thought the idea of cupcakes were first mentioned in the American Cookery book, written by Amelia Simmons and published in 1796. You can find the text from the book here, and buy updated versions of the book from Amazon and other online outlets. The recipe is noted as being a “cake to be baked in small cups,” rather than as a cupcake. The explicit term “cupcake” wouldn’t come into use until 1828, when Eliza Leslie used it in a cookbook of her own.
Most people probably look at cupcakes today and wonder aloud why they have the name. Paper cupcake cases weren’t available in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, so they were baked in ready-made pieces of ovenproof pottery, such as simple cups and ramekins.
The cupcakes that we know and love today aren’t the only things that have the name. In the 19th century, and in some cases today although with less regularity, cakes that were made by using a cup to measure the recipe ingredients were referred to as cupcakes. These were sometimes baked in the cup used for measuring, but more regularly would be baked in a traditional tin, but would still take the name cupcake.
When people first started making cupcakes, they would stick to traditional sponges and the flavours and toppings they were familiar with. Although we say that cupcakes weren’t invented a few years ago, there is no question that the surge in popularity cupcakes have enjoyed in recent years has been a result of the more daring and adventurous cupcake designs and flavours we have seen.
Far from the cupcake being a traditional result of baking, today cupcake creation is like a blank canvas, and you can create your own shapes, fillings, flavours, and toppings, while cupcakes are becoming a common gift as well as an alternative to big cakes at birthdays and weddings.
The history of the cupcake is interesting and varied, but the most exciting thing is definitely the feeling that in 10 years’ time, with so much more invention and experimentation behind us, it will be even more bright, colourful, and most importantly of all, great tasting.