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Consumer Corner: Cupcakes, just the right amount of fun, sweet goodness

By MARCELLA S. KREITER   |   Nov. 14, 2010 at 4:30 AM
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CHICAGO, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Why are cupcakes so darn fun? The single-serving pastries, decked out with frosting and sometimes sprinkles and fillings have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, with bakeries specializing in the confections to the exclusion of all else.

"It's the perfect size of goodness and yum," said Kellie Sutton of Memphis. "It's happy -- and you don't have to share.

"It's just a great little treat … especially with all these cupcake stores opening up. Somebody's having a bad day, (you can give them) just a little bit of happy. It makes someone's day -- warm, good, sweet and most of them are pretty. There are a lot of good things about the cupcake."

And Sutton's Sutton Gourmet Paper LLC (http://www.suttongourmetpaper.com/) is kicking things up a notch, with pretty paper prints to dress up the traditional cupcake. The paper liners feature vintage fabric designs like damask as well as Sutton's own designs.

"I had another baking product, precut parchment baking rounds," said Sutton, who developed the product because she was tired of "feeling like Lucille Ball" in the kitchen, attempting to trace and cut a piece of parchment paper that kept rolling up on her.

"That's how I got into the business as a 'mompreneur.' While selling that, that's when the cupcakes became the new craze. I started thinking there are so many beautiful designs out there."

One of her biggest pet peeves as an "avid baker, mother of four and consumer" was that every time she bought what looked like a pretty liner, once the baking was done and the grease had leached through, they "looked nothing like what I had purchased. I had no clue what the design was."

The secret to preserving the design is a better quality paper, she said. Her cupcake liners are heavier and let less light through than the run-of-the-mill liners found in the baking aisle. Sutton's liners sell for $1.95 for 50 wholesale and $3.95 for 50 retail. Right now, they're just standard size but Sutton hopes to branch out to various sizes and produce matching napkins.

The cupcake has a long and storied history. According to Wikipedia, it is first mentioned in 1796 in "American Cookery" by Amelia Simms. They got their name because before muffin tins, they were baked in individual cups and sometimes were described as fairy cakes because of their diminutive size.

The little cakes aren't all. Cookware makers in recent years started making layer-cake pans -- one shaped like a squat cone -- that get stuck together with a frosting seam to make mega-cupcakes as well as mini versions designed to appeal to children just learning their way around the kitchen.

The recent super-popularity of cupcakes can be traced to pastry chef Candace Nelson, who opened Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2005 as the first bakery dedicated exclusively to the cupcake. The venture gained traction after actress Katie Holmes started frequenting the shop and feting friends with its confections.

"They're just a wonderful way to celebrate," Sutton said. "No matter what the economic situation in this country or the world, people are always going to celebrate birthdays, babies, weddings, etc. They will never go away.

"I saw something yesterday about pie pops (pie on a stick). Are they going to replace the cupcake? I don't think so."

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