The Washington Post reports that at least half a dozen cupcake bakeries have opened around the D.C. area in the past 20 months. According to Slate.com, the current recession laid the groundwork for the proliferation of cupcake stores -- which have now spread from large metropolitan areas into rural communities.
Two local bakeries are taking advantage of the cupcake boom. At The Family Bakery in Gate City, and WM Paul's in Kingsport, individual cupcake sales are in the hundreds per week.
Vikki Roberts, of The Family Bakery, says she sold 1,700 cupcakes in September, and more than 2,000 in August. WM Paul's owner William Paul Plaas reports similar numbers -- and is scratching his head a bit as to exactly why cupcake consumption is on the rise.
"As a chef, it just boggles my mind," said Plaas. "I don't understand, but I'm not going to try and understand it. It's working so I'm just going to continue on until I see we need to change."
Both Roberts and Plaas agree the treats are a comfort food; evoking memories of childhoods past. But don't expect to get your momma's box mix version of the classic at either bakery.
"We don't' do kiddie cupcakes," Roberts relays with an air of confidence.
And, looking through The Family Bakery display case, you can't accuse her of false advertising:
- There's the Fat Bottomed Girl; a chocolate cake with a chocolate chip cheesecake baked inside, topped with chocolate buttercream icing.
- The Red Raspberry Delight; a chocolate cake with red raspberry filling, topped with raspberry buttercream.
- The Carrot Cupcake; freshly grated carrots with raisins and nuts, a touch of cinnamon and orange zest, iced with orange cream cheese frosting.
- Dark Side of the Moon; chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and iced with chocolate butter cream, then drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with a piece of chocolate brownie.
Depending on the day -- and if you darken their door before they've sold out -- Roberts offers a plethora of other cupcake delights; red velvet, turtle concoctions, caramel delights.
"We've done really, really well and exceeded our expectations," said Roberts, who along with her husband, children and nieces, opened the bakery in May of this year. "I think even if people are scrimping on other things, they'll come by for the comfort food."
"It is definitely booming," said Plaas in Kingsport, who also offers a variety of cupcakes. "It's an amazing thing to me."
"It's the cookie of this generation. They want something that has flavor, something that has variety."
While cupcakes are far and away her biggest seller, Roberts isn't worried about the potential bursting of this bakery bubble.
"Even if the cupcake thing is a fad, like some people think, we have large cakes and pies and cookies, and also are going to a cafe menu," Roberts said. "So we try to think of every aspect of it, as far as being here forever. We don't want to be just a flash in the pan."