Over the last six months or so, I've heard plenty of people pontificating on the decline of the cupcake. The trend for small, tasty cakes temptingly slathered with buttercream and then decorated to resemble small, perfect works of art is over, they opine pointlessly, no doubt pottering off to nibble earnestly on whatever it is we are meant to be eating these days. Now, I do concede that the cupcake has become somewhat ubiquitous, and the fact that those lambs to the slaughter on the Great British Bake Off would never even dream of trying to impress the terrifying Hollywood/Berry combo with something as obvious as a cupcake does suggest that these innocently pleasurable mouthfuls have become distinctly cake non grata.
And yet, there are two clear lines of defence here. Firstly, something that tastes nice and makes people happy does not suddenly stop tasting nice and making people happy overnight, just because some grown-up somewhere says so. And secondly, saying that cupcakes have had their day hardly accounts for some of the innovative flavours and designs currently being produced by talented bakers who understand that people DO still want to eat cupcakes but perhaps might quite like to try something new as well.
Enter Hey Little Cupcake (they do have an exclamation mark, but I have temporarily suspended it, lest this post begin to sound rather over-excitable), a small but perfectly formed cupcakery and tea room tucked away on Little Quay Street in Manchester's Spinningfields. This week they launched their new East Coast collection, offering seven flavours which aim to take the greedy purchaser on a gastronomic journey along America's East Coast, generally agreed to be far more interesting and exotic than the normal cupcake path I beat between the sofa, the kettle, and back again. Here's the collection in full, with a different one introduced every day this week:
Monday - Florida Key Lime Pie. Digestive biscuit base with a lime sponge and topped with a refreshing lime cream frosting.
Tuesday - Boston Cream Pie. Vanilla sponge with a custard filling topped with custard buttercream and rich dark chocolate ganache.
Wednesday - Lady Baltimore Cake. Cherry and raisin pink vanilla sponge topped with light 7 minute meringue frosting and crushed pecans.
Thursday - Mississippi Mud Pie. Oreo cookie base under a rich chocolate Yorkie pudding filled sponge and topped with chocolate buttercream, fresh cream and chocolate sprinkles.
Friday - New York Cheesecake. Digestive biscuit base with vanilla cheesecake sponge topped with vanilla pod cream cheese.
Saturday - Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Espresso and rich dark chocolate sponge filled with a chocolate fudge filling and topped with chocolate buttercream, dark chocolate ganache and chocolate sprinkles.
Sunday - Kentucky Jam Cake. Cinnamon sponge filled with raspberry jam and topped with Carmel buttercream, cinnamon sprinkles and toffee sauce.
I was lucky enough to be given a box of four to try (clearly my reputation as an inveterate cakehead goes before me): the Key Lime Pie (sharp, sweet, zesty, gone), the New York Cheescake (tangy, not too sweet, good hit of real vanilla, also gone), the Kentucky Jam (rich, sweet buttercream offset by warmth of the cinnamon, not quite enough jam for me, also gone) and the Mississipi Mud Pie (generously reserved for Mr Liz and therefore not yet gone, as he possesses an irritating amount of self control). You see them here in all their glory - just imagine how pretty they looked BEFORE I carried them across Manchester and then tried to resist licking all the icing off them on my train journey home.
Each of these beauties costs £2.75 - find me a similarly priced treat that can bring a similar amount of pleasure and I too will sound the death knell for the cupcake. Until then, if you'll excuse me, I've got someone else's cake to be eyeing up...
- Hey Little Cupcake! is on Little Quay Street, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3HF - they are open every day, and as it's Sunday today you've got till 4pm to go and grab your Kentucky Jam Cake - go, GO!