As seen on TV, now in stores and our lives
The whole Iron Cupcake competition at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s MAM After Dark: A Very Velvet Holiday got me to thinking about cupcakes. It also doesn’t help any that what I really want for Christmas is the Big Top Cupcake maker.
To the uninitiated, please watch this commercial. It’s been re-posted on YouTube by a user called AsSeenOnTvFan:
So, I am that little boy you see above from the excerpt of the website’s front page. I’m also a pretty good cook who is on the fence about the ability of silicone baking molds to turn out properly; I’m a pseudo-purist when it comes to the definition of a cupcake; and I should really join a C.A. (Consumers Anonymous) group, because I’m a sap when it comes to buying items I’ve seen on late-night television that later appear on a special shelf at Walgreens or Target.
The allure of the overnight infomercial products, the late Billy Mays ads still out there pitching OxiClean, the ridiculous shape-up tool and the cult that grows around items like the Snuggie is a recognition that it’s not something you need to survive — but something that you want. At the very least, it’s a convenience built around a more basic tool like the the amazing rubber broom that outsweeps a regular straw broom. Yes, I bought one of those and love it. I also have a huge credit card debt and a house full of gadgets sitting next to its basic counterparts.
The cupcake presents a similar dilemma. On its own, a cupcake is relatively nutritionless. But when a pretty pink frosted cake with chocolate swirls hidden inside hits all of the right pleasure receptors, logic goes out the window. You can dress up a cupcake into the devilish concoction pictured to the right, but despite a magical transformation from Hostess CupCakes to culinary pastry — it’s still just a lot of sugar. Now, make it 25 times bigger, even larger than a three-layer cake. That’s “Big Top Cupcake.” That’s crazy huge, and that’s America.
What is it about new modes of product delivery and lifestyle comfort (see: Freedom Wand) that gets us all crazy? Perhaps, it’s our love of invention. Somebody had to invent the lightbulb, but then somebody had to invent the compact fluorescent light bulb. LED-based lightbulbs have been around for awhile, too, but it was only when they became practical did governments change over stoplights and streetlamps to that technology. It took a real genius to invent a “throwie.”
The modern American lifestyle is filled with choices about how to live it. Practicality and common use tend to fall by the wayside right along with a steady flow of income. We can crush an empty can with our foot, or we can take all that soda and beer we drink in a week and use a garage wall-mounted aluminum can crusher.
Perhaps, Friday’s MAM event will help me to see cupcakes as an art form. I feel relatively empty inside about them right now. I would feel good about an elevation in their status, but then we would end up encouraging more cupcake-only bakeries. New York and Seattle already went through those pains, and while Milwaukee is behind the nation in urban trends this is one I could live without. I’d rather just walk into a neighborhood bakery that has cupcakes, beignets, donuts, fritters, paczkis, muffins, scones, elephant ears and the other essentials.