Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Strangely New York: California Cupcakes Join the Cupcake Capital

By Mitch Broder

I just read a story suggesting that the New York City cupcake thing may be over.

It was in The New York Times.

In 2008.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the newest New York City cupcake store and found it packed to the door with people who don’t read three-year-old New York Times stories.

The new New York City cupcake store is the old Beverly Hills cupcake store named Sprinkles Cupcakes, which calls itself “The Original Cupcake Bakery.” It opened at the site of the beloved Gino restaurant, which was not “The Original Italian Restaurant” but had been there since 1945.

I was alerted to this opening by Brooks of Sheffield in a January post showing the gay Gino façade replaced by Sprinkles construction plywood. The post ends with this cogent thought on the changing of the guard: “The world does not need a single additional cupcake joint, I say.”

The world does not, as long as New York City is around. If the cupcake thing has ended, that’s the way I’d like to end. Take the vicinity of the new cupcake store, which I did on the day of my visit. Within a few blocks you can find enough cupcakes to exempt at least Europe and South America.

Baked by Melissa.
At Grand Central Terminal, joining the cupcakes of chains like Zaro’s and Junior’s are the three-dollar (and a quarter) cupcakes of the chain Magnolia Bakery. It’s Magnolia, which began in the Village, that is said to have launched the cupcake thing when it guest-starred in a girly TV show that glamorized overpaying.

Step out onto 42nd Street and step into Baked by Melissa, a cupcake chain that distinguishes itself by selling itty-bitty cupcakes. The cakes are too tiny to have cups; for $3 you get three in one cup. They’re cupcake Munchkins, except that Munchkins are fifty for $9.99 and Melissas are fifty for $37.50.

Crumbs Bake Shop.
Turn the corner onto Lexington Avenue and enter one of what now seems like the hundreds of branches of Crumbs Bake Shop, a chain built mostly on its — cupcakes. Here the cakes top out at $3.75, not counting the Colossal Crumb, a monster Hostess Cupcake replica that costs $35.

Admittedly, you must leave the street to find other latter-day cupcake showrooms with actual names like Buttercup and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, but stay on Lex till just past 60th and you’re at the latest of them, Sprinkles. There are lulls. You can get in. And here the price is back down to $3.50.

When I got in I saw two grown women sitting on little cupcake tuffets at a little round table, eating cupcakes off brown paper with wooden forks. There were five cupcake-tuffet seats, a cupcake walk of fame, and cupcakes in flavors like ginger lemon, salty caramel, and peanut butter chocolate.

You could also buy a shot of frosting for 75 cents, a little cupcake for your dog for $2.50, a cupcake tray for $25, a Sprinkles T-shirt for $25, and a Sprinkles baseball cap, also for $25.  If you bought four cupcakes, two shirts and two baseball caps your tab would be $114. Not including tax and Pellegrino.

Though The Times may have jumped the gun, cupcake shops will jump the shark, just like cookie shops two decades ago, when New York was Mrs. Fieldsville. Incidentally, I live for pastry. But at these cupcake shops I wonder how people eat those things. You can get a delicious rational cupcake at a bake sale for 50 cents if not a quarter, I say.

Of course, Sprinkles didn’t kill Gino. In fact, they’ve acknowledged Gino. In its honor, they’ve installed  a wall’s worth of Gino’s famous dancing-zebra wallpaper.

What killed Gino is the cultural preference for Sprinkleses over Ginos.

And in the face of that, we have just two choices: Abstain, or have a peanut butter chocolate.

If you don’t abstain, find Sprinkles at 780 Lexington Avenue, between 60th and 61st streets, in Manhattan.


  1. Sitting on tuffets & eating cupcakes w/wooden forks? Too precious. I'll pass. (and that's from someone who's favorite food group is cupcakes!)

  2. I love cupcakes as much as I love this article. I love the thought of mini ones, it would make me feel like I am eating less. I must try them.

  3. I need to see a photo of a tuffet, please. I am not exactly sure what a tuffet looks like, now that it has been brought up.

  4. what a great cuppie post! just love it! the only thing I hated @ Sprinkles was the wooden spoon and fork to eat with! That was so terrible as I wanted to eat the cuppie neatly in the shop...they were tasty and I think they are here to stay. Georgetown Cupcakes are opening in Nov. I think and the one from chicago Molly's is on Bleecker now. Wonder who will be next?