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Friday, February 10, 2012

What Our Love for Cupcakes (Still!) Says About Us

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 7:50 AM

Look deep into my icing and tell me what you see... - JANE RIX / SHUTTERSTOCK
The days when Samantha and Carrie were cooing over Magnolia Bakery's icing swirls seem so long ago -- like, 2000 -- and yet the cupcake trend will not die. Cupcake shops are still legion, and cupcake reality TV shows and cupcake contests are still going strong. The Washington Post has decided that, at this point, we shouldn't just consult trendologists about the appeal of the cupcake. At this point, it's time to start consulting psychiatrists, too. What does our love of cupcakes say about us?

"Everyone has come here for a hug," psychiatrist Carole Lieberman tells the Post after watching the line outside Sprinkles, an iconic LA bakery. Several cupcake-loving mental health experts agree with Lieberman: These desserts are about nostalgia and self-soothing.

Paul Hokemeyer, another psychotherapist, has a darker take. "Cupcakes evidence the narcissism born of the Internet by feeding us in shallow and un-nutritious ways," he says. "Similar to the way we cruise the Internet looking for bite-size and delicious bits of information, cupcakes enable us to cruise the sugary world of self-indulgence." Because we don't share them with others, he implies, they reflect an unhealthy obsession with oneself. 

Other experts argue that the cupcake's one-person size reflects a healthy way to counteract our outsized expectations for the way our lives should be. "We don't need to do, eat, or prove anything more than what is unwrapped in this little wrapper of joy and sugar," Brooke Miller, a San Francisco psychotherapist, tells the Post.

SFoodie hasn't spent enough time in psychoanalysis to identify the powerful emotions roiling in our subconscious every time we stop by Kara's. But we do know that, as much as we've complained about cupcakes as a class, we've never turned one down.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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