I once heard my older sister Becky refer to cupcakes as "depressing." This was right around the time that Sprinkles Cupcakes had opened its very first location in Los Angeles, and the line at any time of day rivaled that of the iconic Magnolia Bakery in New York. And, as someone who frequented this line whenever there was the slightest excuse to celebrate an occasion with thickly iced, baked goods, Becky's comment totally confused me. What makes an adorable, personal-sized cake depressing? Was it the popularity that gave her such a strong distaste? Or, was it more about the increasingly high prices of the palm-sized treat? Maybe, she was commenting on the high-fat and sugar content in relation to America's major obesity issue? But, as I later came to realize on my own, none of this had anything to do with why she dubbed the cupcake depressing. But, I'll get back to all of that later. Let's back up for a minute first.
It's easy to compare the nature of dessert trends to any other kind of trend: For the most part, the bigger their impact is, the quicker their popularity grows, which exponentially impacts the speed at which their "cool" factor fades and, before long, they're off of our radar altogether. Like with other trends, it's clear that social media and the overall advancements in today's virtual technology deserves a chunk of credit for the sheer velocity by which a dessert trend first spreads. Like nail art fads or the latest hybrid dog breed, sugar crazes prove wildly successful as Instagram or Pinterest bait — but, while the bedazzled polish design only looks good-enough-to-eat, and the cute, fuzzy, Maltipooglehund is about a 15-year commitment, the cronut (or: row of colorful french macarons, frozen yogurt cup with toppings du jour, mini-cupcake, etc.) is edible, won't put a dent in your bank account, and doesn't require any long-term commitment (unless, of course, you become an addict).
And, here it is — my "a ha!" moment. Why is it that something so flimsy and arbitrary, something that lacks any cultural or historical significance, something that will likely be forgotten in less time than it takes for you to upgrade your cell phone, can captivate a society to a point where it boasts more S.E.O.-traction than say a presidential election? Well, that is depressing, isn't it?
But, will it stop me from waiting in line to test out whatever s'more-pop or churro-cone sweeps the nation next? Doubtful. And, the worst part is, I'll probably love it so much that I instagram it, DIY it at home, and consider quitting my job to start my own churro-cakery. Guilty as charged.