(image by Shamanyx)
Cupcakes are hot. Pop culture has elevated cupcakes from kindergarten birthday party to wedding cake status in a few short years. Cupcakes are fun, tasty and easily decorated, with a superb frosting-to-cake ratio. Everyone can enjoy cupcakes; in addition to the regular butter/sugar/flour varieties, there are vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free versions, plus some permutations of the three. NPR provides a more academic analysis of why cupcakes have shot to popularity.
Still, I'm over cupcakes. It's almost 2010. Cupcakes are sooo 2008/9.
The New York Times, enamored with all things Maine, pushed whoopie pies as the next big thing in dessert back in March. That prediction has yet to come to fruition. Why? Whoopie pies are ugly. Despite the naughty-sounding name, there is nothing sexy about even the prettiest whoopie pie. Whoopie pies have little potential for creative toppings or decoration. The best ones are wrapped in plastic wrap and sold in convenience stores; ask any Mainer who makes the best whoopie pie and the answer will be a) his grandmother or b) the gas station down the road.
I argue that macarons are the next big thing. Macarons (not to be confused with macaroons), are cookie-like French confections made by sandwiching cream, ganache or almond paste between two wafers made from egg whites, almond powder and confectioner's and granulated sugars. As you can see from the chart below, macarons have increased in search popularity over the past five years, a trend that continues to grow:
(image from Google Trends)
Like cupcakes, macarons are cute, colorful, portable, single serving-sized bits of goodness. They are also extremely versatile, with flavors ranging from lemon to mocha to pistachio raspberry- even bacon. Their colorful stackability makes them a natural subject for blog headers and Twitter backgrounds. Plus, "Sex and the City," credited in part for catapulting cupcakes to mass popularity, even featured macarons in one episode, an indicator of macarons' commercial potential.
I had never heard of macarons until a few months ago; now I see them all over the internet. They certainly have more elitist origins than cupcakes, being both French and difficult to bake (first-time macaron makers often complain that their macarons lack "feet", the ruffles around the bottom of each cookie), which I see as the only potential drawback. Otherwise, macarons are just one SNL reference away from international cult status.
Just a theory. What do you think?
Other people's thoughts on the matter: