Mark Sample’s wonderful dissection of the cupcake:
On the surface, gourmet cupcakes are artisanal desserts. For all their seriality, cupcakes still contain minute variations in flavor and toppings. Yet underneath, the base model remains the same. Cupcakes embody the postmodern ideal of the manufactured good that has been injected with artificial difference, in order to conjure a sense of individuality. Cupcakes are indie desserts. And like hipsters, cupcakes are pretty much all the same. Cupcake sprinkles and hipster scarves serve the same purpose, turning the plainly ordinary into the veiled ordinary.
But there’s so much more to it than that! Cupcakes aren’t merely faux-individual and deeply faux-creative: they’re also twee. They’re appropriate for a time in our culture where we’ve seemingly never been more determined to dress our little girls up in pink and tell them they should want to be princesses. They rose to their current popularity in the time of Wes Anderson films and soppy folk-indie music and Hollywood adaptations of Maurice Sendak films. They’re infantile.