Allison Robicelli rescues cupcakes from cutesy-wootsy bakeries & ignorant critics


For those of you who may not live in the New York City area, Matt and Allison Robicelli are iconic bakers, specializing in cupcakes, whoopie pies, and other items reputedly too addictive to resist – their Chicken n’Waffles flavor is legendary. Until recently, they were exclusively wholesale bakers, with fans signing onto their website to find out which flavors were offered at which retail outlets (they’re just now opening a store front). Their cupcakes (250 flavors are cycled) are made from natural ingredients, with well-balanced ingredients. In short, they’re designed as much for adults as for children – if not more so.

We asked Allison to write us a commentary about cupcakes, and received quite a vibrant, fiery reply. This is a woman who is passionate about her subject. And, we should add, also passionate about her husband and co-author of their book, Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes: With 50 Decidely Grown-Up Recipes.  We’re offering a give-away for the book, just go to this blog and post a comment to enter.

And here’s Allison….

We get why you hate cupcakes. We get how your toes curl at the “tweeness” of them, how you have a biological impulse to reject any edible that comes in colors not found in nature, how you have a natural suspicion of food that can be customized to feature a cutout of Justin Bieber’s head on top of it.

We accept this. We understand. We agree.

Do you know what’s not okay? Generalizing and dismissing the entire genre. Just because there are plenty of mindless, gimmicky, cutesy-wootsy bakeries out there whose saccharine sweetness is only outdone by the glitter-enhanced pure-sugar bombs they create does not mean that there are not literally thousands of excellent bakeries all across the world that are making something exceptional.

Please tell me of one child you know who has anxiously looked forward to blowing out the candles on his hunk of small-batch farmstead birthday cheese. A happy couple who eschewed a delicious tiered wedding cake for a celebratory artisan pickle bar. An adorable grandma who has invited her loved ones over to catch up over some locally sourced spelt crackers and kombucha.

Everyone likes cake! Any time something really awesome is going down, cake gets involved: birthdays, bar mitzvahs, going-away parties, good-intentioned kinky sex that doesn’t work out as well as Cosmo implied that it would, weddings – the list is endless. 

Problem is, you normally have to to buy a whole cake to get in on the action. But now, by the grace of God, we no longer need to wait for a special occasion, nor do we have to shamefully eat an entire cake by ourselves while watching TV movies and crying. We can buy a piece of cake meant to serve only one person! When you’re having a bad day, you can buy a cupcake to turn the day around and make yourself feel special. You can call an old friend, ask him or her to meet you over a cupcake and a few cups of coffee, and just talk. You can buy several for the office to win the love of your coworkers.

Yet despite this love, the media have been wondering what brand-new sweet is going to knock the glorious, beloved cupcake off its proverbial perch, when universally it will be rejected by every red-blooded American and reporters can finally leave cupcakes in the past! “Surely it’s only a trend,” they say. I mean it’s a trend that’s been going on for close to twenty years now, but that just means it’s all about to go south soon. Unlike normal foods, desserts secretly hate one another and are incessantly plotting how to destroy all their competitors! Especially the Napoleans!

You don’t see people getting this pissed off about sandwiches, do you? What do you think sandwiches are? They’re just an entire meal made portable and personal size. Or buying a slice of pizza instead of getting an entire pie? All the same logic. Yet I’ve never once seen a food writer say that burgers as we know them are over because he stopped at McDonald’s for lunch or wondering what the “next” sandwich would be. Cupcakes are not supposed to be stupid! They should be so much more than just aesthetics, so much more than a cutesy, polka-dot novelty.

They should be a small piece of the greatest cake you have ever had in your entire *&#@! life. That’s all.

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  • Katynstevensmom  on  November 24, 2013

    Lemoncello. Definitely lemon cello with a lemon curd filling.

  • ChessiePique  on  November 26, 2013

    The best are the rosewater-pistachio cupcakes someone I know makes: delicious and a little bit exotic.

  • rivergait  on  November 27, 2013

    I love to cook exotic (not boxed) stuff, but don't want to eat it all. My grandchildren shouldn't eat gobs of my "leftovers" either. Small batches of really fancy cupcakes should indulge my creative needs, as well as leaving enough to share with others.

  • boardingace  on  November 27, 2013

    I love Allison's response … it convinced me, it is a lovely way to have a single serving of cake! I do think that the sheer volume of cupcake shops is a trend, just as frozen yogurt, coffee shops, bagel shops, and pizza shops have all had their most popular decades but are also always going to be around because they are "good eats." Cupcakes have always been popular and for sure, I agree, they always will be. However, there will probably be another trend in the future.

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