The formerly beloved cupcake chain Crumbs closed its doors yesterday, likely to never open again. The company’s 48 stores in 10 states are suddenly gone, and countless Crumbs employees lost their jobs overnight. The cupcakery, which has been around since 2003, had a loss of $18 million in the past year. Does this mean the cupcake bubble has finally burst?
The cupcake, the ever-popular symbol of adult innocence, (contrived) femininity, and all things twee, may be reaching the beginning of the end. Of course, above all, cupcakes stand for yuppiedom — not everyone can afford an overpriced fad dessert, especially the quality kind frequenting hip, urban areas. Something about that made a seemingly wholesome treat sort of insidious. The cupcake, as flighty and cute as it seems, is a loaded symbol, and maybe buying them is even an attempt to feel more like that more affluent, more trendy person we wish we were (yeah, I might be overthinking it). Sure, we could have baked them at home like we did before cupcake shops popped up on every corner. But the status they represented — trendy, carefree, able to shell out four bucks for a palm-sized baked good on the regular — was just too tempting. And now it may move on to whatever next cool dessert is waiting in the wings. Cronuts?
What did Crumbs do that was so wrong compared to other bakeries? Was it how inconveniently gigantic their desserts were? Was it that their stores’ decor was slightly less twee than their competitors’? It couldn’t be because of the Girl Scout cookie-themed cupcakes, because those were really yummy.
(Despite all the silliness of the cupcake fad, I am shamelessly one of its biggest champions. Of course, even among broke college students the elitist nature of the fad crept up when one of my bougie classmates interrupted a seminar to let us know that New York City cupcake shops don’t make real red velvet the “right” way, and that if we wanted to try the authentic stuff we’d have to journey to the high-end bakeries in Europe like she had. Okay, in remembering this, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world for this craze to go away.)
Not surprisingly, the sudden death of Crumbs is rattling to even reluctant cupcake fans. Is there anything more dramatic than a major chain closing overnight, leaving their newly out-of-work employees carting boxes of leftover cupcakes through the streets? Even if other cupcake chains are doing fine, it’s pretty clear that the tasty treat will never have the cache it once did. The cupcake is officially a has-been.
[Image of a smashed cupcake via Shutterstock]