MUFFINS AND CUPCAKES: THE INVASION OF UNITED STATES BAKERY (WITH A PLEA FOR COSMOPOLITAN RESISTANCE)Posted by Sara MartĂn Alegre
Jaime: This one is for you…
Iâm sure you have noticed the relentless advance of US-inspired bakery in our cities and towns, aided by diverse TV shows (currently, for instance, Cupcake Wars on Divinity). This invasion of muffins, cupcakes and an endless variety of decorated cakes has been quite fast and, as it happens with fashions that take on very quickly, it seems to have left us with the impression that American bakery is already part of our local Spanish culture. Well, it is not, though I assume it is here to stay.
Reconstructing the history of this recent cultural import is by no means easy. (In case you have been on planet Mars in the last decade, you can take a basic tutorial from âMagdalenas, Muffins y Cupcakes: Diferenciasâ at http://denikatessen.blogspot.com.es/2013/05/magdalenas-muffins-diferencias.html). To satisfy my own curiosity I did a Google search limited by year, beginning in 1996, and although I do know that this is not 100% realiable, the results seem to make a certain sense. Letâs start with the muffins, then move onto the cupcakes.
Muffins seems to be a McDonaldâs import, at least this is what a question formulated back on 1/02/2001 in the website El PreguntĂłn (www.ruper.net/El%20Pregunton.htmâ) suggests: âÂżPor quĂ© en el McDonald las magdalenas se llaman Muffins y no McDalenas?â The first references to âmuffinsâ Iâve come across go back actually to 2000: an early recipe for honey muffins (10/03/2000, http://jgmoyay.apagada.com/recetas.htm#38), and an article on polidextrose (02/02/2000, www.espatentes.com/pdf/2207816_t3.pdfâ) in which the author considers s/he needs to explain that muffins are âbollos o bizcochos similares a la magdalena.â So… the next step would perhaps ask McDonalds Spain… Funnily, I was under the impression that Starbucks was responsible for the popularisation of muffins, but it landed in Spain in 2002 when McDonalds was already offering muffins âor so it seems.
Now âcupcakes. This is complicated… and for a very peculiar reason itâs easy to detect plenty of rivalry regarding claims as to who opened the first cupcake establishment in Spain. Iâll stake the totally unproven claim that cupcakes were introduced in Spain in 1994, when the first Taste of America shop opened (http://www.tasteofamerica.es/historia). At least Iâm reasonably sure that they must have sold already products to bake cupcakes at home. Now, Iâve found at least three likely contenders for the title of first Spanish bakery especialising in American cupcakes: 1) Acaramelada in Madrid (it seems to have opened in November 2000), offering âreposterĂa creativaâ (the finished product, courses, materials); 2) Patricia ArribĂĄlzagaâs shop (http://www.tartasdecoradasycupcakes.com/), which opened in 2001 and specialised in âdesigner cupcakesâ; 3) and Golden Cupcake (http://goldencupcake.com), from LeĂłn, which announce themselves as âla primera franquicia de reposterĂa creativaâ though I should contact them to find out when they started. By the way, the most popular blog in this area seems to be âEl rincĂłn de Beaâ (http://www.elrincondebea.com/), since 2008.
You may have heard something about cupcakes and the TV series Sex and the City. Yes, correct: Mikel LĂłpez Iturriaga explains that âCarrie y sus amigas no sĂłlo enseĂ±aron a las americanas que los cupcakes eran cool y te curaban de cualquier tipo de desencuentro con la vida, sino que les hizo vivir la fantasĂa de que no engordaban.â (âTodo lo que debes saber sobre los ‘cupcakes’â, 21/07/2010, http://blogs.elpais.com/el-comidista/2010/07/moda-cupcakes-magdalenas.html). In particular, Carrie and her posh friends were the clients of Magnolia Bakery (http://www.magnoliabakery.com/). Now, Sexo en Nueva York was first broadcast in Spain by the subscription channel Cosmopolitan in 2000. It seems, then, quite likely that cupcakes, introduced more or less by then, actually came to Spain on the personal initiative of travellers who discovered in situ American bakery. The series may have just confirmed the popularity of cupcakes among middle- and upper-class urban women.
Personally, I donât like very much neither muffins nor cupcakes âtoo rich, too cloying. Iâm not going to defend âmagdalenasâ here, which, ironically, are also a cultural import, this time from French baking culture. I simply like much better the very fine local patisserie in Barcelona (think Farga), which seems to me much more elegant in texture and flavour than the US-inspired bakery. As Iâm sure you are noticing, I feel actually quite annoyed by this American import because it seems to be yet another colonial surrender to a culture that has already overwhelmed us in excess.
In contrast, Iâll defend the cosmopolitan virtues of another cultural import to Barcelona: the patisseri Ochiai with its Japanese specialities (http://www.ochiaipastisseria.com/). This is run by Takashi Okiai since 1983 (heâs one of those âromanticâ migrants few studies of migration seem to notice). One of his star products is the âdorayaki,â âĐ° red bean pancake which consists of two small pancake-like patties made from castella wrapped around a filling of sweet Azuki red bean pasteâ (Wikipedia explains). All Catalan kids know about âdorayakiâ because itâs what the space cat Doraemon eats in the eponynous cartoon TV series.
Thereâs, as you can see, a great difference between the cosmopolitanism of cultural variety (= the dorayaki) and the invasion backed by US imperialist cultural colonisation (= the muffins and cupcakes).
This post, by the way, is 100% Cultural Studies… Iâll let in other hands the continuation of the work started here, youâre very welcome. Itâs been fun!!
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