Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Urban Cupcake Experience

In this corner, Pittsburgh does poorly (again) in a recent report on how cities fare in the battle to attract and keep the 25-to-34-year-old professional population. (Harold Miller breaks down some statistics here.)

And in this corner, Pittsburgh finally has an "urban cupcake" store to call its own -- Dozen Cupcakes, which opens a retail storefront soon, in Squirrel Hill. Gourmet cupcakes are the foodie fad of the moment -- check out Seattle's Cupcake Royale, Chicago's Cupcakes, and San Francisco's Citizen Cupcake.

What's the connection? My guess is that food fads follow the 25-to-34 professional demographic. If Dozen Cupcakes can carve out a niche in retail, that will be good news for Pittsburgh on two fronts. More cupcakes for all of us -- and a small sign that there's enough money coursing through at least one slice of the Pittsburgh economy to give the city some hip cred.

UPDATE: Thanks, Anon (in the Comments) for helping to round out the master cupcake list:
Babycakes (New York)
Magnolia (New York)
Sweet Mandy B's (Chicago)

Cake Love (Washington, DC)
Citizen Cupcake (San Francisco)
Cupcake Cafe (New York)

Sprinkles Cupcakes (Los Angeles)


Anonymous said...

Love the very plausible sentiment, but must include Sweet Mandy B's (Chicago) and BabyCakes and Magnolia (NYC) were the list to be rounded out.

Furthermore, I have my own concurrent idea regarding maternity stores and specialized kids stores.

Anonymous said...

There is another Cupcake cafe, Coco, opening on Ellsworth Avenue across from Dancing Goats coffee shop.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The bakery in McKeys Rocks just turned to toast. Bad fire. Outlets closed for now. Could you get cupcakes there?

A bakery in the South Side just closed. Guy retired.

We've got a South Side bakery that does soft pretzels. Even make em with different sizes. What more could you want? And that was way before the fad of that other company -- often seen in airport food courts.

Didn't Pittsburgh do bagels before bagels became the fad too?

But to your thoughts: "HIP CRED" -- it seems to me -- shouldn't really be about being a follower. To look like they look in other places (areas) isn't real "HIP." HIP isn't copy cat retail.

Pehaps cupcake shops are 'hot' or 'trendy' or 'fresh.'

But, when it is 'cookie cutter' fresh, then what's the diff? That doesn't cut it -- if you get my taste.

C. Briem said...

seeking the cupcake class? Just kidding, someone had to say it.

Not the point I know.. but the best cupcake I ever had, arguably the best cake period, was at this bakery just off the subway stop near brooklyn college in Flatbush NYC. A little far for a snack. Paddy Cake in Bloomfield is a shorter trip.

EdHeath said...

Pittsburgh had those great articles recently about how cheap yet trendy it is to live here (I'm thinking about the article about the slopes). The thing about trendy-ness is the dynamic. If trendy places open spontaneously in your city (as well as in New York, LA, SF, Chicago, DC ... you get the idea) then trendy professionals wouldn't object to relocating to your city. So, yes, trendyness is elusive, a followers game and probably a bit expensive (changing your coffee shop to a cupcake shop). But you miss the point about where the "best" cupcakes (or coffee or ice cream) are/is. The locals will always know better places than the trendy chains. But outsiders looking to re-locate in, in their jobs for Seagate or Google, are reassured by the familiarity of tackiness. Our best hope is that Taza D'oro will open a franchise in DC, or Chicago, or LA, SF, NY ... you get the idea. Then we Iotians can get a Piece of the Action from the Feds ... (watching way too much TV and using Google too much)

Anonymous said...

Have you seen CoCo's Cupcake Cafe? It's on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. I think this is Pittsburgh's first cupcake bakery! Word has it they will also be a desset bar in the spring...check it out!...I love cupcakes!

Anonymous said...

I truly don’t understand what the big deal is about cupcakes. Moms have always served them to the kiddies at birthday parties…why all the fuss now? Is it because they now sell for $3 a pop?

To me, this smacks of yet another self-indulgent useless hipster fad. It’s only a matter of time before this goes the way of tapas, salsa dancing, bagels, pole dancing classes, fondue restaurants, hookah bars, paint your own pottery….shall I go on?

Besides, haven’t cupcakes been in vogue in other US cities for quite a while already? This is the same as any other trend that has originated in an East Coast/West Coast city. By the time a fad like this trickles down to Pittsburgh, it has, of course, ceased being “in” elsewhere. Such is the paradox. Of course, this fact is usually lost on Pittsburghers….they will line up in front of the shop and think themselves endlessly edgy for indulging another new notion.

I hate to be so negative about this but this will do very little to change the fabric of Pittsburgh, its economy, or its so called “hipster cred”. As one of the 25-34 year old educated professionals who has long fled Pittsburgh for greener pastures, I can say without hesitation that it’s going to take a lot more than a cupcake bakery and overpriced Downtown lofts to lure myself or any other member of the creative class back to the Golden Triangle.

Anonymous said...

And sadly, just like so my over-hyped Pittsburgh food, these cupcaeks are pretty bad tasting. I just got some for my daughter's birthday. The cake is kind of dry, there is WAY TOO much icing on them, the flavors are either too weird or completely unispired.

zoe p. said...

I was a little suspicious about hip cupcakes, and I'd had Magnolia's wretched product already. But Dozen's cake is fresh, the ingredients are good and it's by far the best cake I've had in Sq Hill.

JColeThomas said...

Hands down the best cupcakes in the city are made by Annalee dePaoli of Square Cafe. They are the best kept and best tasting secret in the city. Shareholders wanted.

Anonymous said...

I had an awful experience at Dozen. It all stemmed from their dry, flavorless cupcakes. I emailed the store with some constructive criticism...such as adding a case of some sort that would enable them to serve fresh cupcakes. However, the cupcake proved to be the best part of my experience with Dozen (even though it was awful) as the response to my email was by no means professional and clearly showed that their customer services is obviously as lackluster as their products. They replied to my email by calling me "prejorative" and made it apparent that he (the owner) was by no means tying to apologize for the horrible cupcake. He said that they do not use display cases as they seem to be "tacky and tipical." Apparently a fresh product is tacky and tipical as well. I expected more from a place that charges nearly $3 for an average sized cupcake. The owner says in his email, "As our website expresses, we do home-style from scratch baking. It is not high-end." I think anyone would agree that their pricepoint would command a product of higher quality. Also, I mentioned in my email that I am a "food snob." Perhaps this was a poor choice of words as I can enjoy a meal from Wendy's just as much as the next guy...but i do appreciate food. This, however really angered the owner of Dozen. He said in his email, "And coining yourself a food snob only attempts to make you seem more knowledgeable than I am. I don't know anyone who would take such claims serious. It also suggests that my customers don't have a palate as refined as yours." In my initial email, I even apologized for complaining, but the owner still said that my "email approach seemed rude and aggressive." Wow! I was just telling him that I was not satisfied and offered a few suggestions. Needless to say, I won't return. A simple, "I'm sorry you had a bad experience at our store" would have make a world of difference and certaintly would have enabled me to re-try their products.