or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, May 28, 2009


You are reading Cake Wrecks on a regular basis, aren't you? Because it's great.

The most recent installment is about the cup cake cake, or CCC, the bane of that blogger's existence. A CCC is a batch of cupcakes assembled into some shape or other, frosted as a single unit (meaning there will be a whole lot of frosting between the cupcakes); the usual rationale is that it's easier to serve since it doesn't require cutting--it's pre-portioned. And it's usually hideous. See?

So naturally, being me, I decided to Google to find out what other people were doing with and saying about CCCs, and here is one of the pages I found, and here is a bit of text from it:

Often cupcakes are thought to be called that because they are small cakes. The real reason is that....

There is only one possible way to end that sentence, which is "...they used to be baked in small cups rather than large pans." But no. The writer has done a tiny bit of research and discovered that there was once something called a "cup cake" which used equal quantities of the four main ingredients, such as two cups each of butter, flour, eggs, and sugar, leading to the alternative names "1234 cake" or "quarter cake". This was novel at the time because most cooks used weight rather than volume to measure ingredients (when they bothered to measure). The observant will notice that the recipe for a quarter cake is also the approximate recipe for a pound cake, which used a pound each of those same four ingredients*, and this marks the difference between a cup cake and a pound cake: the first used volume for its measurements (as is almost invariably done in North America), and the latter used weight (as is almost invariably done in Europe).

That term, naturally enough, has fallen out of use, and the current usage of "cup cake" or "cupcake" refers to something that would once have been baked in ramekins or other small containers, and now is generally baked in a cupcake or muffin pan, which is to say a number of small cups joined together for ease of handling. So what we have is two completely different terms which just happen to take the same form, and once again someone has confused the two, presumably from not doing enough research, and once again I am forced to say that etymology is not for the amateur.

*The very observant, and the experienced cook, will have noticed that the cakes are not going to turn out exactly the same, because the proportions of ingredients are not exactly the same, because two cups of flour do not equal a pound, while two cups of butter do.


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