A nostalgic look at the history of the cupcake and how one Miami cakery is taking the tradition to a whole new level
By Melissa Bryant
While the cupcake’s origin isn’t set in stone, food writer Alan Davidson chronicled cupcake history back to the 18th century. He offers two theories for this sweet invention, which begs the question of which came first, a cake made in a cup or a cake made using cups to measure ingredients?
What’s In a Name?
American cooking transitioned from weighing out ingredients to measuring out ingredients during the 1700s when muffin tins were becoming popular. One hypothesis supposes people naturally started creating little cakes by pouring cake batter into earthenware tea cups, small clay baking pans and muffin tins. The opposing theory reasons that the ingredients used to make cupcakes were measured by cup: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, four eggs and so on. Many people could not read at that time, so these “number” cakes were easily remembered because of their measurements.
Davidson traced the first documented mention of cupcakes back to a 1796 recipe written in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. It calls for “a cake to be baked in small cups.” Later 19th century recipes would come to use the words “cup cake.”
More than 200 years later, cupcakes are a chic trend — and big business. Today, consumers around the globe are buying $20 billion of them. “Cupcakes remind people of their childhood,” said Carolina Montoya, owner and chief baker at Unique Designer’s Cake in Miami — who with her husband, left the architecture industry to bake cakes. “People love cupcakes because they’re portable, and with the high frosting-to-cake ratio, they’re so much fun to eat!”
Ingredients now include everything from bacon to red wine. Unique Designer’s Cake is putting a twist on the classic treat with ‘cup-tails’ — cupcake cocktails. Montoya’s inspiration for cup-tails came from a Colombian wedding custom. “I got the idea to combine cupcakes and liquor because, in my country, we have a very popular cake for weddings called ‘torta negra,’ which is infused with lots of wine!” Montoya said. “So I started mixing different liquors into my batters to create truly unique flavor profiles.”
Montoya’s cup-tail creations include red wine velvet, pina colada, Cuba libre, chocolate patron coffee tequila and Lemoncello.
Unique Designer’s Cake cup-tail recipes are a professional secret, but are available for purchase in-store at 69 NW 9th St. Miami, FL 33136. (786) 351-4276.
Editor’s note: Unique Designer’s Cake also makes amazing custom large cakes — including a stunning masterpiece to
commemorate the Spring 2014 issue of South Florida Opulence at the 4th Annual Opulence Yacht Gala on Fisher Island in April.