|Meatloaf Bakery "cupcakes."|
However, by definition, a trend must at some point be replaced by a new trend, and many predictions of the cupcake's successor have been made. I will most likely write about each as a series, so for now I will focus on the first I read about: pie. I'll admit, that one was a slight shocker to me. Although I am from southern Indiana, I did not grow up in a pie-loving household - in fact, it was quite the contrary, as my mother does not like pie and also did not make dessert. Therefore, the number of really good pies I can recall eating in my lifetime is very low, and skewed more towards the cream/pudding varieties than the baked types.
This prediction intrigued me, however. There definitely is not a shortage of literature on the subject: the NY Times, LA Times, Seattle Weekly, NPR, and numerous food blogs have written on the topic. According to the LA Times, Americans ordered 12 million more slices of pie in restaurants last year than in 2009, while sales of cake servings have gone down at bakeries and eateries, and cupcake consumption was down 18%. Some of the reasons for this prediction include the following:
- Recent innovation in pie-making: mini pies, pie milkshakes, pie in canning jars, pies at weddings, and pies with interesting, elevated flavor combinations (such as The Green Chile Kitchen's "The Pie": apples layered with roasted green chiles over a cheddar cheese crust and sprinkled with a walnut-brown sugar streusel topping).
- Pie-centric shops and restaurants are popping up all over the country. Some places even have pie happy hours.
- Pies cover sweet and savory more majestically than cupcakes; additionally, they also have the versatility of being full scale or individual portions.
As I have not yet noticed a pie surge in Chicago, I have not had the chance to weigh in on this hot new prediction. I had also made two pies recently (Derby Pie and Peanut Butter Pie) and had thoroughly enjoyed both, so I thought maybe this prediction could be pulling some weight. Therefore, I was thrilled when I stumbled upon some mini pies at a festival while visiting Columbus a couple weeks ago. The little guys came in pecan, cherry, and apple; I was swayed by the lattice-topped cherry for myself, and also got a pecan for my southern gentlemanly friend Conor. We then went back to my friend Paige's apartment for the tasting.
The first question that came to my mind was, how does one eat a mini pie? Part of the cupcake's appeal is its utensil-free mobility, but I wasn't getting the same vibe from the pie. Conor, however, immediately proved that theory wrong: as soon as I handed him the pie, he made an epic exclamation (as anyone who is familiar Conor knows he is prone to doing; probably went something like, "AH! WHOA! (laugh) Pecan pie! Thanks, Nicole! This is AWESOME!"), then pulled the pecan pie out of the tin and started to take bites directly. As this was not the eating method I was expecting, I was quite surprised when it actually worked. Maybe pies are more versatile than I thought...
Unfortunately, the cherry's fragile lattice top did not lend itself to rough handling, and pulling the pie out of the tin à la Conor was not possible without breaking the crust. So, my gorgeous pie model Paige tried some different methods:
- Eat out of the tin: extremely difficult unless you eat the top off first.
- Eat mini slices of the mini pie: somewhat silly feeling, like I needed a mini plate and a mini fork to complete this mini setting. It worked, but the necessary mobility was lost.
- Picking off pieces: the pie is now mobile, but it's also a sticky mess.
- "And the savory(ish) apple, cheddar, and rosemary hand pie that I walked out the door with was borderline offensive....a clotted-up gob of shredded cheddar, barely melted and settled in a ball in the middle of the thing like a prize buried at the bottom of a s**t sundae."
- "I ordered a s'mores hand pie, thinking that there was no way a professional baker could f**k up something that children make with nothing more than a pointed stick and an open flame. But when I bit into it, it was Candid Camera bad - so terrible that I found myself waiting for Allen Funt to jump out from behind the bakery and say, "Hey, we got you! Smile, dumbass."
- As shown, pies are not easy to eat, especially on-the-go.
- Pies are not easy to make. I think I would tear my hair out if I had to make thousands of mini lattices each day. Even pressing crust into a pan can be tiring, let alone if you are making a bakery's daily batch. And while I'm all for making things from scratch, many people do not have time for that, so the shortcuts typically bought in mix form at the grocery would be a challenge: would one have to buy 24 pre-assembled mini crusts and a jar of filling?
- Do kids even like pie? I think it's safe to say that not as many as that like cupcakes. So the pie probably won't fill the cupcake's original starring role as birthday treat. Although, to be fair, what can you serve at a birthday party these days? Every kid nowadays has a food allergy or is on a no-sugar diet. Funny how that was extremely rare twenty years ago...
In summary, my opinion is that pie will NOT be the next cupcake. So, what will be? Only time will tell. However, speculation is fun, so I will share more theories with you in the future. Leave comments on your thoughts about pie, or on any other cupcake replacement theories you've heard so that I can investigate.