Let them Eat Cupcake!

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This Thursday, Covent Garden "“ typically home to flocks of tourists, living statues, and souvenir tchotchke shops "“ had a new visitor, one who didn't stick around all that long after being hacked to sweet pieces by two knife-wielding public relations girls. The World's Largest Cupcake, as the impressive confection was billed, measured around 4 feet by 6 and a half feet and weighed in at more than 330 pounds, was covered in chewy white and pink fondant, studded with Smarties, topped with a giant, bright red cherry-like object and looked every bit as unreal as you would imagine. One woman, sidling up next to the massive queue that had formed to get a taste of the massive confection, asked someone in line if indeed the cake were real. Assured that it was, she said, laughing, "I thought, why are all those people taking pictures of a plastic cake?"

The cake was real "“ made of approximately 200 eggs, 110 lbs of sugar, 35 blocks of butter, all baked in small batches, then stuck together with frosting, masonry-style, and carved into a cupcake shape. There was no actual cupcake paper, but the traditional accordion-style folds found around the base of cupcakes were cleverly mimicked in more fondant. The whole thing took Michelle Wibowo, the culinary Olympian behind the cake, and her team around 50 hours to finish. And it tasted pretty darn good "“ surprisingly light, the buttercream "mortar" not too sweet, though the outside icing wasn't terribly pleasant "“ especially for a massive cupcake that had been sitting in the sun encased in gummy fondant for a few hours.

But was it truly the World's Largest Cupcake?

It's quite possible that the more than 1200 people who turned out for a bit of the cupcake did witness baking history, but the truth is there are more than a few pretenders to the throne "“ and the Covent Garden cake may be among them. 

JMP_Cupcake_Queue_5

This summer alone has seen at least two other attempts at the record:

  • In early July, a Crystal Lake, Ill. Bakery baked a 68-pound cupcake, swaddled in a massive baking paper cup under 25 pounds of frosting. 
  • And just about a month before that, the Merengue Bakery of Monrovia, Calif. baked an 8000-pound, 7-foot tall, entirely edible bright pink cupcake-shaped creation for an MTV reality show. It was clearly the largest contender so far, easily twice as large as the Covent Garden Cake, but it also eschewed the paper cup and went with fondant. 

And there have been more:

According to JCPR, the public relations company that handled the Covent Garden cupcake event, there is no entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for world's largest cupcake; the Guinness Book of World Records site does not indicate that there is a record for such a cupcake, however, the website maintains only a small fraction of the records held worldwide. JCPR also noted that though they'd "done [their] research," looking into whether this could indeed be called the world's largest cupcake, they would not be seeking official adjudication by the Guinness Book of World Records.

A Question of Cupcakes

But I guess all these contenders for the world's largest cupcake title actually beg the question: What is a cupcake? What are the defining characteristics of a cupcake? Is the paper baking case? Is it the distinctive shape? Must it be baked all at once, in a single unit, or can it be stuck together, like the Covent Garden cake or Duff's cake, which was disqualified for just that issue?

Also in the case of the Covent Garden World's Largest Cupcake, what is to differentiate it from simply large cakes? The cupcake's "world's largest" size is derived from its relative size to an actual cupcake, not its absolute size, and there much larger cakes are on the books, including a 105-foot tall cake baked in Pakistan in 1997.

These are serious questions and I'm looking for serious answers: So, dear readers, what say you? Do any of these large cupcakes count? What makes a cupcake and why is it different than a cake, once it begins to reach these proportions?

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July 17, 2009 - 7:56am
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