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Sophie Heawood: Poison lurks in the heart of a cupcake

Bun fetish deals a blow to feminism

Sunday 21 February 2010 01:00 GMT

I once took a train across London with a fat friend from Manchester. As we passed through Richmond, she was so horrifed by the sight of a group of skinny, blond, private school girls standing on the platform, that she wound down the train window and shouted "Eat a pie!" at them.

I was mortified at the time, but the current craze for cupcakes is starting to make me think she had a point. In the past two years I've walked past cupcake bakeries in London, in New York, in Los Angeles, all of them filled with grown women going demented over small coloured buns wrapped in a bit of paper and slathered in icing, resplendent in their miniature, cutesy perfection. There are queues outside these bakeries, and sometimes notes on the door informing customers that purchases are limited to four per customer – presumably in case any evil cupcake touts were planning on sneakily buying a hundred and reselling them. There is even a cupcake bakery in Beirut.

Cupcakes are fetishised the most by women who are "a bit funny about food". I'm a bit funny about women who are a bit funny about food. At Fashion Week parties around the world, cupcakes are brought in on silver trays, and these body-anxious ladies coo over the arrival of the gooey little blobules as if somebody was showing them a newborn baby. As if it was suddenly okay for a permanent dieter to eat pudding, because these ones are so intricate and swirly and pink that they might just be mistaken for a handbag.

You're grown women!, I want to shout at them. It's just a bit of cake! Children's cake! Have your synaptic pathways been impeded by all the food colourings?

These are the same women who spent so many years telling us they were wheat and dairy and sugar intolerant, yet who have now, bizarrely, scored the hat-trick by finding a way to shove all three in their gobs at once. In any case, didn't we used to call them fairy cakes in Britain? I'm not some linguistic purist, so if language evolves towards a new name then so be it – but the word "cupcake" summons an image of that perfect, all-American 1950s housewife, bending down in her pinny to open the oven to yet another steaming hot home-made batch.

I quite understand that all of us, men and women alike, would now like to have one of those wives to look after us. I'm just not sure that fetishising kids' party food is the way to do it. Because fairy cakes, the English version, makes you think of a soggy plate of buns that somebody's mum has made for their seventh birthday party and plonked on a table next to the orange squash before she goes off for a fag and to shout at the kids to stop making such a racket.

Fairy cakes are too honest, too mortal, too British. Fairy cakes taste of defeat, which is why I like them. Let them eat cake, yes, just not cupcakes. Because these cupcakes – mark my words, feminists – these trendy little cupcakes are the thin end of the wedge. It will start with cupcakes and it will end in vaginoplasty.

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