The origin of the “cup cake” (or “cupcake") is unknown, but the food name appears in American cookbooks, beginning in 1828. It is possible that the cupcake originated in the northeast, possibly in New York. In 2007, an effort was made to name the cupcake the official New York state snack.
A cupcake or fairy cake is a small cake designed to serve one person, usually made in a small paper cup container. As with larger cakes, frosting and other cake decorations, such as sprinkles, are defining characteristics of modern cupcakes. Some scholars have defined the cupcake as: a muffin, with frosting on top.
Cupcakes are often served during a celebration, such as children’s classroom birthday parties. Additionally they can be served as an accompaniment to afternoon tea. They are a more convenient alternative to cake because they don’t require utensils or dividing into pieces because they are smaller.
A simple cupcake uses the same ingredients as most other standard cakes - incorporating butter, sugar, eggs, and flour.
The name “cup” cakes or “measure” cakes is believed to have developed because of the use of the practice of measuring the ingredients using a standard-sized cup instead of the previous practice of weighing the ingredients.
It is also possible that cupcakes came into being simply as smaller versions of the Victoria sponge cake, as the mixture required is exactly the same. The mixture is also the same as the quarter cake recipe, so called because it is made up of four ingredients in equal ratios; butter, self-raising flour, eggs and Castor sugar.
New York Politician Proposes Bill to Help Rescue the Cupcake From School Bans
Friday, September 28, 2007
By Catherine Donaldson-Evans
Save the cupcake!
That’s what one New York state assemblyman intends to do with proposed legislation aimed at reversing several school districts’ bans on the sweet treat at classroom parties, fundraising bake sales and other events.
Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, a Democrat from the Bronx, N.Y., is introducing a bill Friday that would make the cupcake the official New York state snack — and thus protect it from the bans that are becoming increasingly widespread as a way to combat childhood obesity and diabetes.
“Making the cupcake the official state children’s snack is my way of saying, ‘Let’s put some brakes on what’s happening to the cupcake,’” Benjamin said in a phone interview. “The way the American eagle is the official national bird and it’s illegal to harm one — my thought is, you make the cupcake something similar, and leave the cupcake alone.“‘
A number of schools in Long Island, N.Y., elsewhere in New York and across the country in states including Texas, New Jersey and California have put the kibosh on the mini-cakes for classroom birthday and other parties, claiming they’re key offenders in the growing child obesity and diabetes problems. The new rules are also a way to comply with state nutrition guidelines, like the one passed in New York last spring.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
cup-cake orig. U.S., a cake baked from ingredients measured by the cupful, or baked in a small (freq. paper) cup;
1828 E. LESLIE Receipts 61 *Cup Cake. 1886 Harper’s Mag. Dec. 134/2 Cousin Carry with her eternal cup-cake.
1887 M. E. WILKINS Humble Romance 271 Mis’ Steele made some cup-cake to-day… She put a cup of butter and two whole cups of sugar in it.
1907 Mrs. Beeton’s All about Cookery (new ed.) 216/2 Cup Cakes, Plain (American Recipe)..3 level cupfuls of flour, 1 cupful of sugar, a cupful of butter, 1 cupful of milk… Bake in shallow tins or small cups.
by Amelia Simmons
Hartford, CT: Printed for Simeon Butler, Northampton
A light cake to bake in small cups.
Half a pound sugar, half a pound butter, rubbed (Pg. 38—ed.) into two pounds flour, one glass wine, one do. rose water, two do. emptins, a nutmeg, cinnamon and currants.
Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats
by Eliza Leslie
Boston, MA: Munroe and Francis
1832 (first edition 1828)
Two large tea-cups full of molasses.
The same of brown sugar rolled fine.
The same of fresh butter.
One cup of rich milk.
Five cups of flour sifted.
Half a cup of powdered allspice and cloves.
Half a cup of ginger.
Cut up the butter in the milk, and warm them slightly. Warm also the molasses, and stir it into the milk and butter: then stir in, gradually, the sugar, and set it away to get cool.
Beat the eggs very light, and stir them into the mixture alternately with the flour. Add the ginger and other spice, and stir the whole very hard.
Butter small tins, nearly fill them with the mixture, and bake the cakes in a moderate overn.
28 January 1828, Connecticut Courant (Hartford, CT), pg. 2:
From the N. York National Advocate.
The luxury of an old fashioned tea party, consisted of a cup of souchong, plate of toast, grated pot cheese, quince sweetmeats, family ginger-bread, (cup cake was a great treat,) now and then is sweat short cake hot from the griddle, all served upon a neatly polished cherry table around which the company sat, and partook with such freedom as at that period, was the surest guarantee of disinterested friendship.
The Frugal Housewife
by Lydia Maria Francis Child
Boston, MA: Carter and Hendee
Cup cake is about as good as pound cake, and is cheaper. One cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs, well beat together, and baked in pans or cups. Bale twenty minutes and no more.
The Cook Not Mad
Watertown, NY: Knowlton & Rice
Four cups of flour, three of sugar, two of butter, one of milk, small tea spoonful of pearlash, spoonful of ginger, essence of lemon.
MacKenzie’s Five Thousand Receipts in all the Useful and Domestic Arts
by an American Physician
Philadelphia: James Kay
3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of butter, 2 tea spoons of pearlash, 3 eggs, 5 cups of flour; all together with as much spice as you please.
The Young House-Keeper,
Or, Thoughts on Food and Cookery
by Wm. A. Alcott
Fourth Stereotype Edition
Boston, MA: George W. Light
CUP CAKE.—Two cups of cream or milk, two of sugar, two of unbolted wheat meal, one of rice flour, and a tea spoonful of salt. Beat it thoroughly, put it into cups, and bake it half an hour.
Directions for Cookery
by Eliza Leslie
Philadelphia, PA: E. L. Carey & Hart
WHITE CUP CAKE.—Measure one large coffee cup of cream or rich milk, (which, for this cake, is best when sour,) one cup of fresh butter; two cups of powdered white sugar; and four cups of sifted flour. Stir the butter and sugar together till quite light; then by degrees add the cream, alternately with half the flour. Beat five eggs as light as possible, and stir them into the mixture, alternately with the remainder of the flour. Add a grated nutmeg and a large tea-spoonful of powdered cinnamon, with eight drops of oil of lemon. Lastly, stir in a very small tea-spoonful of sal-aratus or pearl-ash, melted in a little vinegar or luke-warm water. Having stirred the whole very hard, put it into little tins; set them in a moderate oven, and bake them about twenty minutes.
10 April 1840, Baltimore (MD) Sun, pg. 2:
...gave Mrs. Goines a cup-cake and a custard,...
The American Frugal Housewife
by Lydia Maria Francis Child
New York, NY: Samuel S. & William Wood
Cup cake is about as good as pound cake, and is cheaper. One cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs, well beat together, and baked in pans or cups. Bake twenty minutes, and no more.
The American Housewife:
Containing the Most Valuable and Original Receipts in all the Various Branches of Cookery
By An Experienced Lady
New York, NY: Dayton and Saxton
Mix three tea-cups of sugar with one and a half of butter. When white, beat three eggs, and stir them into the butter and sugar, together with three tea-cups of sifted flour, and rosewater or essence of lemon to the taste. Dissolve a teaspoonful of saleratus in a tea-cup of milk, strain it into the cake, then add three more tea-cups of sifted flour. Bake the cake immediately, either in cups of pans.
The Housekeepers’ Assistant
by Ann Allen
Boston, MA: J. Munroe
1 cup of butter,
2 cups of sugar,
3 cups of flour,
1 cup of cream,
1 teaspoonful of saleratus.
Season with nutmeg, essence of lemon, or cinnamon, to your own taste, and mix the ingredients together as above. Rosewater is always an improvement to cake; but when more liquid is added, it will be necessary to add more flour.