BATTERSWEET MEMORIES

The standard bearer of America’s cupcake boom just ran out of dough

July 8, 2014
July 8, 2014

When culinary historians chronicle the Great American Cupcake Bubble of the early 21st century, it will open with the improbable “Sex and the City”-fueled success of Magnolia Bakery in 2000, chronicle the apogee of cupcake mania that was rival Crumbs Bake Shop’s high-flying IPO in 2011, and end with the abrupt closure of the 48 remaining Crumbs outlets on the evening of July 7, 2014.

“Regrettably Crumbs has been forced to cease operations and is immediately attending to the dislocation of its devoted employees while it evaluates its limited remaining options,” the company told the Wall Street Journal (paywall). Crumbs was known for its jumbo cupcakes in flavors like apple cobbler and caramel macchiato, which came in sizes of up to 6.5 inches (16.5 cm).

In hindsight, Crumbs’ IPO marked the exact moment that Americans became well and truly tired of cupcakes. The company’s stock debuted at $13.10 per share but then suffered a series of setbacks before being delisted by Nasdaq last week for failing to comply with minimum market cap requirement. Shares were last trading at about 30 cents, or less than a tenth of the price of a Crumbs cupcake.

There are still plenty of cupcake bakeries out there, including privately-held Gigi’s Cupcakes, which has dozens of outlets across 20 states, and the Carrie Bradshaw-endorsed Magnolia, which has seven outlets in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. And even if the cupcake’s boom days are over for a while, the treat that traces its lineage back to 1796 isn’t going away altogether. As New York Magazine noted in 2005, long before Crumbs gave the stock market a sugar rush, the cupcake has a bulletproof formula—”It’s sweet. It’s portable. It requires no cutlery. It’s large enough to be satisfying but small enough to be guilt-free.”—that may one day rise again.

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