Ode to the Cupcake
In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the name “cup cake” or “cupcake“.
The other kind of “cup cake” referred to a cake whose ingredients were measured by volume, using a standard-sized cup, instead of being weighed. Recipes whose ingredients were measured using a standard-sized cup could also be baked in cups; however, they were more commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves. In later years, when the use of volume measurements was firmly established in home kitchens, these recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes, so called because they are made up of four ingredients in equal ratios; butter, sugar, eggs and flour.
They are plain yellow cakes, somewhat less rich and less expensive than pound cake due to the reduced proportion of butter. The names of these two major classes of cakes were intended to signal the method to the baker; “cup cake” uses a volume measurement, and “pound cake” uses a weight measurement.
In modern times, cupcakes are often served during a celebration, such as children’s birthday parties. Additionally, they can be served as an accompaniment to afternoon tea. They are a more convenient alternative to a full-sized cake as they don’t require utensils or division into individual portions.