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Crumbs Bake Shops may be closing but don't write off the cupcake craze

Crumbs may be gone, but reports of the bursting of the cupcake bubble are greatly exaggerated
Sorry, Crumbs, cupcakes aren't over, they've just streamlined into mini treats

If the shuttering of Crumbs Bake Shops and the suspension of trading in its stock on Nasdaq (and, frankly, who invested in cupcakes?) is being written about everywhere as the sign of the bursting of the cupcake bubble, why are other cupcake shops still peddling their wares like crazy?

Sprinkles Cupcakes, which started with one shop in lowly Beverly Hills, now has locations from this coast to the other, delivery, curbside pickup, the cupcake equivalent of taco trucks and something it calls Cupcake ATMs (which are what they sound like — a cupcake dispensary.)

I think talk of the demise of the cupcake industry is premature. But I predict it will change. It’s like the arrival and rapid rise of music CDs, when everyone suddenly got CD players and had to run out and buy not just new music but old music — that growth had to slow as people eventually replicated all their favorite old albums and started buying at a much slower pace. (And, I know, now no one, except me, buys CDs, they just go to iTunes, but hang with me for this analogy.) Similarly, everyone who loves cake had to rush out and fill their faces with every conceivable iteration of chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and assorted boutique flavors. But then after years of converging on storefronts, waiting in line, squandering hundreds of dollars and calories on cupcakes, we all got that bloated feeling (literally) and pulled ourselves back from the cupcake.

As with laptops and cellphones, the sleeker cupcake has since come into vogue with several bakeries — including SusieCakes and, to a limited extent, Sprinkles — offering scaled-down mini cupcakes. One downtown purveyor of smaller cupcakes comes from, ironically, Big Man Bakes. (Turns out that the big man bakes delicious tiny cupcakes. This, I know.) But if smaller is the new model, Crumbs appeared woefully out of step since its specialty seemed to be bulbous confections tarted-up with toppings of peanut butter/chocolate/marshmallow/etc.

No one who loves cake is going to give it up completely. Although I admit that these days I treat cake like crack cocaine and try to avoid it as much as possible, because once I start eating, the next thing I know I’m a cake-mainlining, heart-palpitating, sugar-hungover mess, sprawled in the gutter of Little Santa Monica Boulevard outside the Sprinkles store while other patrons step over my body. (Actually, I do my binge cupcaking in private.) Then I sober up and I hate myself, and, well, you know the sorry drill. Even writing this blog post is dangerously stirring a craving for a cupcake or two or three. Obviously I’m not alone, because Crumbs is closing.

Or maybe it’s reopening. Now comes word that Crumbs may restructure with the help of interested potential investors. I would suggest it also restructures its cupcakes. Lose the Girl Scout cookie and M&M toppings and go more minimalist. And maybe impose a two cupcake maximum to protect us cake-obsessed folks from ourselves.

Follow me for cupcakes @latCarlaHall

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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