Monday, 1 August 2011
In which the female psyche isn't a piece of cake
But while Bridesmaids did its best to deftly sidestep every girl-film cliche, it still landed face first in one. If my Twitter feed is anything to go by, I was just one of many people going "great film - but WHY the bloody cupcakes?" Central character Annie is on a downward spiral after her bakery has gone out of business. She seeks solace in decorating a solo cupcake, then refuses to bake anymore because she is sad, then finally does bake a cake when charming love interest Officer Rhodes encourages her to.
Over the last decade, a funny thing has happened to cake. It has gone from an innocent teatime treat, a lovely cosy thing produced in Grandmother's kitchens and Mr Kipling's garage, that you're allowed to eat as a morning or afternoon snack and publicly sink your face into on your birthday, to something wholly more loaded.
Cake, and specifically cupcakes, became first fashion accessories ("they're so cute! The edible glitter matches my earrings!" etc), then status food ("Oh, Hummingbird? Mine is Magnolia Bakery - I had it shipped specially"), then, suddenly, a heavily-frosted projection of all female emotion. I could blame Sex and the City, but that would be lazy. Whatever the reason, cake is now intertwined inexplicably with our gender. I have a uterus, therefore I am a cupcake obsessive.
I'm not sure precisely when starting a cupcake shop became the Plan B career for women, but it seems it has. Every market and food festival I go to (which as a food journalist and more generally a glutton, is a lot) is full of pretty, bunting-bedecked cupcake stalls. Each one believes it is breaking brand new culinary ground ("Ours are vegan!" "Ours have photos of babies on them!") and each one has an air of business doom about them, mingling in with the smell of buttercream.
And the really shit thing in all of this is that I love cake. I adore it. It is probably my favourite food. Visits to Parklife Bakery are one of the highlights of my Worthing visits. I consider my friend Hannah's photographic cake diary one of the most stirring artistic collections of recent years.
But now, 'I love cupcakes' doesn't sound like 'I love potatoes' or 'I love bacon' or 'I love Reece's peanut butter cups mashed onto digestive biscuits.' It sounds like 'I love cupcakes, and also Disney films, and Cosmo quizzes and pedicures and the gender pay gap.'
So while Bridesmaids got a lot of things right, it got at least one thing wrong. Women are not genetically programmed to want to run a little bakery and make sugarcraft flowers all day. We enjoy cake because we are human, and cake is delicious - and we're more than happy to cut the blokes a slice.
A small one.