A decade ago, Sex in the City helped to usher in the boutique cupcake craze; since then, however, the cupcake bubble has hit an unsustainable size, while television's cupcake shop reality TV show has gotten panned in the ratings.
Cupcakes aren't going extinct anytime soon, but in the chic corners of country, a new brand of cutesy high-end treat has begun to bubble up into the realm of the popular.
Enter the French macaroon (or macaron -- there's plenty of debate over which is correct). Smaller than a cupcake, the dainty macaroon combines two almond flour cookie halves -- crispy on the outside but a bit chewy near the middle -- with a decadently rich ganache-style filling.
The macaroon is lighter than a cupcake, more about flavor and than raw sugar firepower, and is exotically gorgeous to look at -- there's nothing else quite like it out there, and it's got that whole cosmopolitan Parisian thing going for it.
You can find French macaroons highlighted at shops coast to coast -- Sucre in New Orleans, Macaron Café in New York, Paulette in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, Sweets Bakeshop in Minneapolis, and Bonjour Cafe Bakery in Chicago, for starters.
Hand piped, temperamental and prone to overcooking or collapse, the French macaroon is probably best left to the pros. But if you're jonesing for one and willing to take a stab at it, the recipes are certainly out there for your consumption.
And it should be noted that while French macaroons may well be the cupcake of today, they've been on the rise for a while -- Serious Eats gave them a serious write-up in 2007.
As for the cupcake of tomorrow, some folks are putting money down on the whoopie pie. An originally Amish delicacy that is essentially two mounds of cake with whipped frosting smashed between them -- think of the French macaroon's loutish, overweight American cousin. That said, red velvet, oatmeal, and pumpkin varieties have a lot of charm, and there's got to be somewhere for people to go after all the French macaroon shops have started competing themselves to death...