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Cupcakes are the new brownies

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About 12 years ago, Carrie and Miranda visited a little bakery - the now-famous Magnolia - in New York' West Village and the little rose-coloured cupcake that Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie so inelegantly stuffed into her maw became a national craze in the United States. Sex and the City, which made words like stilettos and Cosmopolitans a part of every women's vocabulary from New York to New Delhi, is also responsible for introducing cupcakes into the female lexicon. Bespoke cupcakeries that first sprouted all over Manhattan, soon spread to other parts of the world, and before you knew it, Indians were replacing chocolatey-gooey brownies with cupcakes as their sweetest indulgence. Small. Dainty. Sugary. A cupcake is just the right size for a perfect pick-me-up.

So much so that it's bucked recession, leaving economists wondering if the American cupcake bubble was ever going to burst. Back home, Mum bai was the first Indian citadel to fall prey to its sweet charm. Aashiana Shroff's bite-sized pieces of frosting heaven that she served up at Tart made grown-up women go weak at their knees. Malika Rahat-Khan's Sugar Rush gave its cus tomers exactly that. But terfly, conceived of by Sarah Jane Dias (former Channel V VJ and Miss India 2007) and Shaana Gwynne, better-half to chef Evan Gwynne, and pastry chef at her own restaurant in Goa), made it even more chic.

Soon Delhi succumbed too. A recent query for cupcakes in Delhi on the Facebook group Gourmet Planet quickly accumulated 50 comments with members throwing up at least 14 different bakers in the city who offer the tiny treats. Nadia Suryakanth who just this week opened the Capital's first cupcakery, CupnCake Factory in Gurgaon, wanted to re-create the feeling she got every time she walked into a cupcake boutique in Kuwait or in the States. "You walk in, see all those bright colours and decorations and you just forget your problems.

It's like a fairytale and I wanted to recreate the feeling here and Delhi definitely needed a cupcake store, " the 31-year-old says. Tanvi Mahajan, who runs VIYA Cupcakery and learnt at the famous Peggy Porschen academy in London, attributes the cupcake craze to the high degree of personalisation these treats allow. There's something very satisfying about a decorated cupcake which you'll never get with a cookie or a brownie. Pastries don't make people's faces light up when they stare into a bakery case the way cupcakes do. "A box of six cupcakes can say six different things, " says Tanvi, who has just returned from London, bursting with new ideas. "One can't get a cake for every occasion. If you've fought with your friend or want to wish someone good luck, cupcakes are perfect as they can be personalised, " she adds.

Adding to their charm are the flavours. From plain ol' chocolate to banana and coffee, cranberry pecan, lemon meringue, strawberry and champagne, spicy carrot. . . the list goes on and on. "Consumers compare prices and flavours all the time and updating your repertoire always helps, " Tanvi says.

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