Cupcakes are like Crocs. They both showed up in the early 2000s. They both invaded King Street like a heat rash. People started buying them in every color. Decorating them with little designs. Ordering them for children's birthday parties. And with every passing day, additional sprinkle, and Disney Princess Jibbitz, they just got more popular. They spoke to the consumer who wanted a product that said, "Practical, with a sense of schoolgirl whimsy."
But today the popularity contest has come to an end. We have a winner.
Crocs, you fought a good fight. You dazzled parents nationwide by offering the sons and daughters of America a shoe that was both quirky and a podiatrist's dream. But then America turned her back on your foam resin pillow sandals. Overworked adults abused your products, substituting office attire for syrup-stained pajama pants and soiled Crocs with mismatched socks. And it wasn't even casual Friday. They killed you. They killed you good.
But cupcakes, you, you little one-size-fits-all, frosting-haloed angels of the dessert world, you have persevered. You've overcome the odds of Charleston's nano-second attention span and beat your own shelf life. Your adoring legions are endless, and this city can't get enough. It's for these reasons and many more, as countless as the topping options which can be dusted upon your buttercream swirls, that one local lady is throwing a party in your honor — Cupcake Camp on Nov. 6.
Heather MacKey is the woman behind Charleston's first Cupcake Camp, "an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment," or so her website says.
"I found out about the idea of Cupcake Camp from Cupcakes Take the Cake blog," says MacKey. "The first Cupcake Camp happened in San Francisco. Now they have them all over the world."
A self-professed cupcake fanatic, MacKey loved the idea of hosting the event and became especially excited when she learned Charleston could be the first to host one before bigger cities like Atlanta. "I just wanted Charleston to beat other places in the South."
With that initiative in mind, MacKey starting recruiting. "I set up a Facebook account, Twitter, and website," she says. The response was overwhelming. "I'm putting this together, but I haven't even had to do much of the work because of all the volunteers." Like we said, Charleston freaking loves themselves some cupcakes.
The best part about the event is that it's entirely free. "We have about 280 attendees signed up so far and about 20 bakers." Bakers are asked to bring a few dozen cupcakes to share and then anyone can roll into the event at Aloft Hotel and get their snack on at no charge.
One such baker includes Ric Sommons, owner of Dolittle's. "Honestly, it's kind of a dare. Friends and family like the way I bake cupcakes, I'm just seeing if others do too," says Sommons, who's bringing a batch of banana pudding cupcakes to share.
"I told Aloft that people would be pretty thirsty from all the cupcakes so they'll be selling milk, tea, and coffee and the bar will be open," says MacKey. Make that a cupcake-tini, easy on the 'tini.
MacKey has organized numerous sponsors including Theatre 99, Ink Meets Paper Press, Palmetto Pastries, Spirit Moves Studio, and many more which you can follow on the @CupcakeCampChas Twitter page.
Aside from gorging on the sugary smorgasbord, the main event will be the Cupcake Competition. Any cupcakes entered will be judged by three local foodies: Chef Bernd Gronert, a Trident Tech pastry instructor and owner of Rococo Baker, Akai Antia-Obong, art director at West Of newspaper and a self-trained chef, and Kristin Smith, director of sales at Aloft Charleston Hotel and a baking aficionado. Cupcakes will be judged in three categories: Most Unique Ingredients, Best Charleston Themes, and Best Decorated Cupcake, a.k.a. "Best in Show."
Plucky pastry makers better bring their A-game; Cupcake Camp will have some fierce competition. That said, ultimately MacKey says the event is strictly in good fun. "I think people just love cupcakes because you get to eat cake without guilt." Their petite size and adorable dressings make them irresistible.
Sommons has his own take on Cupcake Camp's appeal. "It's just a bunch of cupcake geeks getting together to eat free cupcakes. Maybe it will one day have the economic and cultural impact of Comic-Con, who knows. I'm just happy that in a world full of political agendas and dreary economic news people can just kick back and nosh on creative sweets — for free!"
MacKey hopes others will feel the same and that these scrumptious treats will bring guests a-running to the first annual Cupcake Camp, the happiest little camp on earth where the only rule is come hungry, eat happy.