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What's the next cupcake?

Is the lollipop the next cupcake? See more candy pictures.
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When "Sex and the City" character Carrie Bradshaw bit into a fluffy pink cupcake in front of New York City's famed Magnolia Bakery, a pop culture phenomenon was born. Suddenly the treat that graced kids' birthday parties was gracing everything from office luncheons to wedding receptions. Today, thousands of cupcake shops litter the Unites States -- from large chains like Crumbs Bakeshop and Sprinkles Cupcakes to local startups. The treats come in every possible make and model: mini, vegan, gluten-free, alcoholic, sweet, savory. Some of today's cupcakes are even made of ice cream!

But fads flare up, then flame out, and most foodies agree that the cupcake is already on its way out of fashion … which raises the question: Which delightful treat will take its place? Is your mouth watering? Then click ahead, Sweet Tooth.

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Cute and delicious! 
Cute and delicious! 
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They look like tiny, colorful hamburgers, but they're called macarons, a French confection made with egg whites, almond paste and sugar. The top and bottom cookies sandwich a creamy filling -- and therein lies the beauty of the macaron. You can fill a macaron with any flavor you want. There's something for every taste and style.

We've seen macaron flavors as traditional as chocolate ganache and as far-out as foie gras. You can get your macarons in vanilla, almond, rose, pistachio, coffee, tiramisu, pineapple, mango, orange blossom, and the list goes on. Macarons also come in a variety of colors -- usually corresponding to the flavor. This feature also makes them a favorite among brides and grooms for wedding desserts.

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"Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?"
"Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?"
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Homer Simpson once said, "Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?" And honestly, what brings more simple joy than a doughnut?

Of course, the jelly and glazed variety of yesteryear are downright basic compared to today's trendy treats. Check out the menu at top doughnut shop Voodoo Doughnuts, in Portland, Ore. We're talking maple bacon, Captain Crunch, grape and lavender, lemon chiffon, marshmallow and peanut butter, and an entire menu of vegan flavors!

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Doughnut shop chains are everywhere, but it's smaller, boutique shops like Voodoo that make us think this raised yeast treat might be the next big thing. And if its flavors sound too exotic for you, there's always the trusty Krispy Kreme.

The whoopie pie is so popular that three states lay claim to its invention. Pennsylvania, Maine and Massachusetts all take credit for creating the whoopie pie. Nobody really knows the true origin, but we're sure glad they exist!

A whoopie pie consists of two soft chocolate cakes, rounded like hamburger buns, with a creamy filling in between. Traditionally, the melt-in-your-mouth filling is made of shortening and sugar. But today's whoopie pies come in a variety of flavor combinations. At the annual Whoopie Pie Festival in Pennsylvania, you can sample whoopie pies like these:

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  • Chocolate cake with strawberry filling
  • Red velvet cake with cream cheese filling
  • Peanut butter cake with chocolate filling
  • Apple cake with apple and caramel filling
  • Peanut butter cake with marshmallow filling

As you can see, the possibilities are endless, which makes the whoopie pie a very attractive prospect for bakers and eaters alike.

The cake pop may be a relative newcomer on the sweet treat scene, but it's quickly stealing the show. These bite-sized treats, popularized by the baker/blogger Bakerella, are really just a new take on cake balls, round pieces of cake dipped in chocolate. Traditionally, bakers made cake balls to get rid of excess cake left over after carving and cutting a cake into shapes. Waste not, want not!

When Bakerella came up with the fun idea to put those cake balls on lollipop sticks, a craze was born. Cake pops can be dipped in various colors of candy melts or chocolates, and the decorative possibilities are endless. Home bakers have embraced them as a fun way to serve dessert, and they also make great party favors!

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Why bother with cake when you can skip straight to the frosting?
Why bother with cake when you can skip straight to the frosting?
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Even if the cupcake is on its way out, we're pretty sure nobody's growing tired of frosting. In fact, enterprising bakery owners who noticed that some patrons ate the frosting off their cupcakes and discarded the rest have started offering shot glasses of icing.

That's right. For just a dollar or two, you can get a frosting sugar rush without having to eat all that pesky cake! And shots of frosting offer a taste of nostalgia to those of us who fondly remember Mom letting us scrape the frosting bowl after she'd baked a cake. At some bakeries, frosting shots are offered in little paper cups you can squeeze into your mouth, and fancier shops will even serve you shots in tiny glasses with tiny spoons.

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Perhaps you used to make popsicles from scratch when you were a kid by freezing juice in ice cube trays. Today's ice pops are the same idea, only they aren't your mother's Kool-Aid variety. Gourmet ice pop shops and vendor carts are showing up everywhere, and pop purveyors pride themselves on using fresh, local ingredients and making all their pops by hand. These cold confections also come in limitless flavor combinations. Think pumpkin pie, coconut and lemon, mango mint, and orange chocolate.

And there's even a new movement afoot within the ice pop world -- cocktail ice pops. Think margaritas, daiquiris, even Bloody Marys, frozen on a stick! Ah … the beach is calling.

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At cereal bars, you can mix and match your favorite sugary breakfast treats.
At cereal bars, you can mix and match your favorite sugary breakfast treats.
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"Wait, what?" you're thinking. "Cereal? The next cupcake?" Well, hear us out. Part of the appeal of cupcakes is that they remind us of childhood. Cereal has the same effect. You remember your favorite cereals as a kid, right? Not the healthy stuff that looked like a bowl of twigs, but the sugary sweet stuff that turned the milk different colors?

Well, some enterprising people have taken cereal nostalgia and run with it by opening "cereal bars" that cater to the breakfast crowd. The cereal bar is kind of like a salad bar, only there are no veggies, and you're free (dare we say "encouraged"?) to mix Cap'n Crunch with Fruity Pebbles, then top it off with a spoonful of Gummi Bears. It's a child's breakfast dream come true!

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Put your garden-variety, grocery store chocolate away. Today's handmade, gourmet chocolates are much tastier and more interesting. What's the point of eating plain old milk chocolate when you can enjoy a truffle made with ginger and wasabi? Local confectioners try to outdo each other with gourmet, creative and exciting flavors. We've seen chocolate paired with violets, curry, paprika, anise and bacon (not all together, of course).

Artisan chocolates are popular because they represent a luxury that anyone can afford. You only need to buy one piece to enjoy it, so why not get the best you can? Try chocolate topped with an edible gold leaf. Now that's luxury!

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The lollipop is also gaining popularity, and again, the nostalgia factor is hard at work here. It's a childhood favorite with an adult twist. Just peruse the handmade goods Web site Etsy.com and you'll see lots of handmade, natural lollipops for sale. These lollies come in grown-up flavors like salted caramel, nutmeg, pistachio-marshmallow and chai tea.

Lollipops are a fun treat because they're portable, they last a while, and for some reason a lollipop just seems to cheer people up. How can you be sad while enjoying hard candy on a stick?

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Could pie out-cupcake the cupcake?
Could pie out-cupcake the cupcake?
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In a world gone ga-ga for miniature cakes, one traditional treat has stood ready to step in once the cupcake fever breaks: the all-American pie. Consider this: Pie is now so popular that this past fall we saw a recipe for a cupcake stuffed with pie!

Foodies identify New York City and San Francisco as emerging pie capitals of the United States. There, you'll find pie shops, mail-order pies and organic pies. Like cupcakes, pies are extremely versatile in terms of ingredients. Sweet, traditional pies like apple and cherry still reign supreme, but savory pies are making a name for themselves as well. Pairing apples with green chiles and cheese, or bourbon with sweet potato, make for some exciting taste experiences!

For more on sweets and other cooking basics, check out the links on the next page. 

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Sources

  • Associated Press. "Cupcake shops offer 'shots' of frosting." Today. July 21, 2008. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/25782308/ns/today-foodwine/
  • "Cake Pops." Bakerella.com. 2011. www.bakerella.com/category/pops-bites/cake-pops/
  • "Exotic Truffle Collection." Vosges Chocolate. 2011. http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/category/exotic_truffle_collection
  • "History." Making Whoopies. 2010. http://www.makingwhoopies.net/content/history
  • Hoe, Ryan. "Amedei Porcelana: The Most Expensive Chocolate in The World." Bukisa.com. July 13, 2010. http://www.bukisa.com/articles/316801_amedei-porcelana-the-most-expensive-chocolate-in-the-world
  • Hsu, Andrea. "Ice-Pop Biz: Cool And Fresh, But Will It Be Hot?" NPR.org. Aug. 3, 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128950556
  • Jargon, Julie and Passariello, Christina. "Mon Dieu! Will Newfound Popularity Spoil the Dainty Macaron?" Wall Street Journal. March 2, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704269004575073843836895952.html
  • "July 20th is National Lollipop Day." CandyAddict.com. July 20, 2006. http://candyaddict.com/blog/2006/07/20/july-20-is-national-lollipop-day/
  • Martin, Katherine. "Customers go cuckoo for cupcakes." Modern Baking. June 19, 2006. http://modern-baking.com/bakery_management/mb_imp_13256/
  • "Menu." Voodoo Doughnuts. 2010. http://www.voodoodoughnut.com/menu.php
  • Moskin, Julia. "Pie to Cupcake: Time's Up." New York Times. Nov. 16, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/dining/17pies.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage
  • "This Charming Candy." Etsy.com. 2011. http://www.etsy.com/shop/ThisCharmingCandy

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