What is now one of the most popular treats in American culture, the cupcake, didn’t originally start off as a novel creation. What we now enjoy as a tasty treat, evolved over time, as the baking process evolved as well. The evolution of the American cupcake is significant because it signified the movement away from the weighing of ingredients by a scale, to the use of cooking by volume, or “cups.”
Although it is not clear where the term “cupcake” originated, there are two theories regarding its’ origination. The first theory asserts that the term came about through the usage of cups as measurements for baking, rather than the traditional use of weights. The second theory asserts that the name “cupcake” came about because the cakes were actually baked in cups, rather than cups being used to measure the ingredients. Although the origins of the term is debatable, the first known documentation of such a type of cake was first recorded in American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons in 1796. The recipe in the book is said to have called for, “a cake to be baked in small cups.”
In 1828, the actual term “cupcake” was first documented in a cookbook titled, Receipts by Eliza Leslie. Although the term “cupcake” was used in the early 19th century, the “cupcake” itself, was also commonly referred to as “number cakes,” as well. They were sometimes called “number cakes,” because of the simplicity of the recipe used to create the cakes. The “cupcake” recipe called for, one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs, i.e. the sequence: 1,2,3,4. The cupcake was also seen as simple and convenient because they could also be baked in small muffin tins, or what was also called gem pans.