There’s a reality (yeah, sure) show on the Food Network called “Cupcake Wars”. It’s a competition. Yes, a food competition based on cupcakes, what the British call “fairy cakes”, in which host Justin Willman oversees multiple cooks, both professional and amateur, as they battle over small bits of cake and frosting. The show starts with four contestant teams of two people. Each week one team is eliminated by three judges, with a $10,000 prize for the winners.
These aren’t your grandmother’s cupcakes. In the first round, teams must create “theme” cupcakes (judging is based on taste alone, not how they look) with an unusual twist ingredient, such memorable favorites as basil or oysters. Oyster cupcakes? Gag.
Second round: Each team must make three different cupcakes in only 75 minutes – these are judged on taste and presentation, so out come the frosting guns.
In the third round, each of the two remaining teams gets helpers. A carpenter is brought on board to construct a presentation showcase, and four interns also show up for the nitty-gritty work, because the task is to bake and decorate 1,000 cupcakes in only two hours.
Are you exhausted yet?
Call me naïve, but – beyond saving money for the network, since this kind of “reality” show costs nearly nothing to produce – what’s the purpose here? Where do these cupcakes go? (Aside from the weird ingredient ones, those I’m sure would be rejected even by the Los Angeles Zoo.) There’s no mention of hungry people, or those in shelters or senior centers or HeadStart classrooms. There’s no tie-in to anti-hunger initiatives around the world, even though “Cupcake Wars” producers could Google ten of them in five seconds. The show is pure indulgence in butter, flour and sugar, and makes enough calories each week to put the producers of “The Biggest Loser” into cardiac arrest.
Isn’t there a larger purpose here, one that “Cupcake Wars” ignores? I have no idea of their ratings, but mightn’t their popularity rise with a little bit of genuine reality tossed in? Say, a tie-in with alleviating hunger in India. Make the nonprofit on the ground over there an ally.
“Wars” cupcakes would then be truly fun – even the oyster ones.