His name was Doc—D. R. “Doc” Rice. Have you ever heard of him Dear Readers?
Miss NiNi hadn’t until my mind’s academia searched for answers to a baking question.
I discovered that single-handedly, Doc changed a well-loved baked treat into what we recognize today as the popular Hostess cupcake.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself, Dear Readers, and by no means, in sharing this baking chat with you does it mean that Miss NiNi is fond of Hostess cupcakes. As a matter of fact, I indeed am not! But, I must say that the story behind the treat that changed America’s love affair with it is fascinating!
Truly, the narrative of the original cupcake is first noted to have begun in 1796 when Amelia Simmons—domestic “foodie” of her time—authored the first known cookbook written by an American and published in America. The title was American Cookery.
The Birth of a Legend
According to wikipedia.org, Ms. Simmons’ footnote with a certain cake recipe included this remark, “light cake to bake in small cups.” Voila, Amelia dear! The cupcake was born!
However, foodtimeline.org states this: Cupcakes did not originate as individually portioned cakes.
How, then, did they originate? Two schools of thought emerge. 1. The first recipes used measurements by the cup to create these cakes. Or–2. These cakes were originally baked in cups that could withstand oven temperatures in order to save time.
As a matter of fact, “in the 18thCentury, cupcakes were sometimes referred to as 1234 cakes to help bakers remember the simple recipes. The numbers corresponded with ingredient measurements as in 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs.” Pretty simple, wouldn’t you say, Dear Readers?
But let’s jump forward a century to the end of World War I, shall we? Three events changed American history in 1919 after the conclusion of The War to End All Wars. Let’s see if these events ring a bell. Prohibition was about to begin. Women were beyond ready to vote. Hostess introduced its first snack cake—the cupcake.
Would your forefathers have enjoyed the same Hostess cupcake as we do today? Not at all! Its original blueprint was a devil’s food cake that was hand iced in either chocolate or vanilla—pretty plain and simple by today’s standards.
But if your birth year is 1947, you share that honor with what we now know as the birthday of today’s Hostess cupcake.
The Cake Dumper
A 17-year-old “cake dumper” with the Continental Baking Co. in New York, D. R. “Doc” Rice, was given the task of redesigning the Hostess cupcake. “With more ingredients at hand and continued experimentation, the dough was improved. The icing was also improved by using pure chocolate to make it.”
Mechanization was coming to the Continental Baking Co. in order to automatically put the crème filling into a previous home-run creation, Twinkies. Since the machine was ready, it was decided to fill cupcakes as well.
“The new (Hostess) cupcakes had an improved cake mix, purer chocolate icing, crème filling, and a straight white line of icing. ‘The white line was received well but did not do the new cupcakes justice. It needed something that would catch the eye and let the buyer know it was quality,’ according to Rice.”
What was that eye-catching feature, Dear Readers?
Rice noted that the perfect cupcake should have exactly seven (count them) curlicue loops of white icing decorating the top of each Hostess cupcake.
The marketing design paid off as 25 percent more new cupcakes sold lickety split! As you can imagine, the original cupcakes were discontinued, and the rest is history! foodtimeline.org.
A Fitting Nickname
The sweet little loop-de-loop caused a brand turnaround due to the “Doctor of Dessert,” Mr. D. R. “Doc” Rice.
All of this narrative hits close to home as Miss NiNi and her staff are on the quest to create unique handcrafted cupcakes to add to our dessert repertoire.
But here’s the rub! Do we create a crème-filled cupcake with flat smooth icing and brand-enhancing “NiNi” written on the top of each? Or, do we follow the trend and produce a simpler unfilled cupcake with generous fluffy frosting and added edible garnish? The jury is still out on that!
However, if you, Dear Readers, want to chime in with your thoughts, Miss NiNi would love to have you do so! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your response.
Perhaps, as with “Doc” Rice, Miss NiNi will also be known as an experimental “cake dumper.” I kind of like that title!
And maybe…just maybe, some day in the next century, folks will note the accomplishments of Yours Truly’s creative passion for the dessert unknown! Maybe all it takes is a refreshing loop-de-loop!