A few weeks ago we noticed that a cupcake ATM dispensing cupcakes to cake lovers 24 hours a day had launched in Los Angeles. Well now the idea, which came from the Sprinkles cupcake company, has proved such a success at their Beverly Hills location they plan on opening machines in ten other U.S. states and are searching for a new location in London.
The machines allow customers to choose a cupcake flavor on a touch screen display - once an order is placed a mechanical arm finds your cupcake, among the rows and rows of hundreds of other cupcakes, before lifting it up and dispensing it to you - all for the cost of 3.50 dollars.
Sound a bit to mechanical for you? The first machine in Beverly Hills is reportedly kicking out over 1,000 cupcakes a day and with queues stretching round the block, it seems that lots of people are happy to have their cakes delivered without a smile these days.
But what does this mean for cupcakes? And more importantly where does this leave the thousands of cupcake stores that have risen from nowhere in the past few years?
We spoke to Jane Govey, Commercial Director at The Hummingbird Bakery, they have been producing cupcakes in London stores since 2004 and are very much an authentic American cupcake venture. They have five stores across London and don't seem too worried about the possible invasion of cupcake ATMs.
We place a great deal of importance on helping our customers to choose a cake that is right for them, offering a bespoke service and giving everyone who comes into one of our branches a really great experience. We want customers to be able to ask questions about our products and benefit from the advice and knowledge our staff have to offer...human interaction is a very important part of the service we provide.
Our counters are laden with fresh products and the smells of fresh baking fill the air. This is all part of what keeps customers coming back and makes visiting one of our branches a special treat.
And it's that world 'special' that really sums up a good cupcake experience. For me buying and consuming cupcakes is a sort of ritual - there's something nice about going to the place it's baked, smelling the flavours on offer and speaking with the baker who made them. I believe that personality plays a big role in the cupcake industry and that it's the larger than life characters and bakeries with charm that are the most successful.
Sprinkles are adamant that the cupcakes in their machine are only ever a few hours old, thanks to their trusty team of bakers, but the real point in all this is not the freshness.
The best flavour in any cupcake has to be the love. The love that goes into baking and the love that's prominent in all good cupcakes - a taste of a heart felt genuine craft. I worry that by making cupcakes yet another faceless snack picked by a robotic arm with robotic charm - something dispensed at our disposal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - we kill everything that's special about cupcakes in the first place.
Everything that makes the ritual of going to the bakery for a cupcake so much fun - the atmosphere, the sight, the smells - the overall experience. Yes there will be a new experience to try with the cupcake cashmachine - but will it be better? And do we really want to accept yet another machine driven delivery of our food?