This article, on the cover of a recent "Kultur Spiegel", a regular supplement in one of the most respected news magazines in Germany, is about "a Christmas drama". American cupcakes are replacing all of our treasured Christmas cookies! the author claims. Seriously Germany? I don't think you have anything to worry about.
Exhibit A: My Local Bakery and Konditorei
Nary a cupcake in sight ... just lebkuchen männer (gingerbread men), Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Vanilla Kipferln (vanilla, um, kipferl), Domino Steine (domino stones)...
....various Christmas cookies and cakes....
.. and a personal favorite, stollen confekt, a small pocket of stollen - Germany's answer to fruitcake - filled with marzipan. These are deceptively addictive and so delicious with a cup of coffee - and I speak from experience.
The glutton-free dieter's nightmare continues with another personal weakness, baumkuchen. Layers of light spongy cake dipped in milk chocolate. Also good dipped in coffee for breakfast. Also the reason why I have increased the number of times I go running during the month of December. But soooo worth it.
Exhibit B: The Supermarket
Dear Supermarket Manager, I have a bone to pick with you. I can't take my kids with me to the grocery store any more because of your ingenious little Christmas cookie displays. All that is missing here is a flashing neon sign and Santa himself sitting atop Rudolf while handing out free samples. How am I supposed to get around this? In fact, these displays are strategically positioned at the entrance so that you have to walk right THROUGH them to get anywhere else in the store. I have not made it out once without at least one major tantrum and no fewer than three chocolate Smartie-filled Santas sneaking their way into the shopping cart - at least two of which always seem to get scanned by the cashier before I've realized that I've purchased them. Kids 2 - Mom 0.
Seriously, even if a few people find cupcakes fun, different or novel, the so-called evil plot to overthrow lebkuchen is not going to amount to anything. There are enough stollen purists out there to secure their place on the grocer's shelves for many generations to come, I wager.
Oh sure they look harmless enough, but I swear these little Santas contain hidden mics with recordings of subliminal messages instructing children to raise hell until mom agrees to put at least two in the shopping cart. Talk about evil plots....
Exhibit C: The Christmas Markets
Row after row of baumkuchen spitze, brittle, zimtsterne and other traditional Christmas cookies and cakes for you to mix and match.
The nougat and marzipan dealer. And I say dealer because this stuff is like CRACK. Addictive, sugar high-inducing CRACK. Cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, espresso, pistachio, hazelnut, with nuts, without nuts. No where else will you find a display of as many different kinds of pure balls of marzipan and soft (not brittle, like the Italian) nougat than at a German Christmas market. Cupcakes? What cupcakes?
Exhibit D: The Enemy
One of a handful of cupcake specialty shops in town, trying to capitalize on the trend - which is credited in great part, claims the Spiegel article, to the popularity of "Sex and the City" in Germany. The one cupcake peddler I spoke to claimed that if anything, cupcake sales were down around the holidays due to the increased competition from all of the other baked good flooding the market. Although those topped with crushed candy cane do seem to be holding their own.
So, defenders of traditional German Weihnachtsgebäck, stollen purists and militant anti-cupcakists, fear not. While the American cupcake may have made a splash as the new trendy baked good, your Christmas delicacies, contrary to reports, are stocked on the shelves and will most definitely remain so for many Christmases to come.