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Crazy for cupcakes

Italians go mad for Anglo-American cupcakes.

by: Eliza Apperly: Reuters | 13 Feb 2009

The notorious pride in their national cuisine has not prevented a diminutive foreign delicacy from conquering Italian taste buds; all hail the cupcake.

From do-it-yourself culinary websites to specialist shops, a growing number of Italians are catering to the growing taste for the miniature decorated sponge cakes popular in Britain and the United States.

One Roman establishment championing the trend is Josephine's Bakery, in Rome's cobbled historic centre in the aptly named Piazza del Paradiso.

Opened four years ago by London-born former model Josephine Scorer; it specializes in non-Italian patisserie and among the pastries from New York, France and Eastern Europe sit dainty little cupcakes at 2.50 Euros (R33) apiece.

Sometimes confused by locals for muffins, the cupcakes are decorated with the bakery's trademark iced flowers.

Optician by day, Rita Buzzacchi dedicates her spare time to British-style patisserie. Her website La tavola di Rita includes detailed cupcake recipes and effusive write-ups.

"Cupcakes, Che Passione!!" the site declares. Since starting up her website three years ago, Buzzacchi has seen interest grow in the delicacy also known in Britain as fairy cakes.

In style-conscious Italy, cupcakes appeal to more than just the taste-buds, she said, with their suggestion of childhood, fairy tales and the old-fashioned English tea room. "With their association with well-to-do society and the fine tradition of Victorian tea rooms, they have acquired a sort of romanticism which is often lacking in our own patisserie," Buzzacchi told Reuters.

Marica Coluzzi, another blogger, agrees. Though yet to be convinced that the dryer texture of the cupcake can match up to the creamy indulgences of Italian patisserie, she, too, is charmed by their creativity.

"You can decorate them as you like, with almost no limits to one's imagination and the results are wonderful," she said.

What's more, cupcakes are quick to cook, easy to transport, and can be eaten whole without a great calorific conscience.

But for all the cupcake craze, Italian palates are yet to be won over by British savoury dishes. While some supermarkets stock Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern ingredients, there is little sign of British cuisine seducing Italian gourmands.

"When it comes to savoury produce, for many our own national cuisine remains irreplaceable," Coluzzi said.

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