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Is the Cupcake Market Crumbling?

cupcake
Sales of gourmet cupcakes have fallen flat in recent months. (Image credit: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-172978p1.html">Ruth Black</a> | <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">Shutterstock.com</a>)

Western civilization has weathered many blows — war, famine, Justin Bieber — but will it survive the end of the Cupcake Era?

The Wall Street Journal reports the market for gourmet cupcakes, the laughably overpriced baked goods made famous by TV shows like "Sex and the City" and "Cupcake Wars," has fallen flat.

Shares of the cupcake retailer Crumbs Bake Shop, which in 2011 traded for $13 a share, are now worth less than $1.70, according to the Journal. Crumbs has also projected sales for 2013 would be down 22 percent from earlier projections.

The New York-based chain sells sugar-coma-inducing concoctions like a Chocolate Sundae Colossal cupcake with "vanilla cream cheese frosting drizzled with chocolate ganache, sprinkles, chopped peanuts and a cherry" for $42.

That gigantic treat is intended to serve six to eight people; smaller cupcakes are available for up to $4.50 each, according to the Journal.

Is the plunge in cupcake sales a sign of economic belt-tightening? Has fear of Type 2 diabetes cooled our ardor for high-calorie treats with no nutritional value? Or are people just sick of paying $5 for a fist-size ball of sugary dough?

"The novelty has worn off," Kevin Burke, an investment banker who specializes in the restaurant industry, told the Journal.

Even dessert lovers admit they don't get the same rise out of cupcakes they once did. "People get tired of things," said Cynthia Hankerson, owner of the Cupcake Salon in Jersey City, N.J. Her shop now gets about half the weekend customers it once saw.

As an economic indicator, however, cupcake sales may fall flat. Most other signs point to an increase in consumer spending, especially in the luxury segment of the economy.

And the cupcake-industrial complex isn't taking this dip in sales lying down.

"This category isn't going away, the category is here to stay," Michael Serruya, an investor in Crumbs, told the Journal. "We wouldn't have committed our money to this deal, if we believed otherwise."

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Marc Lallanilla
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at About.com and a producer with ABCNews.com. His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and TheWeek.com. Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.