The 50 States of Cupcakes

A header image for a blog about cupcake preferences around the U.S.
A header image for a blog about cupcake preferences around the U.S.

There’s only one way you could possibly make cake better: by shrinking it down and wrapping it in wax paper. That’s right. We’re talking, of course, about cupcakes. The range of flavors and icing options without the need for cake-cutting makes these airy, delicious delicacies the best way to serve guests a cup full of sugar on any occasion.

There’s one very special occasion where you might see cupcakes take center stage more often, and it piqued the interest of the team at Shane Co. We’re talking, of course, about weddings and how cupcakes can offer a fun alternative to a traditional tiered wedding cake. It was with this newfound interest that we decided to learn a bit more about the dessert and how it’s enjoyed throughout the country.

We surveyed people from every state to find out what their go-tos are when it comes to cupcake building, from cake flavors to frostings to toppings. Additionally, we gathered some insights into how people tend to eat their cupcakes and where they stack up in the greater dessert pantheon.

How Every State Takes Their Cupcakes

The perfect cupcake comes in many different forms, with many flavor, icing, topping, and filling combinations popping up around the U.S. While preferences change, one thing is clear: the age-old battle of chocolate and vanilla is still going strong. Every single state selected one or the other as the best base flavor for a cupcake, with 27 states opting for vanilla, and 17 choosing chocolate. Hover over the map above to check out your state’s specifics.

Cupcakes were created by Amelia Simmons in a cookbook published in Hartford, Connecticut. Locals in that state can take pride in their cupcake history by embracing their delicious cupcake combination of vanilla cake, chocolate frosting, chocolate filling, sprinkles, and mini M&M’s. That’s a cupcake we think Amelia Simmons would be proud of!

Other states love getting creative with their cupcake orders as well. Washington, for example, enjoys a vanilla cupcake, but with cream cheese frosting, raspberry filling, sprinkles, and fresh fruit on top — yum! Another noteworthy cupcake comes from the Empire State. New Yorkers prefer theirs with a vanilla base, cream cheese frosting, and chocolate filling, topped with sprinkles and chocolate chips. Check out local New York bakeries to try some of the most delicious treats around.

While some parts of the country love unique topping and flavor combinations, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin prefer a more traditional cupcake. These seven states all agreed that the best cupcake comes in the form of vanilla cake, cream cheese frosting, and sprinkles. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We haven’t forgotten about chocolate lovers, and neither have Iowa or Missouri. Both states think the perfect cupcake has a chocolate base, cream cheese frosting, and a topping of both sprinkles and chocolate chips. A true chocolate lover’s dream!

Cupcake Preferences Around the Country

A graphic shows the preferences most Americans have when it comes to eating cupcakes.

The best things in life are sweet — it’s love at first bite! It comes as no surprise that the most popular cupcake flavor overall is vanilla, as 32% of respondents said the classic cake flavor is the best. Following closely in second is chocolate (29%), and then red velvet (14%). You can’t go wrong with keeping it simple!

Some of us may be guilty of licking the frosting right off the cupcake. The most popular lick-worthy flavor is cream cheese frosting, with 40% of respondents agreeing it’s their favorite frosting choice. The next frosting flavor we go cocoa for is chocolate, which is favored by 21% of respondents, while vanilla (18%), buttercream (14%), and peanut butter (7%) wrap up the top five frosting flavors.

When it comes to fillings, 24% of Americans prefer no fillings in their cupcakes. For those that do, the most popular are cream cheese filling (26%) and chocolate filling (22.5%). Cupcakes can get messy to eat, and sometimes the traditional “biting into a cupcake” ends with a face full of frosting up to your nose. While 56% of Americans would call their cupcake-eating style “traditional,” 13% eat the frosting first, and 10% say they use utensils when eating cupcakes. Utensils may be the cleanest way to eat it, but where is the fun? Try a cupcake sandwich or go from the bottom up!

The only thing that elevates a cupcake to the next level is adding delicious toppings. There are so many options, like using chopped-up candies, drizzling syrups, adding fresh fruits, or even adding some zest. The most popular topping options for cupcakes are sprinkles (23%), no toppings at all (19%), chocolate chips (12.4%), and fresh fruit (11.3%). A popular choice and a favorite topping in Connecticut and Ohio is mini M&M’s.

Ranking Desserts: Where Does the Cupcake Land?

Curious as to where the cupcake stacks up against America’s favorite desserts? So were we. That’s why we asked our survey respondents to rank eight of the most popular dessert options from their favorite (first) to their least favorite (eighth). To ensure we got as accurate a ranking as possible, we used a ranking system that weighted higher-placed votes much more than lower-placed ones. For example, if a dessert received many votes in the top three, then it would be much more likely to rank higher.

Now that we have our ducks in a row, let’s get down to business. These are the top-ranked desserts, according to Americans.

As you can see, cookies came out on top as the highest-rated dessert in the land. While we would never blame anyone for that selection, we can’t help but feel cupcakes were hard done by their second-place finish. Cupcakes and cookies both finished so high thanks to the number of votes they received for first through third place. Cupcakes were ranked as the absolute favorite dessert in the following states: Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Cheesecake, on the other hand, received the most first-place votes by a fair margin but not enough to make up for those who ranked it among their least favorite desserts, dropping it to the bronze medal place in our rankings.

Brownies, cake, and pie all deserve a mention, having finished in fourth through sixth place, respectively. Cobbler and pudding round out the ranking in seventh and eighth place. Both are, decidedly, among America’s least favorites (at least when compared to the others!).

Methodology 

Over the course of two weeks in July 2022, we surveyed people from every state (2,198 in total) to find out how they enjoyed their cupcakes. We asked questions about flavors, frostings, fillings, toppings, and, of course, how to properly eat them (at Shane Co., we don’t judge; if you want to devour your cupcake in one giant bite, that’s your business). Once the data was collected, we analyzed the results to find out how cupcake preferences change regionally and what the most popular ways to enjoy them are. We also used a weighted ranking system to determine where cupcakes stack up against other iconic American desserts.

One thing to note is that we did not receive enough responses from the following states due to low population size: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Closing Thoughts

Opting for cupcakes instead of other desserts for a party of any kind is a smart move. They can make everyone happy with various flavors, toppings, and allergy-free options. Most importantly, it makes serving easier by reducing the time spent cake-cutting in a room full of hungry folks. If you’ve been lucky enough to find someone whose cupcake-eating habits match your own and are ready to take the next step, Shane Co. has a fabulous selection of engagement rings that will be the icing on top of the (cup)cake.

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