Imagine being a cook/baker in 19th-century Britain or North America. It’s likely that you didn’t know how to read, so your recipes were memorized and passed down from generation to generation. The first mention of the cup cake was probably a standard cake recipe using ingredient quantities in cup measurements to make remembering the directions easier. Something like this: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour and so on. Pound cakes use the same device, by weight, for remembering ingredient proportions. Check out my post on Pound Cake.
Origin of the name “cupcake”
A cupcake by definition is a small cake baked in a cuplike mold (Merriam Webster). Today, cupcakes have become an incredible fad and a booming business. According to Google, “cupcake recipes” are the fastest growing recipe search.
The first official use of the phrase “cupcake” was an 1828 reference made in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook. A 19th century, American author and homemaker, Eliza Leslie wrote several popular cookbooks, and incidentally also wrote several books of etiquette.
There is also a 1796 recipe reference of “a cake to be baked in small cups” made by Amelia Simmons in her book American Cookery. However, most food historians give Eliza Leslie’s 1828 recipe for cupcakes as being the most significant, so I am giving Eliza the distinction of being the “Mother of the Cupcake”.