Years ago, if you were coming home after midnight and the chip shops had shut, there was an all-night bakery lurking behind where Scayles Music Shop is now. The door might be standing open to let the cool air in, or you could just knock: the room you saw was stacked full of baked goods and the ovens were still running – the air was full of the wonderful smell of freshly-baked bread and cake – and they’d sell you literally anything you could think to ask for, brown-bagged, though most people were looking for something to eat right now.
The paving stones outside the all-night bakery on St Patrick’s Square had been pigeon-pecked for the dropped crumbs – there were holes worn in the stone by the pigeon-beaks.
Though I no longer live on the south side of Edinburgh, and so would never likely be walking home late at night past that bakery, I still regret its going.
In London Sprinkles Cupcakes, who claim to have been the original bakery to realise that you don’t need to make anything but fairy cakes with lots of icing to turn a profit, are about to open a vending machine to let people buy cupcakes at three in the morning.
Sue Quinn argues that the cupcake could make Brits appreciate the vending machine:
A rack of 600 cakes sits in the wall behind the dispenser. You tap your order into a touch-screen, a robot arm behind the wall retrieves your selection and whoosh; out pops your choice of cupcake, meticulously packaged. Sprinkles insists the cakes are no more than a couple of hours old because its round-the-clock bakery constantly restocks the machine.
Doesn’t sound that appealling to me. But then I can’t recall ever wanting a cupcake at three in the morning. Perhaps because when I was heading for home after midnight, if I was high on anything it would be booze: this sounds more like a vending machine for the munchies.
So the baker makes cakes. Goes to the machine. Fills it up. People come to the machine. Put money in and take their cake. Why not just go straight to the baker and save time and money? There is nothing new or automated about this system.
Ah, but it’s pink. And obviously, women love pink. And cupcakes. Whoever actually buys (and Sprinkles cupcakes aren’t cheap – at the usual pound for dollar conversation, you could be paying £3.50 per cake) this looks like it’ll be marketed as a girls-night-out thing.
Plus, a baker who actually came face-to-face with the buying public at three in the morning would want to be paid accordingly. Whereas staff who are never seen can get cut-rate pay.