2011: The Year of the Pie?

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Cupcake backlash has been brewing for some time, but so stubborn was the cupcake trend that every single year there is another hope-filled pronouncement of its heir apparent. First, there was the whoopee pie. Too regional. Then there was the cake ball. Too divisive. And most recently there was the macaron. Too dainty.

This year, however, is introducing the first legitimately convincing next dessert trend that could put the final proverbial nail in the coffin for the cupcake. Food trend trackers everywhere -- from NPR to The New York Times -- have jumped on the bandwagon. Pie fever has even touched down in North Texas, as Bon Appetit recently listed Fort Worth's Paris Coffee Shop as one of the top 10 places for pie. So, why the pie and why now?

In a time when cupcake shops hawking $3-$4 miniature cakes are on every corner, the inevitable bubble was bound to pop. (Even in a city as devoted to the dessert as Dallas.) While Dimples self-imploded, the rest of the competition combated one another via icing height duels and overly exotic themes and flavors. The pie, on the other hand, comes off as a humble dessert in the midst of all the cupcake craziness. It's homey, comforting and has always been around, even when we weren't paying attention.

Whereas there are no cupcake, whoopee pie, or macaron flavored foods, in any given grocery store, one can find Key lime pie yogurts or apple pie flavored protein bars. Also unlike the cupcake, there wasn't a sudden explosion in popularity. At least according to some of Dallas' premier pie peddlers, aside from the holidays when there is an obvious spike, the dessert always has been steady in sales and following.

When asked to describe her restaurant's pies, Norma's Emily Frauhiger, used words like "comfort" and "homemade."

As Cicily Pettigrew, owner Uncle Willie's Pies, puts it, pies are just "simple goodness." Pettigrew has been selling and delivering pies from her Red Oak base to various Dallas restaurants for the past 16 years. When discussing the longevity of her business, she also emphasized the role pies play in family gatherings.

Although Pettigrew probably wasn't making a fiscal comparison, why wouldn't pie be considered the more feasible dessert for families and large groups of people? Easily shared and cost-effective, a whole pie that yields eight slices costs an average of $15 while a single cupcake can cost a fourth of that.

Despite all this newly resurrected love for the pie, cupcake supporters remain staunchly devoted and aren't ready to disappear into the night. Dallas recently saw the opening of Gigi's cupcakes, a franchise based out of Nashville that has been spreading like wildfire throughout the south. Cupcake loyalty, however, hasn't been limited to the south, as defense of the confection has gotten personal, as recent Internet posts from cupcake defenders suggest.

Regardless of whether you're Team Cupcake or Team Pie, who can argue with the indelible portrait of the pie being America's national dessert? The saying is "American as apple pie," after all. As Dale Wootton of East Dallas' Garden Café (a restaurant known for their Key lime and coconut pies), put it, "The iconic image of a warm pie cooling in the window is ingrained in the heart and mind of every American, young and old. Before the feast we break the bread, at the end, we cut the pie."

There can't be a better argument for pie than that.

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