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When does a muffin become a cupcake…

July 19, 2011

This question has plagued us for centuries… okay, well, maybe not centuries, but over the past few years I have seen more and more questionable muffins.  According to Wikipedia:

A muffin is an American English name for a type of bread that is baked in small portions. Many forms are somewhat like small cakes or cupcakes in shape, although they usually are not as sweet as cupcakes and generally lack frosting. Savory varieties, such as cornbread muffins, also exist. They generally fit in the palm of an adult hand, and are intended to be consumed by an individual in a single sitting.

and this is opposed to a cupcake:

A cupcake (British English: fairy cake; Australian English: patty cake or cup cake) is a small cake designed to serve one person, frequently baked in a small, thin paper or aluminum cup. As with larger cakes, frosting and other cake decorations, such as sprinkles, are common on cupcakes.

Okay, I get it, the line between muffin and cupcake isn’t all that clear, and there is an opportunity for confusion…  For example, if you put some chocolate chips in the muffin, is it a muffin or a cupcake…  I personally think that it is a cupcake, but it is generally accepted that it is still a muffin.  Still, there is grey and there is black and white and well, this is what I saw at McDonalds yesterday:

Double Chocolate Muffin with Oreo Crumble!?!?!  I guess a crumble isn’t technically an icing, but get serious… calling this a muffin is such a stretch….

The Real Problem

The real problem is that people think muffins are healthy.  They aren’t.  The are no where near healthy.  They are very, very bad for you.  Sure, throwing in some fruit doesn’t really help the fact that you are having a refined carbfest!  The original bran muffin, the one our grandma would have recognized had a lot less sugar and a lot more fibre, but it was still just a mix of carbs and fats and mostly carbs.  These things are terrible.  What makes them worse is that over the years manufacturers have increased the sugar in a muffin to increase its shelf life.  Over time we have gotten used to worse and worse muffins, until now we aren’t shocked by the double chocolate muffin with Oreo Crumble.  Hey, even the Quaker guy likes it, although I am not sure what in the world a quaker has to do with McDonalds, Oreos or these ungodly creations!

I could rant about these ‘muffins’ all day, but why don’t we get down to the facts.  There are at least 3 muffins for sale at McDonalds.  The healthiest (??) is the Apple Bran Muffin as you might expect.  What makes it the healthiest though isn’t its bran, but instead its size:

The Apple Bran muffin is a measly 75 grams.  Eating the whole muffin will only cost you 150 calories which isn’t bad.  If you combined it with a lowfat protein source you could probably get through the morning without doing too badly.  The thing is though, with Bran in the name, you would expect to get more than 1 gram of fibre.  This is a terrible food choice, but the best of the muffins for sure.

This brings us to the Blueberry Muffin:

Yes, you read that properly… 410 calories!! The equivalent calories to a whole meal!  There are only 6 grams of protein in this meal as well, along with 64 grams of carbohydrates, which include 30 grams of sugar!  Seriously… 30 grams of sugar!!  It is about 1 and 1/2 times the size of the Apple Bran muffin, so it might fill you up a little more, but even without bran in the name, it still pulls 2g of fibre.  That is pathetic by the way…  The Blueberry muffin is typically one of the worst muffins you can have.  It is quite often full of sugar and put in more of a cake muffin than a bran muffin.  In fact, I would have argued it was the worst muffin… but then, McDonalds went and created this:

The double chocolate Oreo crumble muffin has 450 calories!  Remember, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 510 calories and this is a muffin.  It tops in at 43 grams of sugar, more than 1/3 of the whole muffin is sugar!     By comparison to the Blueberry Muffin it is only 40 more calories which come from the additional 9 grams of weight.  With that though come 13 extra grams of sugar and 2 additional grams of saturated fat, along with another gram of fibre.

The most disturbing thing about this muffin is that it would appear from its calories and weight it must me a monster, a huge oversized muffin with a massively oversized muffin top.  The thing is, when you actually look at the muffin it is quite small and compact.  The muffins below, the double chocolate ones, don’t look even as large as the muffins next to them, and yet, 450 calories!!


I once had an argument with my dad about whether auto racing was a sport or not.  I should have known better, for one my dad is one hell of an arguer, but more importantly, I took a philosophy class in University about classifying art.  The end of both the argument and the class was the same.  Art and sports have very open definitions, but just because something fits these open criteria, it doesn’t mean it is equal with a Michelangelo or the decathlon.  It is what it is.  Auto racing is awesome, takes tons of training, split second decision making, lighting fast reflexes and tremendous physical conditioning, along with a death wish.  There is no doubt that it is competitive and very hard to achieve greatness.  Why would that not be a sport… .  I guess the muffin cupcake argument falls into this category as well.  Does it really matter if we call this baked good a muffin or a cupcake?  Does it change whether it is a healthy choice or not?  Of course not.  You shouldn’t be eating muffins or cupcakes, so it really doesn’t matter at all!

Way to go McDonalds for pushing the definition of a muffin to the philosophical limits by the way, and for creating another food product that really doesn’t need to see the light of day.  I can’t even look at the picture of the actual muffins.  They are making me so hungry, they look so dense and moist and chewy.  I bet they taste incredible, but I cannot imagine where I am going to fit a 450 calorie cupcake into my diet.  Maybe I will get one for my next birthday, if they stay around that long, but I really, really hope they don’t.  I cannot afford physically to eat one of those muffins.  I hear they cost $1.09 which truly is ironic, because the physical cost is MASSIVE, the financial cost… nothing…

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