There’s a cupcake brigade these days, and it’s swirling into its second decade. According to market research firm NPD, 669.4 million cupcakes were sold from October 2010 to October 2011. “Cupcake culture has been iconic in the U.S. for 100 years,” insists Steve Abrams, co-owner of New York’s Magnolia Bakery. American recipes for cake baked in small cups and the term “cup cake” cropped up earlier, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. “There is no cupcake craze.” Cupcakes represent half of Abrams’ company’s $20 million in annual sales, which surged following the bakery’s 2000 cameo appearance in HBO’s “Sex and the City.”

The portable, single-serving desserts are a standout for their eye appeal and never-ending flavor combinations. Since TV brought us Cupcake Wars in 2008, at least 30 cupcake shops and six cupcake trucks have sprung up around Washington.

One food trendspotter attributes cupcakes’ retail ascent to a convergence of factors. “If you look back at the modern arrival of the cupcake, it happened to coincide with and was the motivator for the niche, specialty bakery that evidently was ripe to come,” says Kara Nielsen of the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco.

At the same time, cupcake-only bakeries started to multiply in the mid to late 2000s, food blogs, review sites and user-generated content took off on the Internet and people who could suddenly self-publish their opinions needed something to talk about. The cupcake proved noteworthy, she says.

Washington is among the more than 60 global cities to host a Cupcake Camp, an informal, predominantly female gathering and competition with professional and amateur bakers and dozens of consumers to taste and judge.

“Cupcakes have become totally mainstream,” says trendologist Nielsen. “The novelty has worn off and they’ve become part of the landscape.”

Brad Lamm, a New York author and registered interventionist who appears on “The Dr. Oz Show,” has a different opinion. “I’m not against cupcakes,” he says. “I’m against the way we’re feeding ourselves now. If you’re not overweight, having one every day or three a week is no big deal.”