Like many acts of pure genius, the invention of the cupcake is lost in the creamy fillings of history. According to food historian Andrew Smith, the first known recipe using the term “cupcake” appeared in an American cookbook in 1826. The “cup” referred not to the shape of the cake but to the quantity of ingredients; it was simply a downsized English pound cake. Lynne Olver, who maintains a Web site called the Food Timeline, has tracked down a recipe for cakes baked in cups from 1796. But we will probably never know the name of the first cook to take the innovative leap or whether it had anything to do with a six-year-old’s birthday party. “Just like other popular foods—the brownie comes to mind—it’s impossible to pinpoint a date of origin for the cupcake,” says culinary historian Andrea Broomfield.