15 Jul2007


I’d like to say that we went with an open mind. But anyone who has read this blog for many months knows I have a problem with hype; particularly when it comes to food hype. And there are few bakeries in America that come with more hype than The Magnolia Bakery. Nevertheless, since we had made a trip to the Greenwich Village to stock up on cheese at Murray’s, we decided to walk the 6-7 short blocks to the famous Magnolia mag2Bakery. Since it was just after lunch on a workday, the line at the bakery was thankfully short, at 8-10 people max, though even that was moving at a snail’s pace. I took a photo of these folks lined up as though the item they wished to acquire were some rare and difficult to craft delicacy… but almost 95% of them were simply buying cupcakes, and NOT a large selection of them at that. Once you made it into the store, and told them how many cupcakes you wanted to buy, you picked from say 24 cupcakes laid out on a table and frankly, most of them looked like plain vanilla or chocolate cupcakes (their bestsellers perhaps?) with various pastel buttercream icings and colorful sprinkles… At most there were 4 variations of cupcakes on offer that visit…

The Kid picked 2 Vanilla and 2 chocolate cupcakes and various colored frostings. We walked across to a nearby park bench and ate all four. They were okay; just okay. Probably a 7.0 or 7.5 out of a scale of 10. The vanilla cupcakes were a bit dry. The chocolate were a bit better. The frosting was smooth, made with good butter and appropriately sweet. I don’t like sprinkles but The Kid does. Our cupcake box got pooped on by a pigeon and mag3that was that. Unremarkable, really. So unremarkable I forgot to take specific notes on texture, size, etc. It was really a non-event. Though I did distinctly remember thinking they were better value than other overpriced cupcakes I have had recently; simply because in high-rent district NYC, and because these appear to be relatively labor intensive (woah, use a small spatula to swirl buttercream frosting and make the tough decision of which of 20 different colored sprinkles to use), they didn’t eat a hole into one’s pocket when compared with other snacking options… Now that I know that the original owners have sold out to big business (they probably made more money from publishing cookbooks), I wonder just how long the hype is going to keep this place afloat… Worse, with serious capital behind them, they might start popping up in hundreds of neighborhood locations across the globe like Starbucks Coffee Houses… I realize people have different tastes and the phenomenon of hundreds of folks lining up every day to get their cupcake fix is just something I don’t relate to, but I would definitely rather line up outside a bakery for a really good freshly baked pan de sal if someone made them the good old fashioned way…



  1. blackpearl304 says:

    I so agree, MM! I, too, cannot relate to the idea of lining up for a cupcake (or donut for that matter). It’s all just hype which at some point will die down with the proprietors hoping they would have gotten their ROI back by then. ;)

    Jul 16, 2007 | 5:47 am


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  3. bluegirl says:

    I bought their cookbook before I finally got to visit the bakery and taste the cupcakes first hand. My husband and I bought $30.00 worth of cupcakes, puddings, cheesecakes, cakes. We had 1 chance to try them and so we went for sugar overload! LOL!

    You’re right, it’s a lot of hype. It was decent, but not exceptional. I wonder if it’s the dry air in temperate zones that turns them dry. Although, my sister swears they not dry and are so yummy when freshly made.

    Out of $30.00 worth, only 2 products stood out in my mind. Banana Pudding and the Caramel Cheesecake. I would not line up 20 minutes for their cupcake. Now, their Banana Pudding and Caramel Cheesecake… that’s a different story! Those I would line up 20 minutes for.

    Sprinkles is the “THE” cupcake bakery in West Coast. I only had a 1 day layover so I didn’t get a chance to taste those. Sayang! It would have been interesting to taste how they compared with Magnolia’s.

    Jul 16, 2007 | 6:09 am

  4. Fabian Mangahas says:

    I thought they were pretty good. :) I didn’t find them dry; actually thought they were just right though not something to line up for. I was in line for twenty minutes on a weekend afternoon, so not bad. The frosting is very sweet…

    Jul 16, 2007 | 7:50 am

  5. mila says:

    I was dragged to Magnolia over 4 years ago by my friend, who said they were the best cupcakes ever. I found them overly sweet, not very moist, and was glad I didn’t buy more than one cupcake. And luckily our line was no more than a few people, otherwise I’d never have stayed.

    What made our visit worthwhile, at least, was a neighborhood used bookstore catty corner to Magnolia. Great book finds!

    Jul 16, 2007 | 8:39 am

  6. wysgal says:

    I liked their cupcakes more than you seem to have liked them … but I absolutely love love love their banana pudding … mmmm I’ll be in NY in a few weeks, looking forward to it already!

    Jul 16, 2007 | 9:05 am

  7. suzette says:

    i know this is where one of our more famous cupcakes maker apprenticed in and got her inspiration from…

    Jul 16, 2007 | 3:12 pm

  8. sacha says:

    I live on Bleecker St.two blocks from Magnolia. The Dept of Sanitation had closed the bakery because it was madumi. The owner said they would reopen soon in a bigger and better location.

    Jul 16, 2007 | 4:50 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    sacha, apparently they re-opened the next day or so… the news was identified the causes of the closure… yes, I suspect they will start to open in more locations if the new owner is to earn back the money he paid for the brand name…

    Jul 16, 2007 | 5:01 pm

  10. starbuxadix says:

    hmm, could it be ‘devil’s wear prada’ which causes the additional hype? Ãœ

    Jul 17, 2007 | 1:01 am

  11. Maria Clara says:

    I like their raspberry cream cheese breakfast buns. But their cupcakes are their best seller and crowd drawers. They hav a strong willed followers and not spending money on their publicity. They get free publicity. The only thing I love about their cupcakes is their swirled buttercream icing. I am a big copycat but cannot frost my cupcakes the way they do. Mine does not even come close. Mine look like they came back from a war zone. I know they use spatula but how they dangled that spatula is a big mystery to me.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 4:04 am

  12. eej says:

    This cupcake craze is fueled by savvy marketing ploy similar to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Burns fast and furious but sadly fizzles in the end.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 12:31 pm

  13. Risa says:

    Maria Clara, there is a video of how to make that swirl (just wrist technique and a small offset spatula as you guessed) on the Martha Stewart site. She had an episode where her staff secretly tested the cupcakes in the New York area, and they chose cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery as the fluffiest and most tender.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 4:20 pm

  14. Karen Andrews says:

    We moved from Newport Beach recently to Miami and I am looking to open a modern, but inviting homebaked bakery in South Beach. I can honestly say that Sprinkles cupcakes are okay, but they are laden with too much frosting and pretty overpriced at that. Plus, what if someone just wants a slice of fresh blueberry pie… The problem with these places like Sprinkles, Magnolia is that they are being reduced to a formula that makes it easy to franchise (and sell cookbooks), but they lose the creativity and integrity that drove their success in the first place. I think Mrs. Fields is a good example of that as well. The trick is to be a part of the neighborhood, not a brand icon… These guys will probably expand too fast and overshoot.

    Jul 17, 2007 | 10:34 pm

  15. Ted says:

    You guys need to try “Beard Papa” the best cream puff maker if you can find it, a lot better than the cup cakes. They have stores in oahu and san francisco and I think they have them in manila as well.

    Jul 20, 2007 | 5:53 am

  16. i like cheese says:

    i agree with ted but i live about 4 blocks away and i went there yesterday or the day before from not going there for 4 years because i think they were was too sweet. did u know that, the worse the wether, the longer the line? its intresting…
    p.s. im 10 years old not kidding!

    Apr 29, 2008 | 6:09 am


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