I hope you’re not too terribly disappointed with me (Doug, Becky, and Carla) for my failed attempt at a “reader’s choice”. Last month, when I ventured to NYC for one night, I had high hopes for hitting a least one of your three suggestions, if not all. But by the time I reached the Big Apple, I was sleep deprived and quite soggy (it rained the whole time I was there). I did, however, muster up enough energy to walk over to Magnolia Bakery, which was just five blocks from my hotel.
Thoughts of failure lingered still with this game plan, as I had visited Magnolia Bakery months before. But because it was months before Cupcake Crusade’s establishment, I decided to carry on. Here’s what went down…
The Magnolia Bakery that I visited (1240 Avenue of the Americas) is smack dab in such an iconic part of Manhattan - Radio City Music Hall, the Rainbow Room, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue (actually on Fifth Avenue), are all just a stone’s throw away. Yet, stepping off the bold and bustling streets of NYC and into Magnolia Bakery is a complete transformation. Did I somehow teleport to Charleston, SC…circa 1950? The store is decorated in a sweet, southern, shabby chic style that I would love to model my entire house after. Pastel pinks and blue, sea-foam green subway tile, creamy white bead board, black and white tile floors, chalk board menus, silver cake stand after silver cake stand filled with thick and fluffy cakes – heavenly! And their cupcakes definitely matched the store , being the pretty little confectionery clouds that they were.
Quick digression…Magnolia Bakery was one of the forerunners on the cupcake scene, opening its doors in 1996 in Greenwich Village. Originally, cakes took center stage here but they often found themselves with leftover batter. One day, one of the owners decided to put that batter to use! Colorful cupcakes soon decorated their windowsills, and voila!, the cupcake craze was ignited! Then, when Magnolia Bakery was featured on a Sex and the City episode back in 2000, the craze really lit ablaze.
Ok, back to business. Knowing that I had to catch my train home shortly, I decided to get four cupcakes to go (so as to enjoy later with my husband and in-laws). They packaged them up nicely for me in a box, and off I went. Fast forward about 6 hours later, and the feasting commenced. (I must note that I did not take photos of my cupcakes. After bumping along for hours in the box, they didn’t look as pretty as they did in the store). After cutting each cupcake into four pieces, we each had our own tidbits of Red Velvet, Lemon, Truffled Chocolate, and Classic Vanilla cupcakes. Unfortunately, that’s all that I remember! Well… that, and that my family and I were not impressed and maybe even a little disappointed. Now, the bakery does have this disclaimer on its website: “Magnolia baked goods are meant to be enjoyed fresh from the oven. If you plan on storing them, we recommend placing them in an airtight container at room temperature only.” If only I had had an airtight container with me on that trip and we might’ve had a completely different story to tell here. But that may very well be the reason why these cupcakes were so underwhelming, too much time had lapsed from oven to mouth. I should mention though that when I visited Magnolia months before Cupcake Crusade was born, I consumed the cupcake within 30 minutes of purchasing and I vividly remember swooning. Was this because they really are swoon-worthy only when fresh out of the oven, or because I had not yet been exposed to all the amazing cupcakes that are now on my Top 10 list? This keeps me up at night. No, not really. But maybe it’s reason enough to go back to Magnolia next time I’m in NYC.
Let’s break it down now, shall we?!
Magnolia Bakery / Rockefeller Center location -1240 Avenue of the Americas, New York / www.magnoliabakery.com / Other NYC locations include Bleeker Street, Columbus Avenue, and Grand Central Terminal. Can also be found in Los Angeles and Dubai (yup, Dubai!)
1. Price: Classic cupcakes (vanilla and chocolate) = $2.75. Specialty cupcakes (Red Velvet, Lemon, Devil’s Food, etc.) = $3.25.
2. Room temperature: Yes, indeed!
3. Size: Standard
4. Vegan or gluten-free options: I could only find a flourless chocolate cake on their menu.
5. To-go packaging: Cardboard box with dividers, pretty logo sticker on top. Or you can purchase 12 mini cupcakes (vanilla or chocolate), which come packaged in a classic egg carton.
6. Milk for sale?: Yes – cold or steamed! Chocolate and soy, too. As well as coffees, teas, and apple juice.
7. Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: Specialty cakes and pies, icebox cakes and pies, mini cheesecakes, brownies, cookies AND banana pudding (I should’ve gotten some of that to eat on the spot!). Breakfast items include muffins and coffee cakes. Don’t overlook their t-shirts (they were very cute), as well as cookbooks, aprons, eco-friendly bags, and sprinkle jars (“Magnolia’s own pastel palette of hand colored sprinkles”).
8. Ambiance: Vintage sweetness. See my ramblings above, paragraph 3.
9. Service: Very pleasant. The woman who packaged my cupcakes was friendly and patient. And now that I think about it, the store was very clean. I’m sure they get a lot of foot traffic/tourists here, but everything looked well stocked and tidy.
Even though the cupcake craze can be traced back to Magnolia Bakery, I’m a bit dismayed to say that it didn’t place on my Top 10. Maybe next time…