Nowadays, everyone is going cuckoo for cupcakes. With a burst of swirly icing and colored sprinkles, they have exploded into an absolute craze. As innocent as they may seem, cupcakes are no longer just for kid’s birthday parties—they mean serious business. There are cupcake bakeries with lines out the door, cupcake TV shows, even cupcake carts (genius! I’ve got to check that out!). And now, it’s becoming more and more common for the bride to cut the cupcake, with tiers of the adorable frosted confection lined up to the ceiling as a modern-day alternative to the traditional wedding cake.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved cupcakes. I mean, they’re cakes…in a cup. They are portable and delicious, cute and colorful; they are a party in the palm of your hand. How is it that only until recently cupcakes are being considered a big deal, cool for all occasions, a smart business opportunity to capitalize on? What took so long?
I recently visited the Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan, one of the many bakeries that have become well known for their cupcakes. Magnolia first gained recognition from an episode of Sex and the City where the show’s characters sit in front of the bakery, devouring cupcakes in their thousand dollar shoes. Although people go crazy for their cupcakes, Magnolia serves all kinds of baked goodies including a variety of old-fashioned ice box cakes and pies.
My mom, who is also a cupcake lover, had wanted to taste Magnolia cupcakes for a while. I got her a gift card for Christmas to make sure she would get try them but it wasn’t until July that we finally got around to it. Of course, I was also curious; kind of like in my post on Momofuku, I was tired of hearing about it and just wanted to try it already.
We went to the original Bleecker Street location in Manhattan’s West Village. A tiny red corner shop with lace drape-adorned windows and a blue awning, those who pass by get a glimpse of scrumptious cloche-covered cakes and a rainbow of different cupcakes that seem to be depleting by the second. They make everything fresh from scratch everyday at Magnolia and you can see the bakers hard at work through the store front.
Inside, there are cupcake crazed patrons squeezing through the store’s close quarters to “ooh” and “aah” over which frosted treat they would like. Various sized boxes are provided and you serve yourself to the options available. Self-serve in a bakery is not something you hear often, but they go so fast at Magnolia it is probably the most logical way to do things; the rapid turnover is also enough to lessen the worries of most germaphobes.
Magnolia offers a list of specialty cupcakes on their menu with a bunch of mouthwatering colors, flavors, toppings, and designs. Although I would never be one to resist or be able to contain myself in the presence of a gourmet cupcake, I’ll take vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream any day. Our box was filled with classic cupcake combinations along with one red velvet and one “hummingbird” with sweet cream cheese icing. We took them over to the park across the street and had our own little Christmas celebration in July.
You can’t really go wrong with a cupcake. Magnolia’s were simple and fresh. The cake was bouncy and moist, and they looked as cute as the store itself. The colorful sprinkle covered icing was sweet, smooth and dreamy, and the chocolate was super chocolaty. Winners in my book!
Magnolia has several other bakeries in New York City, as well as locations in Los Angeles and Dubai. Drool over the menu.