Thursday, June 15, 2006

Magnolia Bakery - Bleecker Street - New York

Brits just don't 'get' cupcakes, sorry :(

photograph picture magnolia bakery new york cupcakes

When we were in New York recently, I made no plans for cupcakes. But when we were strolling through a village (?) I suddenly spied a charming little cafe with the words Magnolia Bakery above the door.

"Oooh!", I exclaimed to my English mother and sister, "This place is really famous, we have to try it".

Inside the wistful, old-fashioned and charmingly cluttered bakery we helped ourself to a little box of extremely large cup cakes from the limited choice still available on the various trays lined with grandma's paper doilies. It looked like those creations had, literally, been selling like hotcakes.

Later that day, when we sunk our teeth into the collection of moist cakes with their pale pastel crowns, sprinkled with itsy bitsies, we were sadly unimpressed. You see, Brits are brought up on Fairy Cakes, not cupcakes and we are not used to a sickly frosting that towers as high as the cakes themselves. My personal preference is for a thin water-icing, preferably with a lemony tang. Even when a Brit uses buttercream to top her fairy cake, she is more likely to spread it very thin. How on earth do you New Yorkers stay svelte on these things?

Anyway, I have learnt my lesson. Next time I visit New York and drop into the Magnolia Bakery, you can be sure I am going to take the advice of a local, who knows that the charm of the place is about a lot more than just cupcakes. You'll see...

photograph picture magnolia bakery new york cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery Inc
(212) 462-2572
401 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Cafe Bassam, San Diego, California

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Magnolia Bakery - Bleecker Street - New York


  • At 15/6/06 12:09, Blogger Catherine said…

    I'm with you Sam! I can't stand all that frosting! Alas, the kids love them and mine will just eat the frosting -urrhh!

  • At 15/6/06 13:46, Blogger Lea said…

    Hmmm... I always thought I was weird for scraping all the icing off the tops of cupcakes! Come to find there is a whole nation of peeps who prefer it that way! No wonder my Brit fiance loves me so ;-)

  • At 15/6/06 13:48, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Having worked in a UK-based office before, I've heard from many a Brit about just much more sugary everything is here in the US. I thought the Magnolia cupcakes were ok, but I agree there was way too much frosting - too much sugar even for me! I like cupcakes, but many times I think the frosting/cake ratio is a little too skewed.

  • At 15/6/06 13:58, Blogger The Old Foodie said…

    Hi Sam! I love this post. I am a Yorkshire girl by birth, although I've been Australian since I was a teenager. In Oz we call them "patty cakes" - I used to make them in industrial quantities when my kids were little - for parties, fund-raisers, freezer supplies. I dont know where my recipe came from originally, a magazine I think. Did you ever make them into "Butterfly cakes"?

  • At 15/6/06 14:02, Blogger Kate Croft said…

    Recommendation for cupcakes in New York: Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery on Rivington and Essex in the Lower East Side. Well-kept secret - infinitely better that the frowsy buttercream at Magnolia (where you *should* have had the banana pudding - to die for!). I recommend the lemon cupcakes or the Sunshine. =)

  • At 15/6/06 15:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I hate typical bakery icing which is faux buttercream--white shortening and powdered sugar with flavorings. A slightly more upscale buttercream involves butter instead of shortening, but is still as sickly sweet. The way I make the faux buttercream is half butter, half cream cheese, and less sugar, plus flavorings. It tastes better, the cream cheese gives it structure without having to use so much sugar, and it isn't quite as fattening.

    My favorite icings, however, are real French, Italian and Swiss buttercreams, which I have not made since culinary school, but which I still adore.

    That all said--I hate too much icing on cupcakes! UGH! It is gross. A thin coating is much better.

    I also don't get the current American adult fixation on cupcakes, either, but that is me.

    I'd rather have pie, anyway.

  • At 15/6/06 15:55, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Well, I can't abide cupcakes either. I know they're fashionable, but when I was a kid they were prevalent (birthday parties, lunchboxes) and usually crappy. I had my fill then, and no matter how good they claim to be now, no thanks for this Yank. :)

  • At 15/6/06 16:07, Blogger Dive said…

    "TWO! No six! No 12! Baker's Dozen!
    I tell you that I'm crazy for these cupcakes, cousin!

    No doubt that bakery has all the bomb frostings...


    I think the SNL Chronic (what?) cles of Narnia rap has immortalized that bakery in the minds of many who've never been there.


  • At 15/6/06 17:16, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    See, I LOVE frosting but have no use for the cupcake itself. I'm sort of looking forward to when this whole cupcake trend finally passes. I'm sick of them. Did that come off cranky?

  • At 15/6/06 19:38, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Okay, Sam -- You and Grant should get together with a box of cupcakes: he'll eat the frosting down to the last 1/4 inch and then you can take the cake,

    Trouble with today's cupcakes is that they're too large, like today's bagels, doughnuts and muffins, and almost everything else in the US of A. I remember them more as half-a-cup cakes when I was a child, and not over-frosted.

    I still hope to make your fairy cakes sometime soon.

  • At 15/6/06 20:25, Blogger Molly said…

    Sam, your fairy cakes are beautiful! I can't wait to try them.

    In the meantime, I wholeheartedly agree about Magnolia Bakery. Brandon and I shared two cupcakes from there in March, and neither of us wanted to finish them. Bleh. Almost flavorless! I second Kate's recommendation for Sugar Sweet Sunshine, where they not only have great frosting, but they use a properly moderate amount! If you should find yourself out in NYC again, and willing to give another cupcake a shot, you know what to do...

  • At 15/6/06 22:40, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Totally agree with you Sam - I'm not a fan of their cupcakes, I go for their banana pudding (the slimy gooey American kind!)

  • At 16/6/06 07:55, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    I think your cupcakes with faries were a lot more visually appealing :)

  • At 16/6/06 10:45, Blogger Sam said…

    catherine - do you remember Lyons chocolate cupcakes in the boxes - i used to prefer the fondant on those ones I must admit

    lea - I declare you an honarary Brit from this moment forth...

    anita - i think in America they put too much sugar in savoury dishes - let alone the sweet ones

    old foodie - yes butterfly cakes - I keep meaning to make a batch and blog it

    kate - next time in NYC I will surely markyour cupcake words!

    Barbara - pie - now you are talking! Pie and clotted cream, oh how I wish..

    cookiecrumb - what with your outrageous political views ;P and your taste in food, how can you call yourself an American, huh?

    Baconpress - next time i carry them back in my luggage for you

    Grant - they have been getting rather a lot of press recently But the always LOOK so pretty!

    Molly - yes I know exactly what to do!

    gerald - I am bummed i missed out on the banana pudding now

    wmm - are you sure you werent just seduced by the fairies, the cakes themselves are very simple...

  • At 16/6/06 11:21, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i was in london in february and came agross the hummingbird bakery in notting hill. there was a sign that mentioned "american cupcakes" or something similar, so i was intrigued and went inside to see what was so "american" about them. the nice man behind the counter said they come from american recipes. (magnolia perhaps?) i was too stuffed from lunch to have one, but they sure looked good! and such a cute shop. it is on my list of places for my next visit. looks like the cupcake craze is making it's way across the pond. but maybe with a little less frosting!

  • At 16/6/06 14:18, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    Faires are pretty damn cool!

  • At 16/6/06 22:43, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Since we didn't get to see you on your most recent trip, Sam, we'll have to take you out for a banana pudding and one of those blondies when you return.

    Actually, if you're up for another go at cupcaking, there's a Chinese bakery we know that makes a very British fairy cake (with or without the very non-British red bean sauce).


  • At 18/6/06 19:52, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've always thought Magnolia cupcakes were WAY overrated. Even Sugar Sweet Sunshine (which was started by former Magnolia employees) though better is really too sweet for me. My current favorite cupcake is Mitchell London's golden,fine-crumbed vanilla cake with a dense hat of dark chocolate fudge icing. They are available at his shop Burgers and Cupcakes on 9th Avenue in Manhattan.

  • At 11/8/06 05:00, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have just returned from my first trip to New York ans while I was there my sister made a visit to your little bakery and bought come cup cakes. They were lovely, some found them a little sweet, but I thought they were mmmmm.....

    Wish I had gone with her so I couldve tried other things. Will definatley be making a return visit. See you then!!


  • At 30/11/06 08:32, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very surprised that you say Brits don't care for Magnolia-esque cupcakes given that Hummingbird Bakery located on Portobello Road in London serves almost identical type cupcakes (they even have a Magnolia Bakery recipe book on their shelves). Other flourishing cupcake establishments are appearing all over London: fru fru cupcakes are delivered all over London ( and Primrose Bakery (previously only distributing through the likes of Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Melrose & Morgan) have just opened a shop in Primrose Hill. None of these cupcakes have wafer thin frosting on top.

  • At 30/11/06 08:34, Blogger Sam said…

    thankfully I left London 6 years ago, long before this disturbing chain of events occurred.

    call me old fashioned, but in my heart the fairy cake still rules

  • At 27/12/06 09:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Must you Brits complain about everything? My tea has gone cold, my nickers are too far up my arse, there's way too much frosting on my cupcake... Was that not apparent when you picked the cupcake you were going to purchase?

  • At 29/12/06 10:32, Blogger Sam said…

    Why are bitchy comments only ever left by anonymous commenters?

    Looks like it takes a complainer to know a complainer.

    Happy complaining and a blog bitching 2007 to all wimpy, characterless, scaredy-cat commenters the world over. Long may you come to my blog and make snide, snippy remarks without the brevity of leaving your name. Enjoy...

  • At 14/2/07 17:10, Blogger swift41 said…

    Sam, you are crazy! My wife and I frequentely travel to NYC and we never miss an opportunity to visit the Magnolia Bakery!

    Brent Swift
    Norman, OK.

  • At 14/2/07 17:11, Blogger swift41 said…

    Sam, you are crazy! These cupcakes are the bomb. My wife and I travel to NYC for many events, but never miss an opportunity to visit the Magnolia Bakery!

    Brent Swift
    Norman, OK.

    Go Sooners!

  • At 15/2/07 21:32, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    why waste time measuring American cupcakes with British cakes? How does that help your readers understand what Magnolia has to offer?

  • At 15/2/07 22:20, Blogger Sam said…

    Mr Swift - no doubt - I am crazy - did I ever claim otherwise?

    Anonymous - my readers have grown to expect a British slant on all things I write - that's where I come from, there is no use denying it.

    Would you prefer I was spiritless and disguising my roots?

    Now wouldn't that make me bland, like a certain little cake I know.

    Measuring Magnolia's cake's against British ones actually helps my British readers to know what to expect - and I don't see why a British reader is any less valuable than an American one. Just like a Magnolia cupcake, I can't please all of the people all of the time.

  • At 15/2/07 22:21, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So stick that sprinkle of wisdom down your gob and eat it.

  • At 27/3/07 22:02, Blogger Brooke & Jez said…

    I agree that Magnolia cupcakes are nothing special -- they're overhyped. I've had probably half a dozen over the course of a few years, and found them to be just a small notch above grocery store cupcakes. Cake's always dry, too much frosting. PLUS, the staff in there can be really rude.

    However, MY cupcakes -- fantastic. Moist cake, homemade buttercream frosting, not too much... :-)

  • At 4/4/07 12:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You can't knock their presentation though -- those cupcakes look like a true delight.

    Speaking of manhattan's village, I am campaigning to get the West Village, a Manhattan neighbourhood touting the largest concentration of Britons in new york, to be recognized as "Little Britain."

    It's in the spirit of Chinatown and Little Italy, and would place Little Britain on town maps to start..

    Hope you all can help out and sign our petition!

    Sign the petition at!
    (deadline is May 1!)

    Check us out on YouTube:

  • At 29/8/07 19:24, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well don't bloody eat them!

  • At 19/9/07 10:43, Blogger Janeway69 said…

    This, from a person whose culture reeks with dairy,including things like "clotted cream"?!!

    Makes my arteries slam shut just thinking about it.

  • At 18/10/07 08:58, Blogger Sam said…

    At least we don't put sugar in our dairy like American's do.

  • At 31/12/07 10:34, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Magnolia is overrated...everyone thinks it must be good because there's a line around the building, but the building only fits a few people at a time. Once you wait and get anything it's not that good. Herd mentality.

  • At 4/3/08 05:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you like just a swirl of buttercream frosting, or fondant icing, try the Little Cupcake Company - they deliver anywhere in the country. Their cakes are really pretty! I ordered some for my nephew's first birthday and they were really lovely.

  • At 26/6/08 22:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I LOVE MAGNOLIA BAKERY....the cupcakes are to die for!!! the icing melts in your mouth and the cupcake is always soft as a pillow!! The sex and the city girls had it right all along..MAGNOLIA ROCKS.

  • At 13/8/08 12:42, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ok let me just tell u. they arent world famous for no reason. The mountain high frosting was there for a reason.
    If u had any taste buds you would recognize that the subtle sweetness of the cake itself is balanced out by the buttercream frosting. That frosting is a compliment to the cake, they brlong together. U dunt bit off the frosting or off the cake. You bite it altogether to get the wonderful taste.
    and for the 411, americans are much more slim and healthier than Brits
    U brits are damned bloody fools.

  • At 13/8/08 13:07, Blogger Sam said…

    Making such a personal anonymous attack in the comments is spineless.

    Did you notice how I critiqued the cakes without personally attacking them, by putting the onus for their failure on the difference in my culture and upbringing. I didn't say the cakes were bad - I just said we didn't like them that way. I also linked to a favourable review of other items the bakery serves.

    Next time you leave a comment see if you can do it nicely without stopping as low as a personal race-based attack?

    The USA leads the world in the obesity stakes but Britain has nothing to boast about in this respect since their record isn't much better.

    Let's try and keep things honest, people, please.

  • At 1/5/09 06:14, Anonymous Anita WinterNith said…

    "and for the 411, americans are much more slim and healthier than Brits"..


    Do you even realise that American has the highest concentration of obesity in the world?

    Anyway. Let's get back to what we started at. Cupcakes. I have not tried Magnolia in NYC but I am a frequent customer of Hummingbird in London.

    Though I adore Hummingbird (red velvet) I find the staff quite rude.. especially at the Kensington store.

    Now judging from internet reviews, Magnolia's customer service is tad horrendous as well.

    I guess when they have reputation, and they know people will come anyway whether they're nice or not.. they forgot the golden rule: CUSTOMER IS KING!

    *I have stopped visiting Hummingbird. Yes their cupcakes are tasty, but I can't respect the staff who obviously don't respect their customers.


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