A review of dessert places in New York City would not be complete without mentioning the Magnolia Bakery; the place that made cupcakes cool. This old-fashioned bakery specializes in freshly made, brightly colored cupcakes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Locals and tourists come from all parts of town, at all times of day, to score these little treats and there is always a line around the block. The small bakery can barely accomodate 10 people, so a doorman usually holds the line outside and lets a few customers in at a time. Be prepared once you enter, since the cupcakes go fast and there will be several people alongside you trying to get in. Some simple rules that will make your visit to Magnolia a little easier:
1) Cupcakes are self-serve.
2) 12 cupcakes maximum per person.
3) You touch it, you buy it.
Once you enter the bakery, the self serve cupcake area will be immediately to your left. You can fit 4 cupcakes in each preassembled box, and even if you set out to only buy one, most people can’t help but fill all four slots (it’s a definite problem for me). Don’t worry if the selection of cupcakes is small when you start to fill your box. The staff continuously brings out new cupcakes and within a few minutes chances are good you’ll have more colors and flavors to choose from. Before you reach your maximum of 12 in the self serve area, keep in mind that special cupcakes, such as the coconut meringue and red velvet, are only available at the front counter. Magnolia also makes great cakes, brownies, cookies and other old-fashioned desserts which are usually hidden from view by the enormous line, so save room for non-cupcake choices that you’ll discover as you wait to pay.
What I bought: 4 cupcakes (1 chocolate cake/pink buttercream frosting, 1 yellow cake/purple buttercream frosting, 1 coconut meringue and 1 red velvet). The coconut meringue cupcake was my favorite of the bunch. The cake is moist and the frosting is lighter and smoother than any I’ve ever had on a cupcake. A note about the red velvet cupcakes: “Red velvet” is a yellow cake base with cocoa and red food coloring mixed in. Magnolia always has the red velvet cake available, but does not always have it in cupcake form. Magnolia tops their red velvet cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream frosting, but I prefer the cream cheese frosting found on the red velvet cupcakes at Magnolia’s sister bakery, the Buttercup Bakeshop.
Cost: Self serve cupcakes are $1.75 each and special cupcakes (at the front counter) are $2.25 each.
Wait: You’d be lucky not to find a line at the Magnolia bakery since it is busy all day, every day. Customers usually wait 10 minutes to get into the bakery, and another 10 minutes to pay.
Atmosphere: The bakery’s small space adds to its charm. The smell of buttery cakes takes over the entire store, and you can see the staff in the kitchen doing everything from mixing to frosting. The lime green walls, handwritten signs and vintage posters bring you back to a time where no one counted calories and the best desserts were made by Mom (well, maybe they still are).
Uniqueness: While many places now offer cupcakes, no one has captured their old school charm better than the Magnolia Bakery.
Clientele: Who doesn’t love cupcakes?
Location: The Magnolia Bakery is located directly across from a park, making it a perfect place to sit outside and enjoy your cupcakes on a warm day.
Staff: After two visits I have found the staff to be opposite of many negative reviews I have read. The staff is patient, helpful and above all, nice (which is especially difficult considering the line of people they are constantly dealing with).
Final Verdict: This leader of the cupcake revolution still heads the pack.
401 Bleecker St (at 11th Street)