Magnolia Bakery: Hyped Up, but Worth a Lick

"Cupcakes are the opiate of the people." ~What Karl Marx would say if he were alive (and in New York City) today. Magnolia Bakery ...

"Cupcakes are the opiate of the people."
~What Karl Marx would say if he were alive (and in New York City) today.
Magnolia Bakery
200 Columbus Avenue (at 69th Street)
New York, NY 10023
(212) 724-8101

If you're wallowing in Wall Street woes and desperately aiming to escape the stench of your rotting retirement funds, then you might shimmy over to Magnolia Bakery on Columbus Ave., where sweet air swirls with serotonin and half-orgasmic sounds of patrons (many of them probably premenstrual, depressed, or filling some serious relationship voids with baked goods) licking crumbs off their lips. 

Camera-clad tourists peer through the front window, practically drooling (see Exhibit A below, lady in the bottom left-hand corner) as a guy with a red bandanna artfully slathers red velvet cupcakes with thick, white frosting. I'm not sure whether they're gaping at him or the cupcakes. 

Magnolia just might be a hedonistic haven for the goodhearted, hardworking girlie who has barely satisfied her snack craving with the wood-and-soot-flavored braid of dough otherwise known as the New York Pretzel...

Indeed, the place is adorable in all its kitschy-sweet bliss. Take, for example, the "I [cupcake] NY" t-shirts that sway on their overhead hangers as if to mutter, "You know you want me on your body."

The shiny pressed-tin ceiling reminded me of a chocolate bar wrapper, and the mosaic of blue-and-white floor tiles, some arranged in the shape of daisies, harked back to a vintage-style ice cream parlor from my childhood. And what's not to love about the walls lined with 1940s and 50s style plaques dazzled with phrases such as "10 Cakes Husbands Like Best"(not that we really give a flying cupcake what husbands like, but still...)?

Of course, the fresh cupcakes practically begged me to take a bite. But since there's nowhere to sit, my former college roomie and I snuck into a nearby Starbucks and shared one while chatting about careers and relationships. I swear it was like a scene in a chick flick.

Aww...look at those purdy pastels. Sorry about the crappy-resolution Blackberry photos.

While the chocolate-frosted vanilla cupcake was certainly fluffy and moist inside, it wasn't significantly better than the Duncan Hines ones my mom used to make for my school bake sales.  Although very satisfying, the frosting on Magnolia's mass-produced cuties had a slightly synthetic taste. If squintingly sweet is what you want, that's what you'll get.

For $2.50 a pop, and $3.00 for what I call "commodity cupcakes" (i.e. their sinful-sounding maple cream cheese-frosted ones), you could just as easily splurge on a Cinnabon big enough to share with three of your friends. Or you could instead indulge at one of the two
Buttercup Bake Shops, which I have yet to try.

Still, there's got to be a good reason for the anaconda lines that swoop around Magnolia. 

Other bestsellers include mini apple crisps, peanut butter Heath bar blondies, individual pumpkin cheesecakes and mint chocolate pudding pie. There's also the creamy, mellow-yellow banana pudding laced with vanilla wafers and real banana slices, the maple-cream cheese Whoopi Cookies, or the Hummingbird Cake with pineapples, bananas, and pecans. But $48 for a 3-layer, 9''cake? Let's get serious here, baby. 

Maybe their slogan should be "Forget your troubles, come on get fat n' happy as your wallet thins out."

Still, my friend Jess gushes about their red velvet cupcakes and swears they're the best in the world. Too bad the only ones left when we went there were for someone else's special order. 

If you've had an amazing experience at
Magnolia Bakery, please let me know. I'll go back to try whatever sweet you suggest the next time PMS rolls around.

Magnolia Bakery, the third of its kind, opened on Oct. 8, 2008 near Rockefeller Center.

Other locations:

  • 1240 Sixth Avenue (at 49th Street), New York, NY 10036
  • 401 Bleecker Street (at West 11th Street), New York, NY 10014

Overall Grade: B+ 

Here's the Nay and the Yay:

  • Nowhere to sit
  • Bland, somewhat watery cappuccino (about $3.50 for a small)
  • Overly-sweet frosting (but that's definitely your call--it just might suit your taste buds)
  • Exorbitant cake prices

  • Inundated with endorphins
  • Heavenly scent
  • Cute decor
  • Super-friendly barista 
  • Warm and cheerful staff
  • Variety of desserts

Is yum the word? You go there and report back to me.

Get there from Grand Central Station:


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1 comment

Jen said...

You are a riot :) I've been so curious about this bakery, but live in Mass, and haven't been there (yet). I did buy a baking-minded friend of mine their cookbook (bakebook?) in hopes that she'd reward with goodies to tide me over until I can hit up the real deal in NYC.