First, a bit of history. 2007 marked the first time that I visited New York City with a single, clear mission: eat the entire city. Seeing as how that was slightly unrealistic, I focused on finding anything in the New York food scene that, at that time, could not easily be found in the Bay Area. This meant two things: grand, luxurious, metropolitan fine dining, and cupcakes. At the time I thought the latter sounded just as silly as it does in that last sentence, but thanks to my little obsession with SNL’s Digital Short “Lazy Sunday,” I had to see what all the fuss was about. And I knew where I needed to go: Magnolia Bakery.
When I saw the line that pushed outside the door and wrapped around the corner, I thought to myself, “This is a joke. It’s just a goddamn cupcake.” I envisioned local New Yorkers watching the fanfare and laughing at all of us silly tourists. But I put my tourist shame aside and took my spot at the end of the line. After the “bouncer” out front, tasked with directing traffic in and out of the tiny bakery, gave me the green light to enter, I hurried inside and ordered two cupcakes.
I kept it classic: vanilla with chocolate buttercream frosting, and chocolate with vanilla buttercream frosting. Despite my initial reservations, after one bite everything clicked. These were not the dry, over-frosted cupcakes I’d gotten to know so well at Costco-supplied birthday parties. These were…artisan.
The use of buttercream should’ve given it away, as I’ve had plenty of experience making it for my world famous “Chocolate-dipped, chocolate-covered, Almond Macaron” recipe. Maintaining such a velvety consistency and keeping it from melting in that hot, closet of a bakery is impressive just in itself. I also realized that because they sell so fast, they’re constantly baking fresh batches at all hours of the day, and there’s no denying that when done right an out-of-the-oven baked good is 50 times better than one that’s been left on the shelf. New York City’s obsession with cupcakes wasn’t just something that had been championed by out-of-towners following the recommendations of “how to be cool in NYC” guide-books. Sure it was a bit pretentious, but the cupcake craze, with Magnolia at its center, happened because those cupcakes are f!@%&ing delicious.
I immediately went back to consume 10,000 more calories.
(A quick side-note to my story: The dessert-centric media has officially declared that the reign of the cupcake is over – I assume some national summit was held and a consensus was reached to retire the cupcake as the nation’s dessert du jour. Now new trends are taking the spotlight: interpretations on childhood classics like milk and cookies, smores, marshmallows, and doughnuts, as well as “mini desserts.” Apparently, mini cupcakes qualify as being on-trend, but watch out! More than a single bite would be considered gauche by those “in the know.” Despite the cupcake’s decline in popularity, in the six trips I’ve made to NYC since 2007, I’ve never missed a trip to Magnolia Bakery. At the end of the day they may not be the current food fad, but you know what? Those cupcakes are just as delicious as ever.)
For months after that first visit, I believed that Magnolia bakery was the end-all-be-all of cupcake excellence, and after trying a handful of different cupcakes in the Bay Area, I thought I’d have to travel 3,000 miles if I ever wanted to experience the magic again. But thanks to a brief internship at Yelp, I learned that cupcakes of Magnolia’s caliber exist in the Bay Area, you just have to know where to find them…Continue to Cupcakes Part 2
401 Bleecker St
New York, NY