Friends, let’s test your cupcake knowledge. Do you know which bakery is credited for starting the cupcake craze?
Insert Jeopardy music to allow a few moments to think…
It’s Magnolia Bakery in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Ever since the ladies of Sex in the City enjoyed their frosted confections over a decade ago, we were hooked.
Fast-forward 12 years and the cupcake industry is still going strong, with a plethora of brands to choose from. Now more than ever, setting yourself apart from other cupcakeries is key.
As the initiator of the cupcake phenomenon, I was curious to see what Magnolia Bakery was doing in this regard. Thus, I planned a reconnaissance of their Los Angeles location.
The LA shop wasn’t much to look at from the outside. Inside, there were separate counters for each dessert sold – cupcakes, cakes, etc. The decor was vintage. The service was efficient, but didn’t feel warm. Automated is a better description.
My cupcakes were $3.50 each, which seemed pricey. Not that I’m unaccustomed to such a cost. However, these cupcakes were on the smaller side of the spectrum and did not appear generously frosted. From what I gathered, I was being charged for the Magnolia Bakery experience.
So far I was not impressed. This was starting to feel like an over-hyped, big city bakery. I willed myself to remain optimistic and drove home to begin my critique.
I started with their November Feature Cupcake, Snickerdoodle. It’s a cinnamon cake topped with meringue and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
First let me say, my cupcake did not look like their website photo. Perhaps they bake their cupcakes differently in LA versus NYC?
Now I love Snickerdoodle cookies. When captured correctly in a cupcake, it’s heavenly… This was just okay.
I enjoyed the cake’s cinnamon flavor. However, since I didn’t have an adequate amount of meringue or frosting to help enhance, I wasn’t satisfied. Alas, this cupcake could’ve been so much more.
Next I tried their Hummingbird Cupcake. It’s a banana, pineapple and pecan cake with cream cheese frosting.
I’ve only had one other Hummingbird experience and it was amazing.
In my eyes, Magnolia Bakery had serious competition. Moreover, as a new favorite, I regarded this flavor highly.
The cake was soft. The pecans were evident and I tasted the banana; yet I couldn’t detect the pineapple. The frosting was creamy and its amount was sufficient for a petite cupcake. Overall, it was good, but not great.
I give Magnolia Bakery in Los Angeles 3.5 out of 5 stars.
LA Weekly ranked it as one of the 10 Best Cupcake Shops in Los Angeles, citing vanilla, chocolate and red velvet as their specialties. Admittedly, I didn’t try any of those. Still, I disagree with their rating on this one.
Based on what I sampled, I’ve tasted better for my dollar around Los Angeles – SusieCakes, Sprinkles and Crumbs Bake Shop – if we’re talking shops with multiple locations.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As such, Magnolia Bakery should indeed feel admired and recognized for their place in cupcake history.
Nonetheless, in this competitive landscape, it’s apparent others have improved on their addictive formula.