Magnolia Bakery, overrated?

Images via

According to the New York Post, yes:

Head down to the corner of Bleecker and 11th Street on any given day, and you’re likely to find a line of some 40 people snaking around the corner, rain or shine. What are they waiting for - citizenship? Springsteen tickets? A chance to win custody of Britney’s kids?

Nope. Cupcakes - and oddly enough, not even ones with weed baked in them. We asked.

Such is the power of Magnolia Bakery, the city’s legendary mini-cake emporium, which is to baked goods what Jack Nicholson is to womanizing and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to ill-fitting menswear.

Only one question remains: Um, why exactly? Here’s the cold, hard truth: Magnolia’s cupcakes aren’t that good. And they’re certainly not worthy of all the hype, articles and long lines. But instead of shrinking, Magnolia’s myth is expanding: The bakery recently announced it will open an Upper West Side branch.

The problem is not exclusive to Magnolia or even baked goods...

What do you think? Do you like Magnolia's cupcakes? What about the ubiquitous buzz about Magnolia? Are you excited for a 2nd Magnolia location? Tell us in the comments or write to us.


Anonymous said…
I agree that Magnolia is overrated _ there are better cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine and at Burgers & Cupcakes, frankly. It's just kind of a pastry juggernaut at this point. Their banana pudding is great, though!
Anonymous said…
Sahara-dry cake + tinny, oversweet frosting = terrible. I've never had a good cupcake from Magnolia; they've always been nearly inedible.
Nichelle said…
Sugar Sweet has even better banana pudding!

I love Magnolia for the simple fact that they rekindled the love of cupcakes for adults.
i dont know why people like a 50-lb., dry, cupcake with 10 lbs of heavy frosting. a box of duncan heines cake mix makes a better cupcake than magnolia. sprinkles' cupcakes and buttercup bakeshop cupcakes are equally terrible. Crumbs' cupcakes are the only ones i've found in nyc that are moist and delicious.

people need a reality check.
Anonymous said…
The many times I visited NYC, I always wanted to visit Magnolia Bakery. After reading this comments, I guess I'll save a trip!
TOTALLY overrated! Dry, crumbly cupcakes, ick!
LowerEatSide said…
OMG... if only I could shout it from the rooftops: Magnolia is so overrated! As a bunch of other people mentioned, Sugar Sweet Sunshine has MUCH better cupcakes! I understand loving to do the NYC tourist things, but if you're looking for flavor, head to the LES!
Dana said…
Okay so Magnolia is overratted yes. But tour companies and guide books and Sex in the City has pushed it down our mouths!

Anyway i Love Billy's Bakery the best. (besides the fact I used to live down the stret from there). YUM BILLYS!
roopa said…
Magnolia cupcakes are horrible. Dry, bland cakes, and their frosting is absolutely atrocius - it is incredibly chalky and grainy and tastless save for the ton of sugar in it.

Seriously, a box of Duncan Hines is better.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine makes better cakes than Magnolia, but their frosting is just as bad. Ick.
Mindy Moo said…
I haven't tried a Magnolia cupcake from Magnolia myself as I am in Australia. But I have tried the Magnolia vanilla cupcake recipe and they are a great cupcake.
Not sure if it is the vanilla pod I use or my oven, but no one has ever complained about the Magnolia cupcake recipe when I have made it.
Anonymous said…
Buttercup Bakery has the best cupcakes. And you can so buy more than in Magnolia, I was in cupcake heaven!!
Susy K said…
i hated hated hated magnolia cupcakes..the cake is sooo incredibly dry and the frosting tastes like shortening ..totally disgusting..the red velvet cupcake-'most popular flavor' has incredible flavor, that is if you think bitter is a good flavor for cupcakes!
Amanda said…
i LOVE magnolia bakery cupcakes!! the combination of the slightly salty cake and the overly sweet frosting is to die for! the vanilla with vaniall buttercream frosting is admittedly the best offering from this bakery, so if you tried anything with a chocolate frosting, you owe it to yourself to go back and give it another try. i have had a couple of other items from this bakery, and again, the vanilla cupcakes are the best!!
Anonymous said…
I do not watch Sex and the City, but am aware of its cultural significance, so when a friend told me about the cupcake place featured in the show, I had to try it.

I took my girlfriend to NYC for a long weekend, and I planned to feature a cupcake tour. Unfortunately, time constraints limited us to just two bakeries: Magnolia and Billy's (Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Buttercup, Babycakes, and Crumbs will have to wait their turn). From reading online reviews, I was totally set up to hate one and love the other.
Once we saw the stylin' dudes at Billy's, we wanted to love that place even more.

However, we both agreed that Magnolia's cupcakes were really good, and Billy's were notsogood. The Magnolia cakes were moist and had a fluffy, yet adequately dense texture. I agree that the icing was very sweet, (I'd say the vanilla was too sweet), but we enjoyed it a lot. The only other negatives with the $2 window cupcakes were that the chocolate cakes weren't sweet enough to match up with either the vanilla or chocolate frostings. However, that made it perfect for the mocha frosting. Magnolia's was also my first experience with red velvet; I was disappointed, and hope that red velvet at other bakeries is much better.

Billy's cupcakes were were dry and heavy, crumbling off of my fork. The icing was also crusty and grainy. I really wished the cupcakes were more to my tastes; the crowd/environment certainly were. We did not have the famous banana cupcakes, but the the yellow (daisy?) and carrot cupcakes did not show enough promise to make us want to go back and try them.

To wrap it up, Magnolia's is overrated in the sense that waiting 40 minutes for a cupcake is ridiculous. But barring that, and the fact that every other person is seemingly required to lick their fingers before reaching into the pans for another cupcake, I would part with another $2 for a white cupcake with chocolate frosting. Billy's? Notsomuch.

I hope that New Yorkers aren't campaigning for SSSB and stomping on Magnolia's because one represents the authentic LES and the other has become yet another NYC tourist trap, because I really want to like SSSB's cupcakes.
Deb said…
I know this post is a couple years old, but I have to comment. I think Magnolia is a perfect example of urban gastronomical myth-making. First, the original location is in a very trendy, wealthy part of the city, so that alone helps to perpetuate the myth that Magnolia's product is somehow extraordinary. Add to that the way overblown pink-cupcake Sex and the City cameo, a mention from Oprah Winfrey, and a few photos in In Touch magazine of various celebrities waiting in Magnolia's legendarily long line and you have a retail entity that in no way lives up to its infallible reputation. I've given Magnolia numerous chances to prove me wrong, having visited both locations a good 6 or 8 times now, and every time, without fail, I get a dry, crumbly cupcake that is drowned in overly-sweet buttercream. For the record, I'm a strong believer that the frosting should complement the cake, not outdo it. I have to date tried EVERYTHING at Magnolia and have been consistently disappointed. They sell a Red Velvet cupcake, but with a bland white frosting that doesn't even resemble the traditional cream cheese frosting that should top Red Velvet. The flourless chocolate cupcakes? Dry as a bone. Flourless chocolate cake should melt in your mouth. No thanks. Magnolia is a study of the gullibility of consumers. For my money, I'd rather have a good old-fashioned Twinkie in a plastic wrapper.