Perhaps it was the fact that I went to the location near Rockefeller Center which is probably their busiest one, and yet I was simply not that impressed with New York City’s iconic Magnolia Bakery. Don’t get me wrong, the treats in the cases looked appetizingly delicious. No, not what you would see in a high end French patisserie in terms of impressive presentation but more like dozens and dozens of comfort foods, dessert style. But when the minuscule store front is so congested with people you can barely see what’s in said cases, it’s not really an enjoyable experience. Ever since I bought The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook last year I’ve been dying to visit there. I’ve made countless muffin and cookie recipes along with some cake and cupcakes ones too, and everything I’ve made from the cookbook never disappointed me. In fact, every recipe I made always turned out so terrific that it left me all the more excited to visit the bakery.
The original location opened at 401 Bleecker Street in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan in 1996. Since then it has grown to include locations on the Upper West Side, one near Rockefeller Center and another in Grand Central Station. (It also has locations in Chicago, Los Angeles and the United Arab Emirates.) I’m not sure how its original location is in terms of size, but the amount of space in its Rockefeller Center location was ridiculously small compared to how many people were packed in. It was mildly frustrating since I passed by at least two other bakeries in the general vicinity, both of which were a lot bigger as well as deserted in comparison to the Magnolia Bakery shop. In theory the queues for the bakery are set up in a clever and logistically sound manner: there is a sign to queue up behind the type of baked good you want-i.e. a line for cookies and bar treats, a line for cupcakes, etc. However, due to the extremely cramped space, the queues are really non-existent, with matters further complicated by the fact that the line to pay for your sweets is also jutting into the rest of the queues.
I ended up selecting a German chocolate cupcake, D a chocolate chunk blondie. While the cupcake was certainly tasty, it wasn’t great. I’m not a professional baker by any means and yet generally when I eat something and come to the conclusion that my concoction tasted better due to the mediocrity of the “professionally” baked one, I’m just not that impressed. Were I to return to Manhattan I would certainly give one of its locations another try, and yet perhaps the Magnolia Bakery has become so big that its name surpasses the actual quality of its treats. I’ve sampled many delectable pastries and sweets during my travels but the Magnolia Bakery definitely does not top the list of most memorable. Sometimes hyped up expectations do inevitably lead to disappointment.