magnolia midtown

Despite how little I love Magnolia, I’m always excited when I discover a new location of theirs. Now that I’ve been to the one Downtown on Bleeker, the one Uptown on Columbus Ave, and this time to the one in Midtown on 6th Ave, the only one left is the other Midtown location in Grand Central. Even though they all have the same white panels, the same rectangular layout, the same baby blue title on their hanging menu, and even the same exact shade of pastel colored frosting on their cupcakes, each location has managed to exude a different style and ambiance. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s part of the reason why I love walking into a new Magnolia even though I (think I) can bake a better cupcake.

apple fruit crisp

Don’t those Apple Fruit Crisps ($3) look yum? And that over-bubbling Blueberry Crisp ($3)..?!

Patrick and I happened upon Magnolia in Midtown moments before my graduation ceremony at Radio City. It’s on the edge of Rockefeller Center and smack in the middle of all those investment bank skyscrapers. We came back four hours later, only to find it as busy as when we first saw it. It’s actually really weird, seeing men in suits and ties buying cupcakes. Can you imagine bankers gathering around a conference table and demolishing cupcakes while discussing how to find a loophole in the financial reform bill?

Like every Magnolia, there’s a separate line for cupcakes and for cakes/cheesecakes/cookies/pudding/crisps/etc. But the line for the cupcakes was so long that it spilled into the other line. I’m not exactly sure why because I’d say that their famous Banana Bread Pudding and their Red Velvet mini cheesecake is their forte.

cupcake& cookie

That Thursday morning, I saw more cupcake varieties than I’ve ever seen at Magnolia (and I’ve been there six times or so?). For anyone who hasn’t gone, all “classic” cupcakes are $2.75 and their specialty cupcakes are $3.25, which is $0.25 more than four years ago when I was a freshman at NYU. They don’t have every type of specialty cupcake everyday, so it’s worth calling ahead if you want a specific flavor. Their specialty cupcakes include:

  • Red Velvet: whipped vanilla icing (although also available with cream cheese icing)
  • Devil’s Food: choice of mocha, vanilla, chocolate, buttercream, or caramel cream cheese icing
  • Coconut: meringue icing topped with flaked coconut
  • Lemon: lemon cream filled cupcake with lemon meringue buttercream
  • Caramel: caramel meringue buttercream with caramel drizzle
  • Banana: caramel filled cupcake with caramel meringue buttercream
  • Hummingbird: sweet cream cheese icing
  • Carrot: cream cheese icing topped with walnuts
  • German Chocolate: coconut caramel pecan icing
  • Pumpkin: maple cream cheese icing topped with toasted pecans
  • Truffled Chocolate: white or chocolate truffle center with chocolate glaze
  • Sno-cap: devil’s food cupcake with peaks of meringue icing
  • S’mores: honey graham cake with a chocolate center and meringue icing

And so there you have it. Even though you can get the Red Velvet and Devil’s Food in different types of frosting, Magnolia is usually so busy that you’d have to wait forever for an alternative frosting. Plus, the cupcakes disappear like hot cakes, and most people don’t know that certain cupcakes have alternative frostings so they just grab what they can… before it all disappears. This must be the most profitable cupcakery in the WORLD.

red velvet trip

Red Velvet Cupcake ($3.25)

Today, I want to tell you about all the Red Velvet’s that Magnolia offers. First at bat is the Red Velvet Cupcake with whipped vanilla icing (it does come in cream cheese frosting icing too, but we didn’t know that). Here are deets of the taste test:

Taste

  • The cupcake is a deep, rich, red color- just like the way red velvet should be. However, it comes short in flavor. Red velvet is actually made with cocoa and gets its tanginess from buttermilk. I didn’t taste any of the cocoa. If anything, the cupcake was… bland (?!- as in, how is that possible for a cupcake!).
  • The whipped vanilla icing is a tragedy. When a cupcake falls short in sweetness, it should make up in its frosting, which Magnolia usually over-does. For most Magnolia cupcakes, the frosting is so sweet that I end up only eating half of it. The vanilla icing on the Red Velvet lacked any sweetness and almost tasted like whipped heavy cream with a tad bit of sugar. I would have loved to try it with cream cheese frosting because I think that would have really elevated the cupcake.

Texture

  • The cupcake was unusually moist for a Magnolia cupcake. I’m used to a dense and somewhat dry cupcake from this bakery, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it different this time.
Price
  • At $3.25, the cupcake is WAY too overpriced. I’d suggest going to Crumbs and grabbing their Red Velvet (which does use a cream cheese frosting) for $3.75. I’d reckon that it’s like 50% bigger too (and a whopping 500 calories, unfortunately).

red velvet cheesecake cake
Red Velvet with a Chocolate Cookie Crust Mini Cheesecake ($6)

This is by far, the best dessert I’ve had from Magnolia and vies for close competition with¬† Stefanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake at the Cheesecake Factory. Here’s why:

Taste
  • Spot on, at least cheesecake wise. It’s rich and sweet, although light on that smooth, velvety flavor. The chocolate crumbs give a dark contrast to the sweetness from the cheesecake. The topping, which seems to be straight up whipped heavy cream, is a nice neutral balance. Everything just blends harmoniously together.
Texture
  • Soft and creamy. The cookie crust obviously crumbles and the cheesecake, although soft, holds firm.
Price
  • OUCH! $6?! It’s a bit overpriced, considering how for a buck more, you can get a slice of that heavenly cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. $4 would be the perfect price in my view. But definitely worth the splurge if you’re looking for a delectable red velvet option.

red velvet cake
Slice of Red Velvet Specialty Cake ($5)

Described as “the Mae West of cakes. Made red with cocoa, a little vanilla and a lot of southern mystery. With its own special whipped vanilla icing (also available with cream cheese icing).” Really? I didn’t know that cocoa made things red! And I like how they compared Red Velvet to Mae West. Is it because it’s red…?

Taste

  • This is essentially Magnolia’s Red Velvet Cupcake in a cake form. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same exact recipe. So bland both on the cake and on the whipping front.
Texture
  • A tad bit on the dry end, but the rich redness would trick your eye into thinking otherwise. Luckily, we have our tongues to distinguish truth from false.
Price
  • While $5 for this slice of cake is a bit steep, it is definitely more bang for your buck than that Red Velvet cupcake. And if you’re sharing between two, then it’s not a bad bargain- presuming you like a very mild Red Velvet cake that is.
So overall? Save yourself some money by skipping the Red Velvet cupcake and slice of cake and dive right into the Red Velvet cheesecake. The mini cheesecake was so good that I’m going forget how forgettable everything else was and list this as a “top pick.”
Last but not least, a special thank you to my super awesome cousin, Patrick, for his love of Red Velvet and for making this post possible. Oh, and also for making it possible for me to be at my graduation too. I OWE YOU BIG!

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a rippling glare