For a brief moment, this post had me questioning my manhood. What the hell kind of guy writes about friggin' cupcakes in his spare time? Same kind that writes about Japanese crepes, I guess.
Here we have a couple of cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, made famous around the world through its frequent appearances in a popular TV show for women (or so I've heard).
This wintry photo by Joe Goldberg and used under license
Worth the hype?
No. What a disappointment. Well, at least mine was.
My wife picked me up a red velvet cupcake on her way home from work, to compare with the one I got from Hill Country the other night. I'm unwittingly becoming a little bit of an expert on red velvet, I guess. The New York Times had a piece on red velvet a while back that mentioned Magnolia, among other shops. (I was bored at work one day, and it was there.)
Interestingly, one of the Times' favorite cupcakes was from Daisy May's Barbecue. The one I got from Hill Country was also pretty amazing. So I guess if you want the best red velvet cupcakes... head to a barbecue restaurant.
Anyway, the first hint of trouble with Magnolia was this:
There is no shade of red like that in nature. No, that's not just the picture - that neon color is what it really looked like.
Red velvet is strange in that some of its fans apparently do think it's okay to use food coloring. I don't. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to food. The red color in red velvet is supposed to come naturally from the cocoa, which, when used in the right quantity and mixed with the other ingredients in the cake, turns a dull reddish brown. Like this:
That's the excellent cupcake from Hill Country for comparison.
Magnolia's red velvet does have its fans. But the cake itself was almost like a sponge cake; it was way too light, and almost chewy. It was not the right consistency. The butter cream was okay, though it was also a little light. (Incidentally, the food coloring actually came off on my teeth and colored the icing as I ate it.) The whole thing was too sweet but without much real flavor beyond sugar. It tasted and felt like it came out of a mix.
This is not my first experience with Magnolia. Honestly, I've never been too impressed with them - they're overrated, as so many Manhattan eateries of all kinds are. I feel like you can easily do better yourself at home with a box of Duncan Hines. Save some money in the process. But there are better cupcake shops around. Not everybody likes the Cupcake Cafe, but I do - I think the people who don't like Cupcake Cafe are the same people who like Magnolia. They don't know a good cupcake when they eat one.
Ok, tomorrow I'm gonna write about motorcycles or fighter jets or something. So, umm, how about them Giants??