Not even 20 years old yet, Magnolia Bakery is quite the international phenomenon. Often accredited to have started the cupcake craze in the 90s (that hasn’t really died out till date); the bakery soared to fame after being featured in one of the episodes of Sex & The City in which Carrie and Miranda sat outside the store, indulging in a comforting cupcake each, post some-heartbreak-or-the-other. That’s not it though, now present in 12 international locations, the minimalistic, retro, New York institution has been featured in another handful of movies and has become synonymous with NYC and cupcakes alike.
One of the first places I marched over to after landing in Dubai was Magnolia Bakery in Bloomingdale’s, Dubai Mall. I’ve tried their Carrot Cake (LOVE), German Chocolate cake (Also love), Magic Bar (most definitely targeted at kids, hence again love); and M stays loyal to their legendary Banana Pudding. Yesterday, however, I was invited to a tasting at their JBR branch- which was an obvious battle of Brain vs Heart; the Brain reminding me of the digits on my weighing scale and my heart snapping back with a “shut up, bro”.
I was all geared up for today- wore my sweatpants and kept some insulin at hand as chances of me becoming Diabetic during the tasting were probable to high. What I was not expecting, however, was the decently sized menu of savory items they offer, including some rather healthy options! This pleased me quite a lot, as I could now eat proper food before proceeding to fill every ounce available of stomach space with cake.
We started off with a couple of salads. M had the Cobbwest Salad and I went for a Caprese stack. The salads were refreshing, perfectly seasoned, delicious and the servings were extremely generous and they were actually some really great options for someone on a diet who has to accompany a sweet-toothed, temperamental significant-other to a dessert shop (I’m clearly a case of the latter).
For entrees I had a Turkey and Brie Sandwich which came with a huge side of crisp potato chips. Since Brie is my preferred cheese of the week- or till I OD on it enough to get sick of it-, I really enjoyed this a lot. If I could improve this sandwich, though, I’d prefer smoked turkey instead of Mortadella, and thicker wedges of Brie.
The super nice manager, Cecilia, suggested we try the Milano Pasta, which has Fettuccine, chicken and Alfredo sauce. We’re not fans of white sauce, and asked if we could have pesto instead, and she happily obliged. The result: an extremely delicious and hearty bowl of soft Fettuccine for a couple of pesto lovers.
Finally, we took a deep breath and picked out some (read a lot) of desserts. My approach was to try some of their classics/best sellers, and some new/seasonal flavors.
From the limited edition/seasonal options, I tried the Pumpkin pie, the Apple spice cupcake, and the Pumpkin Cheesecake.
While I wasn’t too crazy about the Pumpkin Pie (the crust didn’t impress me much), M absolutely loved it. He argued that pie is mostly about the filling anyway, and the heavily spiced filling won him over.
The Apple Spice cupcake was as soft, cinnamony and nutty as their carrot cake is, and had a pleasant and distinct taste of apples and maple syrup. That said, I wasn’t a fan of the icing very much. It tasted more whipped-creamy than butter-creamy or cream-cheesy- and I’m not a fan of whipped cream.
That Pumpkin Cheesecake tough: WOW. Now that really hit the spot. Rich, cheesy, nutty with pecans (my favorite), and boldly spiced with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon; this one was a true winner!
We also tried their classic Lemon and Raspberry Cheesecake, which was as on point as you could possibly expect a traditional citrussey cheesecake to be.
The Classic Chocolate Cake, which is frosted differently everyday, was a pretty Tiffany Blue on the outside but deliciously retro and homey on the inside. I often worry about plain chocolate cakes being too dry and not chocolatey enough -as many people have started using tasteless sponges- and while it wasn’t a dry cake, the buttercream icing made it way too sweet and not as chocolatey as I would like a chocolate cake to be.
Also noteworthy was the Caramel Cheesecake, which everyone raves about and was quite good.
What didn’t quite hit the spot though, was the Red Velvet Cheesecake. 1. It had whipped cream on top. No. Just no. 2. I guess when it comes to Red Velvet, I’m very old-fashioned. I want to taste the crumbly, moist cake, alternated with decadent, smooth cream-cheese frosting. I like it the traditional way- this cheesecake just didn’t cut it for me.
Edit: So I tried this again; this time I wiped the cream off of the top and dumped it in the bin. Also, I kept a more open mind and tried to put aside my love for a good old-fashioned Red Velvet. Verdict: this is good stuff. If you were to cross Red Velvet cake with cheesecake, this is what you’d get.
Finally, the legendary Banana Pudding. The ultimate comfort food and perhaps Magnolia’s most signature dessert. There’s something about this otherwise homey and nostalgic pudding that just sets it apart and it’s hard to put your finger on it. You know what that is? Nilla wafers. While most of us who grew up in the Middle East are used to Digestive biscuits being used as the crumbly element of desserts, this pudding contains round Nilla Wafers which have vanilla cream centers.
We washed this all down with a latte and an organic Green Tea, and wobbled home- a kilo heavier, each. Magnolia continues to be one of my favorite bakeries, and has climbed up a notch. Now that the weather is cooling down, I look forward to spending many evenings sitting outside their JBR branch, cake and tea in hand.
Thanks for having me, Team Magnolia. Until next time.