A few weeks ago a good friend asked me to provide the desserts for her baby shower (my post about the shower here). Since one of her request was cupcakes I began experimenting with different recipes. One recipe, from 500 Cupcakes: The Only Compendium You'll Ever Need, turned out quite well and others...well other recipes failed to rise to the occasion.
While testing a variety of recipes I came across the infamous Magnolia Bakery cupcake. I should note that I have a strong resistance to all things Magnolia. The uber-publicized bakery does not -- and quite honestly cannot -- live up to the hype. When I moved to NYC in early 2001 I went to Magnolia, which was just beginning to experience immense popularity thanks to Sex and the City. At the time, the lines extended around the corner and there was some excitement on my part to get my hands on such a coveted cupcake. And I must admit I was impressed.
But my cupcake crush quickly turned stale. Every subsequent visit to Magnolia left me a bit emptier and more perplexed. I wondered what happened. Was it me? Were my expectations too high? Was the media to blame? Perhaps it was like a second date.
You know what I mean. The kind of date with someone your friends told you was great. They build up the person to be some kind of wunderkind of the human race. They essentially set up an impossible situation.
So you go on the date. Turns out, you enjoy it. This Mr. Wonderful has it all. He's successful, handsome, intelligent and a great kisser. You enthusiastically agree to go on a second date and count down the hours 'til you see him again.
While waiting, your friends -- emboldened by the success of the first date -- "build the brand" and shape the narrative further. They tell you about how much he loves his mother, how he rescued a puppy from Delhi while building a water-filtration system for the city's poorest, how he runs a youth program for paraplegic teenagers in his spare time. You realize that you might, in fact, be falling in love. You pinch yourself a few times, smile when you think of his smile, giggle at the joke he told while you replay it over and over and over again in your head.
You envision how your family will react when they meet him for the first time, what your first place will look like together. No, wait! You're gonna marry the man. Come hell or high water this man is yours. Children? You betcha. Two. Point. Five to be exact. And then the time comes for the second date...
And the entire pie-in-the-sky romance crumbles like a dry cupcake with brittle icing.
Your prince charming is a half hour late, ends up "forgetting" his wallet when the check arrives, lets slip that he not only loves his mother, he lives with her! The wunderkind part? Well that was partially true...fifteen years ago...if you consider figuring out how to get free cable for his entire building by tapping into a neighbor's wires to be some kind of genius. And that dog he rescued from Delhi? Well, turns out that's not true either. But he does love Indian food and has a hamster. The paraplegic youth program? Psych! But his left big toe was cut off when his riding lawn-mower flipped while driving it on a beer run in college.
See, that's how Magnolia was for me. The first time I went in with high expectations and my expectations were met. The second time, after reading some more hype and mentally preparing for an even better experience, I noticed the cupcakes were dry. And the staff was rude. And the place was hot. And there were large, um, non-cupcake things with legs on the table*.
Just to make sure, I have gone back several times since. Many times it is at the request of some out-of-town guest who has been brainwashed by the cupcake culturati --pr account executives to be sure -- whose only purpose is to plant stories and entice unsuspecting "journalists" looking for the next big thing.
And as always the out-of-towners rave with vacuous platitudes. "Heavenly" "If I had to choose between sex and this cupcake..." "This is best thing I have ever put in my mouth". And I usually don't say a word.
Instead, I simply think to myself "Just wait until he tells you about his hamster!"
* - Babies, y'all, babies! Mothers put their babies on the tables while getting cupcakes. What the hell did you think I was implying? Certainly not this
Part 2 of The Magnolia Bakery Cupcake: Fight the urge soon