When you hear "New York" and "cupcake" together, the first place that generally comes to mind is Magnolia -- the bakery that made New York cupcakes "a thing." Indeed, today Magnolia has exported the New York cupcake to Los Angeles, Chicago and multiple countries in the Middle East, turning into a global brand. To pin Magnolia's cupcakes as the definitive New York cupcakes would be a mistake, however. While Magnolia may be the best-known worldwide, it's not actually the best bakery for cupcakes.
Magnolia bakery opened in 1996 in New York's West Village, and has been drawing crowds -- the kind that wait for hours -- ever since. Made famous by the ladies of "Sex and the City," the bakery often has lines that wrap around the block, even though there are better cupcake shops with shorter lines nearby.
While Magnolia is famous for its cupcakes, it sells a few other treats that are actually much better. Magnolia's Banana Pudding -- made with layers of vanilla wafers, fresh bananas and creamy vanilla pudding -- is outstanding. It's so good we'd stand in line for it while everyone else was waiting for cupcakes. Magnolia also makes a mean rhubarb pie when it's in season.
To be sure, the cupcakes at Magnolia are very good on the whole. Their buttercream frosting is top-notch, if a little too sweet and buttery at times. Unfortunately the cakes are more often than not too dry and the entire package is often underwhelming. It may be the fate of an empire that's gotten too big, or of impossibly high expectations. Regardless, the truth of the matter is there are many other cupcakes superior to Magnolia's in New York City.
Here are 12 New York cupcakes you should know about:
Billy's Bakery, Yellow Daisy Cupcake
Billy's Bakery might be the best place for cupcakes in all of New York City. This Yellow Daisy Cupcake is made with classic yellow butter cake flavored with pure vanilla extract, and topped with classic buttercream frosting. It tastes like the best childhood memory anyone has ever had. Billy's cakes are perfectly moist, and its frosting is the gold standard for which all buttercream frostings should strive.
Baked, Lemon Drop Cupcake
Brooklyn bakery Baked is known for many things -- its chocolate chip cookies, its brownies, its pies and its whoopie pies. The Red Hook-based bakery also makes delicious cupcakes, including it's light and tart Lemon Drop cupcake.
Prohibition Bakery, Pretzels & Beer Cupcake
If you're looking for cupcakes with a little kick -- namely, booze -- Prohibition Bakery is the place to go. A two-woman cupcake operation on the Lower East Side, Prohibition Bakery churns out some of the most fun cupcakes in the city -- each one flavored with alcohol. If you only try one cupcake from Prohibition, the Pretzels and Beer is the one: it's made with pale ale, Nutella, pretzel and white truffle. The cupcakes are small enough, however, that you should probably just enjoy a few. Dark and Stormy or Margarita, anyone?
Buttercup Bake Shop, Strawberry Cupcake
This strawberry cupcake from Buttercup Bake Shop makes us melt inside. It's a light and fluffy strawberry cupcake made with bits of fresh strawberries, topped with strawberry buttercream and a fresh strawberry slice. It's as tasty as it is adorable.
Billy's Bakery, Chocolate Cupcake
This chocolate cupcake from Billy's is the stuff chocolate-lovers dream of. It's made with a deep, moist chocolate cake made with rich, dark cocoa, and topped with a chocolate buttercream that rivals your grandma's. Billy's also makes amazing carrot cupcakes and an outrageous banana Nutella cupcake. It's basically the best place on earth.
Two Little Red Hens, Brooklyn Blackout Cupcake
The Brooklyn Blackout from Two Little Red Hens is predictably rich and meant for true chocoholics. Made with chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and fudge frosting, it's devastatingly good. The bakery's Red Velvet is also a favorite, but with flavors like Banana PB Fudge Swirl, Pumpkin Spice and Ginger Baby, it's really hard to choose just one. The Upper East side is lucky to call this bakery its own.
Sweet Revenge, Spice Islands Carrot Cupcake
Flickr/Rachel Kramer Bussel
Sweet Revenge, the West Village-based dessert and wine bar, makes incredible and incredibly interesting cupcakes, like this Spice Islands Carrot cupcake. While the restaurant isn't exclusively known for cupcakes (it offers brunch, lunch and dinner too), the cupcakes are definitely the shining star. Sweet Revenge also offers wine or beer and cupcake pairings, and a happy hour special that includes a glass of wine and a cupcake for $10. Who wouldn't want that after work?
Molly's, Red Velvet Cupcake With Brown Butter Frosting
Molly's in the West Village lets you mix and match your cupcake frostings, so you can order your ideal cupcake. The bakery also sells center-filled cupcakes with fillings like chocolate mousse, mixed berry and butterscotch caramel. The red velvet tastes amazing with the brown butter frosting.
Georgetown Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcake
Georgetown Cupcake may be the most worthwhile culinary export D.C. has ever given New York. Beloved for its Red Velvet, Georgetown Cupcake can really hold its own among the rest of its New York-based competitors. The Red Velvet is made with classic red velvet cake and vanilla cream cheese frosting topped with a red fondant heart.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Pistachio Cupcake
Facebook/Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Open since 2002, Sugar Sweet Sunshine is a stalwart of the Lower East Side, a neighborhood that has changed drastically in the past decade. The bakery's Pistachio cupcake is made with pistachio cake and topped with "The Moose" -- a whipped buttercream. It's heavenly.
Buttercup Bake Shop, Chocolate Cupcake With Vanilla Frosting
Buttercup Bake Shop
We love the chocolate cake at Buttercup Bake Shop. It's rich and moist -- never dry. The vanilla buttercream frosting is perfect too, and we love the little sprinkles the bakery uses. They bring us back and remind us what a special treat a cupcake is. Owner Jennifer Appel opened Magnolia Bakery in 1996, but left three years later to start her own bakery. We're so glad she did.
Sweet Revenge, Bird Of Paradise Cupcake
Sweet Revenge's Bird Of Paradise cupcake is a lime chiffon cake with mango buttercream & fresh lime zest. Need we explain any further? We can only pray that the limeapocalypse doesn't touch this slightly tart and amazingly bright cupcake.
Butter Lane Bakery, Cream Cheese on Banana Cupcake
Butter Lane Bakery
Butter Lane sells only cupcakes and nothing else, so you know the cupcakes are good if they can sustain the business. When you taste the cupcakes, like banana with cream cheese frosting or the chocolate with coconut frosting, you'll understand why Butter Lane is a superior cupcake store.