Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Magnolia Bakery

Alright alright alright. I am back! After two weeks of pure relaxation in the paradise called Costa Rica I am now ready to continue dedicating my free time to serious dessert-eating. And I have to say that it hurts to see my blog so neglected. August entries: 1. There is not much time left to rectify this situation. Especially since I am starting an internship on Thursday that promises to be a lot of fun and a lot of work. Yes, it involves food, and yes, I am eager to share my experiences very soon. But for now, let me start with something that was delivered to my door step a few hours ago.

My first day of vacation was also my birthday, and one of my dear friends from Abu Dhabi surprised me with what he knows I live for: Sweet things! Lucky for me, I was able to delay the delivery a little until I got back, and so I woke up to the sound of the FedEx guy knocking on my door this morning. He carried a box of six Magnolia Bakery cupcakes from New York.

I can hardly believe it myself, but I had many chances to try the Magnolia Bakery goods throughout the past few years and never took advantage: When I lived in the United Arab Emirates, I passed by the colorful window in Dubai Mall on many occasions, watching cheerful women frosting cupcakes. And then I saw their store in Chicago when I visited my boyfriend in November - but didn't enter. Finally, I even went into one of their New York stores shortly after - without buying anything. So, just recently, I had a look at their website. And I was very close to ordering some treats, when I noticed that the delivery cost is higher than the price of the product I was ordering. No thank you.

It obviously didn't throw off my friend, and I thank him for that. Because now I realized why shipping is so crazy expensive: These six cupcakes came frozen inside a box, which was packaged between two styrofoam plates, inside a large funky looking silver-blue isolating bag, surrounded by several cold "pockets" (for lack of a better word), and all inside a huge box with the Magnolia Bakery logo stuck on. I am actually going to try and re-use these "pockets". They might become life savers, considering the next headache is just around the corner.

After a rather long wait of four hours  (as recommended by the small leaflet that came inside the box, since the cupcakes needed to de-freeze) I had a lunch consisting of cake, buttercream, and lots of sugar. I only managed to eat two cupcakes, which is a problem because the leaflet also states that Magnolia Bakery cupcakes should NEVER (!) be stored in the fridge and should ideally be consumed right away. Do people usually order these to share? I wouldn't want share my $50 cupcakes! Unless you are a competitive eater I doubt you could follow the bakery's instructions. 

Cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery are made in small batches and delivered overnight to ensure freshness. I got the classic assortment, which usually consists of two chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, two vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, one vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream, and one chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream. As you can tell from the pictures, I missed the latter and found three of the vanilla-cake-and-chocolate-frosting type in my box instead. No problem, chocolate and chocolate seems like too much of a good thing anyways. 

The classic flavors sound boring at first, but they usually reveal a lot about the quality of a bakery's products in general. And this one has such a long history. The vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting was divine. I loved the buttercream, which tasted somewhat lighter than dark chocolate but stronger than milk chocolate. In combination with the vanilla cake it reminded me of how good simple flavors can be. Yes I love weird new creations, and I am usually the first to pick one of those. But if you do this basic combination right, there is no need for sprinkles and fillings and seasonal fruit and cookie dough. Magnolia Bakery clearly knows what it's doing and I am happy I got two more of those.

I was less impressed by the chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. In both cases, the cake had a great consistency, - fluffy and just moist enough. This chocolate cake tasted like my favorite red velvet cake, just that it lacked the color. What ruined it in my eyes was the vanilla buttercream, which tasted like nothing but sugar. I ended up eating the cake without the frosting because I generally don't mind calories, but if they don't give me pleasure I'd rather do without them.

Overall, I liked the presentation. Simple but elegant. For transportation purposes, the cupcakes had sticks poking out from the center, which held up a plastic cover and prevented it from smashing the frosting. Unfortunately, these sticks left rather big holes once removed. Since I have never had cupcakes shipped to me before, I can't judge if there are better ways of doing this. 

I'd definitely purchase cupcakes in one of the Magnolia Cupcake stores, but would discourage anyone from ordering them by mail, considering all of the above. I am sure there are great cupcake places in your surroundings, so you can avoid spending lots of money on shipping, choose as many as you want/ are able to eat at the time, and enjoy them immediately. Magnolia Bakery has locations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dubai, Doha, Kuwait, and Beirut. In its store, cupcakes are sold for $3.50 each ($3.25 for the classics), - which is not cheap but reasonable given their brand name. The bakery is also famous for its banana pudding. 

Click here to go to the Magnolia Bakery website.

Brownie Points for the vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting: 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting: 2 out of 3

Magnolia Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Recipe: Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake

Wow! Time flies and I will barely meet my two-posts-per-week standard with all the studying I have been doing. For some reason this summer "semester" was smooth sailing all the way through, and now these professors are trying to suffocate me under piles of flashcards, books and take-home exams. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a plane waiting to take me to beautiful Costa Rica, and I intend to get there looking rested and energetic and carefree!

What do I do to motivate and energize myself between intense study sessions? Have dessert, of course. But since I haven't left the apartment unless absolutely necessary for a class, I haven't even been able to gather material for a new review. And the last time I wanted to do some proper baking, I only managed to start at midnight, which of course meant that I had to wait until the next morning to try the result (at least according to what my Mama has been telling me all my life: "Don't eat late at night!"). So I returned to my good old friend, the easy breezy quick mug cake. 

This fluffy cinnamon cake with gooey cream cheese icing can be made in only a few minutes with the help of a microwave. I got the recipe from a blog called Cooking Classy, which made it look a lot fancier than my version, but I am sure the taste was exactly the same: Delicious!

Get your ingredients:

- 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp apple sauce
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp buttermilk (I used half and half)
-  1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 dash nutmeg (optional)

For the cream cheese icing:
- 1 tbsp cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp milk

Prepare the cream cheese icing first by mixing all ingredients together, and set aside. You want it to be ready when the cake comes out hot and fresh. 

The cake is just as easy to prepare. Simply take a big mug, combine all ingredients, stir well, and pop it into the microwave. Bake on high for 1 minute. If it looks like it's not done yet, bake a little longer and check back in 15-second intervals. The length of this step depends on your microwave and the size/shape of the mug you are using. 

I used a bowl instead of a mug, which gave me a bigger surface to spread the rich icing on. It also gave my old microwave a better chance at a satisfying result.

And satisfying it was. Serve warm and make sure to clear your mind of all worries before you dig in!