Sweets and the City: A Scientific Analysis of Magnolia Bakery’s Recipe for Success

We’re featuring an event that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth: Fab favorite Magnolia Bakery’s world-famous cupcakes, cookies, and brownies. Our copywriter Emily Chang investigates what the hype is all about. 


Abstract: Few institutions attract the cult-like following of Magnolia Bakery. In the name of cupcakes, normally rational human beings do crazy things, like wait in lines that wrap around the block…or travel halfway across the globe. Why? I paid a visit to Magnolia’s charming flagship location in NYC’s West Village to see if I could dissect the secret to Magnolia Bakery’s success.



Experiment A: How long does it take to get in the door on a typical weekend?

Observations: Arrival: 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. Weather conditions: cool and clear. In the hour or so I was there, a constant line of about five or six people stretched out the door—and that’s not even counting the chocolate tour group that visited. An employee was standing guard to let only a handful of people inside at a time.

Hypothesis: This is going to take a while. Why didn’t I eat a snack first?

Results: Disproved. The line was surprisingly efficient. I picked out two cupcakes—one chocolate and one vanilla—within five minutes of arriving.



Experiment B: How much of the bakery’s success can be attributed to its appearance on Sex and the City?

Observations: In a famous scene, Carrie takes a luxurious bite of a cupcake on a bench right outside Magnolia. Many think this played a major role in Magnolia Bakery’s publicity and fanfare.

Hypothesis: It’s likely that the HBO show helped Magnolia gain new customers. Experiencing a taste of that same cupcake is an easy way for anyone to walk in Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolos for a day.

Results: Disproved. TV fame is actually just one aspect of Magnolia’s appeal. The addictive quality of its baked goods is what keeps everyone trotting back for more. See field notes for more details.


Field notes:

1. Magnolia’s appeal is worldwide, but local New Yorkers are also fans. One Manhattan resident is there to pick up cupcakes for a get-together, since, well, “Who doesn’t like Magnolia?”

2. After polishing off their cupcakes, two friends from Holland can’t stop smiling from ear to ear. They affirm that the real thing lives up to all the media hype.

3. I track the sounds of “so good…so creamy…” to a woman who looks extremely happy with her cupcake. She is 100% positive that Fab’s CEO is Kimora Lee Simmons. Things start to get awkward when I disagree. After I switch the subject back to how delicious the cupcakes are, she agrees to bury the hatchet.

4. The media industry—not just TV—loves Magnolia. “Oh, it’s in all the magazines,” says one woman matter-of-factly, as if no more explanation is required for why she trekked here all the way from Japan.

5. A woman from Rockaway, New Jersey, reports that her chocolate chocolate cupcake was “absolutely amazing.” As we talk, she looks back and forth from me to the window where the cupcakes are displayed. Hypothesis: She is about go back inside to buy another cupcake.


This experiment proves something every Magnolia cult member (including yours truly) already knows: the human species is happy to queue up for Magnolia’s famous baked goods. But don’t hop in the car or book your flight just yet—you can get your cupcake fix with just a few clicks. Our upcoming Magnolia event makes it possible. See what all the fuss is about…without waiting in line.

Emily Chang


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