Baker, Cook, Writer, Pursuer of Gastronomic Joy

German Chocolate Cake at Magnolia Bakery

I recently had the opportunity to see Carousel for free by means of an offer through my university. Never one to pass up free theatre, I jumped on it. This meant jumping on the train right after stage combat. Sweaty and smelly, I journeyed uptown to grab my ticket before the box office deadline. Once my ticket was in hand, I then had an hour until the show and nowhere to go. But, then I remembered I did! I recently made a list of bakeries and various other sweet treat establishments in the city. I am on a quest to find the best! Why not use this hour to hit a midtown spot? So my sweet treat journey officially begins.

The first confection and location was German Chocolate cake at Magnolia Bakery. Though I’ve been a resident of New York for two (school) years, I have never stepped foot in Magnolia Bakery. Its claim to fame is supposedly its banana pudding, but it offers a variety of foods, from beautiful looking red velvet cheesecakes, to sizable cookies, to brownies, and of course, slices of cake.

Let me clarify one thing right now. Slices of cake are much different from cupcakes. And by different, I mean better. A slice of cake done right has the perfect proportion of icing to cake and is easily eaten and enjoyed. Cupcakes are inherently disproportionate and messy. It is almost impossible to get cake and icing all in one bite, half the icing ends up on your face, and you’re more focused on how to eat it than the actual experience of flavor. Or maybe I’m just messy. Suffice it to say, cupcakes will not be substituted for a slice of cake when I sample a bakeries cake product.

The German Chocolate cake was the most recommended item at Magnolia, both online and by the employees, so I took the plunge. I quickly got my slice and booked it out of the small shop to find a bench across the street. Magnolia is not intended to be a sit down restaurant experience. As I have never consumed German Chocolate cake, I had little idea what I was in for. I have enjoyed German Chocolate cake ice cream for many years, so I expected only positive things from the cake itself, and indeed the construction was what I had expected. Though I am dubious of cakes with no frosting on the edges (or no frosting at ALL) it gave the cake opportunity to show off its wonderfully thick layers.

The thickness of the layers, both of cake and caramel/coconut/pecan, provided an enticing image. But the thick, gloopy caramel mixture was so heavy and packed full of stuff, while the cake itself had little in terms of flavor, that the balance seemed all wrong. I felt as though I could not fully enjoy all of the great elements because they were smashed together into a whirlwind of sugar. In trying to taste the flavor of the caramel I could only get coconut and then I was struck by a crunch of pecan and the taste of chocolate was but a whisper of a memory. It was as though the size of the cake made the flavorless concentrated. Specifically with the sponge, I felt they had done a good job creating sturdy layers for their heavy caramel mixture to rest on, but neglected to create a depth of flavor in doing so. As a result, the sponge was just a serving platform for the caramel/coconut/pecan mixture. I could have just gotten that in a cup.

So, while a satisfying slice of cake eluded me that evening, I did have a nice box of pudding. In fact, multiple people did, for the slice was so big I could not finish it on my own. It was shared among friends whom I ran into later in the evening. This really speaks to just how huge this slice was, for rare is the occasion that I am not able to finish a slice of cake!!!

So, my quest for outstanding cake continues! While the German Chocolate was not my cup of tea, I would be very interested in trying Magnolia’s basic chocolate or yellow cake. The straightforward flavors may yield a more fulfilling experience. But for now, I look forward to where my sweet treat travels will take me next!