November 30, 2010
New York’s magnolia bakery brings sweet smell of (kosher) success to L.A. [VIDEO]
Watch videoblogger Orit Arfa taste test Magnolia’s cupcakes against another kosher bakery. See video below
Craving a kosher cupcake? Magnolia Bakery is cooking up the cure. Now open at 8389 W. Third St., this chic New York transplant looks to quickly become part of the Los Angeles Jewish community. Famous for its pastel-colored cupcakes, fresh-from-the-oven pies and homemade icebox cakes, the stylish sweet shop carries more than 60 products — all of which carry a heksher.
Why the Rabbinical Council of California stamp of approval?
“I’m Jewish,” owner Steve Abrams said, laughing. “It’s part of my culture.”
The first Magnolia Bakery opened its doors in New York in 1996; Abrams purchased the business in 2007 and expanded it from one location to six. He opened the second store in his own Upper West Side neighborhood. Having lived in the area for 30 years, he felt it was important to cater to everyone in the neighborhood, including the large observant Jewish population. All of his stores are now certified kosher, including his new Los Angeles location.
“Our Third Street store is in a neighborhood that’s similar to our Columbus Avenue store. Again, we have a high Orthodox and Conservative Jewish population,” Abrams said. “And it’s a walking neighborhood, where people really enjoy going out and supporting their local store.”
But it’s not just the locals that support the store; the store supports the locals. In the spirit of Jewish giving, Magnolia Bakery has donated baked goods to more than 400 charities in New York. The bakery has donated everything from two dozen cupcakes for a small school bake sale to 1,000 cupcakes for an annual Long Island UJA-Federation event. Magnolia is starting to do the same kind of community outreach through its Los Angeles branch.
“We have an obligation to our community — we don’t operate in a vacuum,” Abrams explained. “It’s really a symbiotic relationship. I don’t feel its right to go into a neighborhood, take as much as you can and not give anything back. I think the community has made me successful.”
Of course, it’s not all charity work. Magnolia has vast experience catering 10 to 15 private events each week in New York. With its kosher certification, Magnolia Bakery looks to duplicate that catering business in Los Angeles and build relationships with Southland synagogues and Jewish organizations. The company already has catered numerous bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and fundraisers here, and has provided the desserts at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, the “Entertainment Tonight” Emmy party and, most recently, Conan O’Brien’s TBS premiere.
The Hollywood connection is a natural, given that Magnolia Bakery is credited with having created the current cupcake craze when it was highlighted in an episode of “Sex and the City.” Abrams, however, claims there’s no such craze. Cupcakes have been part of American culture for 100 years, and he’s just continuing the tradition of the neighborhood bakery. “For me, the cupcake craze started at my mother’s kitchen table when I was 8 and licking the batter off the bowl while we were making our own cupcakes,” said Abrams, who made Magnolia a family-run business by involving his wife and his daughter.
With bundt cakes, cupcakes, macaroons, gourmet churros, handmade milkshakes and self-serve frozen yogurt saturating the local dessert market, Magnolia looks to stay one step ahead by offering a wide range of products. Its menu explodes with pudding, cookies, brownies, blondies, lemon bars and cheesecakes. “If cupcakes slow down, people will come into my store and buy a pudding. Or a brownie. Or a cheesecake. No one’s going to stop eating sweets and butter completely. And I sell it in many different forms.”
Those forms include blue-and-white Chanukah cupcakes, and after reading a Rosh Hashanah Huffington Post article by this writer, Abrams decided to start baking Happy New Year Honey Cake cupcakes.
One more way Magnolia has positioned itself in L.A.’s Jewish community? As a nod to California car culture, Magnolia offers customers curbside pickup — kosher cakes, cookies and cupcakes without ever leaving the car.
JewishJournal.com videoblogger Orit Arfa explores the tasty treats of two new koshery cupcake shops.