Magnolia Bakery’s CEO Talks “Cupcake Craze” and More



Steve Abrams, Owner & CEO of Magnolia Bakery, is credited with launching the global phenomenon that is now worldly known as ‘the cupcake craze’. The doors to New York City’s Magnolia Bakery opened in 1996, and over the last 17 years, their little bakery has grown into a phenomenon of addictive-like status. Here, Mr. Abrams talks about his growing business.

Life+Times: In 1996, Magnolia Bakery opened its doors in New York City’s West Village. Today, the shop remains – nestled among some of the most elite shopping locations. What do you attribute to the brands long standing success?
Steve Abrams:
I think we have built a great reputation for the quality of our baked products, all of which are made on the premises in small batches throughout the day, and the exceptional service we pride ourselves on.

L+T: There are many cupcake brands that have sprung up over the years – but there’s something about Magnolia Bakery that trumps them all. Why do you think that is?
People visit us for more than just our baked goods – they come for the full sensory experience. Many remark that spending time at Magnolia is like ‘stepping back in time to Grandma’s kitchen’. They can watch our cupcakes being iced, smell the pie coming out of the oven and peek at cakes being decorated. We’re cherished for our wide variety of classic American desserts and vintage decor. We bake everything by hand on the premises in small batches throughout the day. As a result, were able to offer our customers the freshest handmade desserts made from the finest ingredients.

L+T: Magnolia Bakery is credited with starting ‘the cupcake craze’. What do you think about this?
We feel the cupcake ‘craze’ started in each of our homes as we waited for mom to finish the batter so we could lick the bowl. While we were the first bakery to get recognized globally for cupcakes, after 12 years we no longer think cupcakes are a craze but a staple of the dessert landscape.

L+T: From the West Village location, Magnolia Bakery has a slew of locations in New York, as well as Los Angeles. You opened a shop in Dubai in 2010 and you have plans to continue expanding. What are your plans to break into different markets?
We most recently opened locations in Beirut, Doha and Kuwait and are continuing to franchise overseas. Soon, we’ll be opening stores in Abu Dhabi, Japan and Russia.

L+T: The original bakery (when it opened) started with just a few ‘styles’ of cupcakes – but has since grown. Do you have any plans to introduce new products? If so – can you give us a hint?
We now offer more than 120 varieties of freshly-baked desserts. While we don’t have any plans to add anything new to our baked goods menu at this time we have been working on a premium ice cream.

L+T: You are now the owners of the bakery – what experience do you bring to the table?
I have been in the restaurant industry for nearly 30 years and have owned such diverse restaurants such as Flowers, It’s a Wrap and the Red Cat over the years in addition to others. I also owned Soup-to-Nuts, a global restaurant consulting company.

L+T: If you only had the choice to live off one of your creations – what would it be? Why?
Flourless chocolate cupcakes right out of the oven.