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Magnolia Bakery cupcakes are (nearly) impossible to replicate

Ever thought you could work at Magnolia Bakery?

Personally, I've always envisioned myself sitting outside the bench on Bleecker Street, sharing a cupcake with my best friend Miranda Hobbes, but alas, I have no red-headed lawyer friends and my only pair of Manolo Blahniks (bought on consignment, I have a realistic writer's salary) were stolen.

On a sunny spring afternoon, without any friends nearby at all, I headed to Magnolia Bakery to learn their frosting secrets.

Cold cupcakes, cold frosting and cold hands are ideal for icing skills

To start, the instructor, Bobbie Lloyd, chief baking
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

To start, the instructor, Bobbie Lloyd, chief baking officer, asked if anyone at the table of cupcake students had ever used a pastry bag before. I did not raise my hand, because it had been a few years and I didn't want to give anyone unrealistic frosting expectations. Also, I was busy taking this picture.

Bobbie taught us how to hold the bag and squeeze the frosting properly so it didn't look like a squishy sugar blob. I was a natural. For the rose pattern, one of Magnolia's signature spring designs, we used a 104 pastry tip, which is wide at the bottom and thins towards the top. It's essential to hold the thick part closer to the cupcake so the thin edge looks beautiful and floral.

My first rose cupcake!

To start, you add a tall tower of
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

To start, you add a tall tower of buttercream frosting at the center. Bobbie, who is a pro, said sometimes she adds multiple colors of frosting in a single pastry bag for a luxurious rainbow effect, but the risk of smushing it all to brown wasn't worth the extravagance.

After your center tower is on, you loop frosting in an upside down U (think St. Louis archway, but of delicate petals) around the center blob. To do this, you twist the cupcake slowly and hold the pastry bag still while squeezing evenly. It's delicate choreography that's even harder if you're a lefty, which, of course, I am.

For a first time rose-maker, I thought this turned out pretty nicely!

My second attempt got sloppy

Overly confident with the raging success of my
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Overly confident with the raging success of my first-ever rose cupcake, I rushed to complete another one. Fun fact: If you mess up while frosting, you can just lick off the top and start over, so mistakes are kind of encouraged.

Unfortunately, I forgot the narrow-side-up rule and had the thick part of the pastry bag upwards to make this sloppy rose, an insult to $4 cupcakes everywhere.

Below, what they're supposed to look like, compared to my abhorrent attempt.

New beginnings

This is my third-ever rose cupcake! Bobbie said
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

This is my third-ever rose cupcake! Bobbie said maybe she should give awards to people (some had already dropped out to snack on sugary sweets and stage the perfect Instagram of this educational experience), and I felt a little guilty about concealing my pastry bag experience. I'm not going to make a "Friends" reference in this online-only feature that's already hugely "Sex and the City"-ified, but if I did, I would say that there was no aluminum foil nearby from which to fashion a star, which I clearly deserved. Note: The warmth of the frosting in my hands made it a little melty, which is why this rose is less than perfect.

These three cupcakes took about half an hour to decorate

Savor your cupcakes, people, they're difficult to decorate!
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Savor your cupcakes, people, they're difficult to decorate!

Somehow, I decorated six

I got worse, I got better, repeat. Glitter
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

I got worse, I got better, repeat. Glitter and sprinkles hide all mistakes ...

You too can recreate these glorious sugar flowers

All you need is cupcakes, a pastry
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz / Magnolia Bakery

All you need is cupcakes, a pastry bag, and Magnolia's (not) top-secret icing recipe, which we've procured for you. You're welcome.

Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 box 16 oz (4 cups) confectioners' sugar sifted

2-3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer) cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar one cup at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl often. When the mixture starts to thicken and appears dry add 2 tablespoons of milk. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy (about 2-4 minutes). Add more milk as needed if you want a thinner consistency. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.

Store the icing at room temperature. Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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