How to Make Magnolia Cupcakes as Seen on ‘Sex and the City’

The pretty pink "Carrie cupcake" from Magnolia Bakery is just as sweet as it looks!

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The beginning of the cupcake obsession in this country can arguably be traced back to a season three episode of Sex and the City. In the episode, Carrie and Miranda sat on a bench outside Magnolia Bakery in New York City and devoured perfectly pink Magnolia cupcakes. As it turns out, Sarah Jessica Parker lives in the neighborhood where the bakery is located and popped in one day to ask the owner if she could film something in there. The rest is cupcake history!

The characters enjoyed Magnolia Bakery’s most popular cupcake, which is simply a vanilla cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream icing. The most popular icing color is pink as seen in the episode of Sex and the City. Today, you can order this very cupcake, which they have now appropriately named “The Carrie Cupcake.”

What Are Magnolia Cupcakes?

The recipe can be found in The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, written by Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel. While at first glance the cupcake seems straightforward, there are a few twists that make this particular recipe special. The dry ingredients are simply a combination of self-rising flour and all-purpose flour. There is no additional salt or leavening added. Also, the frosting uses more milk and more powdered sugar than a typical recipe. I found it made the texture incredibly velvety and smooth. This will certainly be my new go-to recipe and technique from here on out!

The Real Magnolia Bakery Cupcake Recipe

top view of pink frosted cupcakes with sprinklesKristina Vänni for Taste of Home

This recipes makes 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream Icing:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6-8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pink food coloring
  • Sprinkles

Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffins tins with cupcake liners.

Step 2: Mix dry and wet ingredients

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Step 3: Bake the cupcakes

Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Step 4: Make the icing

To make the icing, place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the confectioners’ sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes). The icing should be thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need all of the sugar.

If desired, add a few drops of pink food coloring and mix thoroughly.

Step 5: Frost the cupcakes

Generously frost each cupcake, adding a final flourish with the knife at the end to create the signature swirl on Magnolia cupcakes. Top with sprinkles.

How to Frost Cupcakes Like Magnolia Bakery

frosting Magnolia Cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles, top viewKristina Vänni for Taste of Home

The key to perfect Magnolia Bakery cupcakes is the frosting and the technique. The vanilla buttercream used at the bakery is not technically a buttercream, but an old-fashioned confectioners’ sugar and butter frosting. It is essential to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.

There is a special technique to achieve the signature Magnolia Bakery swirl. Don’t worry if you find yourself on a learning curve there. Even those who work at the bakery say it takes 40 hours to perfect this technique!

Start with a generous amount of frosting on your spreader. There’s no need to be skimpy here. Pile it high on top of the center of the cupcake, and then gently press it out to the sides while turning the cupcake and finish with a swirl flourish in the center. If this is your first time trying this technique, there are video tutorials online to see exactly how it is done.

Once frosted, top each cupcake with a few sprinkles.

How Long Do Homemade Magnolia Cupcakes Last?

Magnolia cupcakes can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. While the cupcakes can be refrigerated to last longer, you should know that the icing will set if chilled.

If you love all that New York’s culinary scene has to offer, you have to try a New York cheesecake next.

Kristina Vänni
Internationally recognized culinary authority Kristina is a food writer, TV host, recipe developer and food stylist. In addition to writing for Taste of Home, Better Homes & Gardens and The Kitchn, she is a frequent featured expert on national media outlets and has served as a spokesperson and recipe developer for numerous national brands including Finlandia, KitchenAid and Post Foods. Kristina is currently writing her first cookbook, an exploration of the traditional and seasonal cuisine from her family's dairy farm in Finland.