Take a Look at the Manila Branch of New York's Iconic Magnolia Bakery

When Magnolia Bakery opened in Manhattan’s West Village in 1996, it was perhaps just another in the dozens, perhaps even hundreds of pastry shops in New York City. But somehow, the little bakery must have done something right because today, just over 20 years later, it’s become something of a culinary landmark in the city.

Credit has to go to the movies and TV shows that helped raised the profile of the neighborhood bakery—shows like Sex and the City, Saturday Night Live, Spin City and Veronica Mars and films like The Devil Wears Prada and Prime.

Which is why it was such a big deal when it was announced that a branch of the neighborhood bakery is making its way to the Philippines. The first Magnolia Bakery—renamed M Bakery in Manila—in Southeast Asia is opening this month at One Bonifacio Mall in Bonifacio Global City.

“We did a few studies and found out that millennials responded well to M Bakery,” says Stewart Ong, managing partner of the company that franchised Magnolia Bakery in the country. “And we also didn’t want to be confused with other local brands or products that have the same name.”

The first Magnolia Bakery in Manila was rechristened M Bakery to avoid confusion with other brands.

The Manila bakery tries to stay as true to the spirit of the original in New York, including recreating the vintage feel of the store and offering pretty much all of their favorite items.

Ong, who runs a company that imports and distrbutes international consumer brands in the Philippines like Johnson & Johnson and Kopiko, says he was inspired to bring Magnolia Bakery to the country because many Filipinos are familiar with the brand. During his frequent trips to New York, he would often stop by at Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street “literally almost every day” to buy their famous Banana Pudding and pick-up a few cupcakes to bring as pasalubong to friends and family back home.

“Around two or three years ago, I was in Tokyo and I saw a Magnolia Bakery there,” he says. “I got the contact (of the principals in New York) and started writing them. That’s where it started.”

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It took another year and half (including four weeks of intensive training in New York with his business partner Candy Lu) before the company was finally ready to open the doors of M Bakery in Manila. Ong says they tried to stay as true to the spirit of the original in New York, including recreating the vintage feel of the store and offering pretty much all of their favorite items.

I’ve only been to the original New York branch once years ago, so I can hardly remember how the cupcakes tasted, but the ones served during the sneak peek in Manila certainly weren’t bad. The frosting was delicate and smooth, just enough to give your taste buds a kick, while the cake base was dense and firm. They served a Blueberry Cupcake with real, fresh blueberries and their famous Banana Pudding certainly lived up to the hype—a creamy, decadent dessert that would make lovers out of banana haters.

Stewart Ong first tried Magnolia Bakery in Japan. He started writing the principals in New York soon after for a partnership.

M Bakery's chef Candy Lu who, with Stewart, trained intensely for four weeks in New York.

“Our products are 90 to 95 percent consistent in all of our markets,” says Erick Larios, Magnolia Bakery’s director of franchise operations. “In some cities we try to work with local ingredients to offer something that’s unique to that market. Some items just perform better in certain markets. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the Tres Leches Milk Cake has become a runaway success there. We originally created it for our Mexico City store. And it just took off in the Middle East.”

In Manila, look out for the calamansi-version of their Key Lime Pie. Ong said other products are in develoment that’ll be unique to the Filipino market. “Something familiar with the local palate, but with a touch of Magnolia,” he said.

M Bakery is at One Bonifacio High, 28th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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