Magnolia Bakery Opens in Union Station

by Aaron Royce

Chief Baking Officer Bobbie Lloyd tells us what to expect.

Photo Courtesy Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery’s Chief Baking Officer (yes, it’s her official title) Bobbie Lloyd is a foodie to her core. “I’ve been a food person for many years, since I went to culinary school in the 80’s and devoted myself to all things food,” she says. It only seems natural that Lloyd, now in her twelfth year as Magnolia’s CBO is excited for the opening of the Union Station bakery this week, the brand’s 27th location worldwide and first in DC.

Since her first year at Magnolia, Lloyd has updated and modified its original recipes to appeal to the Bakery’s fan base—and make sure they’re perfect.

“We’ve changed recipes so they’re absolutely foolproof. When you’re a company that’s a scratch bakery, it requires a lot of recipe testing. We changed all of the recipes to grams, and still make everything in small batches,” she says. “I have probably the most fun job in the whole company—I get to develop new recipes! It might be changing an ingredient—for example, we started using a higher-quality chocolate this summer, and it’s so rich that we had to reduce other ingredient amounts in our recipes. I also love coming up with new items or recipes that people fall in love with, like our line of rotational banana pudding flavors.”

Magnolia Bakery confetti cake (Courtesy Photo)

The Union Station location will bring Magnolia products to a brand-new set of customers. “I think people will come in for cupcakes, and will be surprised by the range we offer,” Lloyd says of the Bakery’s rotational products—more than 250—that include cookies, cakes and icebox desserts, as well as seasonal and unique-to-D.C. specialties.

“It’s apple month, so we’re shipping in apples from local orchards and markets. We do our best to get all the ingredients and produce from the local community,” she says. “We’re coming up with some fun new things just for D.C. Every location has special desserts. We’re known for our vanilla and chocolate combination cupcakes with classic American buttercream, but use different buttercreams and meringues for the other 50-75 cupcake flavors. There’s so many different ones that have come back, like this month’s peanut butter and jelly. We have fun.”

The choice to bring Magnolia to Washington was to reach locals in various walks of life. “Coming down the seaboard to D.C. seemed like a natural progression; we wanted to be on the Eastern seaboard that was easy to get to,” Lloyd says. “We’re in train stations like Grand Terminal or Penn Station, so we know transport hubs are good locations. There’s a combination of commuters, businesses, tourists—they’re not so much residential, but people who work in the area and want to take something home.”

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding (Courtesy Photo)

Lloyd and the Bakery aim to bring that homemade feeling to the newest location. “I think we’ve maintained our brand quality over 22 years because we bake on-premises. Every store does their own baking in small batches, so you can have cupcakes that came out of the oven an hour ago and they’ll be as fresh as can be,” Lloyd says. “We’re always looking to stay current. We incorporated new desserts to attract people who liked dark chocolate when that movement grew, for example, but we never did cake pops—they’re not classics for an American-style bakery. We do it all like an old-fashioned corner bakery. We always strive to be pure and classic, and every aspect is made by hand and from scratch. I grew up in the Midwest with a corner bakery, where my mother would get all of our special-occasion goods. We want to have that presence, whether it’s in a transportation hub or your neighborhood.”

For the question of what to order, Lloyd has some ideas.

“Banana pudding is everybody’s favorite,” Lloyd says. “My personal all-time favorites are monthly specials, because I don’t get them throughout the year. One is our key lime cheesecake. It’s light and fluffy, and has that key lime hint that’s a little sweet and puckery. I also love our caramel sea salt chocolate chunk cookies. We make our own caramel, and the chocolate we use is so rich, with a sprinkling of sea salt on top! The cranberry apple walnut muffin is phenomenal too. The muffin probably has a full apple in it—each is loaded with apples, cranberries and walnuts, and everybody loves that recipe!”

Magnolia Bakery Smores Cake Slice (Courtesy Photo)

Lloyd anticipates Magnolia’s simplicity and classic products being a hit for Washington.

“Julia Child always said, ‘The test of a chef is: can they make a perfect roast chicken and a perfect omelette?’ To make a perfect one, it takes skill-and it takes skill to make a simple cupcake,” she says. “It’s a simple recipe, but following those steps makes a perfect cupcake with the right amounts and right kinds of ingredients. That’s why we stay with classic recipes, because it’s all about the ingredients and techniques and how you put them together.”

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