REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Birthday Cake & Blackberries

It should be pretty evident by now that ice cream is one of my absolute favorite foods, and when it comes to desserts, cake isn’t too far behind it. One of the best things about cake is that it instantly screams “celebration”, and whether it’s celebrating another year in the books or capping off a fantastic meal out, if there’s cake in my mouth, I’m feelin’ like a party. I also love it when the two worlds collide, and any number of birthday cake, funfetti, frosting, or otherwise cake-oriented ice cream flavors tend to be go-tos for me in scoop shops, and usually I swoon over the sickeningly sugary, indulgent, sweet-tooth collaboration. For this month’s homage to the berry bounty of the summer, Salt & Straw are attempting to swoon me into submission with Birthday Cake & Blackberries – which combines a vanilla frosting ice cream with blackberry jam swirl and chunks of three-vanilla cake.

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The ice cream has a light frosting flavor that is surprisingly and pleasantly not too sweet. The base channels the frosted outside of Mothers Circus Animal cookies and cereal milk, with gentle vanilla notes that are rounded out and ultimately taken over by a general sweetness – but not a cloying one. The sprinkles add a nice pop of color but don’t add anything by way of texture, as it seems that they’ve been chopped up even smaller than their usual mini-rainbow selves.

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The blackberry swirl is less prominent than I’m used to from Salt & Straw, and definitely much thinner. The consistency of the swirl reminds me more of a sauce than jam, with no chunks of fruit or heaviness to be found. The flavor is also a bit thin, not particularly sweet or carrying any of the tart notes I usually associate with blackberries. When my spoon gets some of the swirl it does add a little more sweetness, but without any acidity to balance it out it doesn’t really add much to the experience. I wish it had the brevity of the jams found in Roasted Strawberry Tres Leches or even this month’s Fresh Cheese and Strawberries, which would bring some more depth to an otherwise pretty “vanilla” scoop.

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Where this flavor really makes me scratch my head is the cake pieces. The pieces themselves are fun-looking – classic funfetti style cake decked out with sprinkles in a vanilla sponge – but they’re very small, and as a result, crunchy. Although they pop with a nice vanilla and slightly buttery flavor, they have none of the squishy bounce or chew that I want from cake, and ultimately feel and taste much more like cookies. More than stand out as pieces or chunks they integrate themselves into the ice cream as a crumble, and do work well in tandem with the frosting flavor from the base.

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Between the more subdued milky frosting notes in the base and the small crunchy cookies, this pint feels more like a nice afternoon at grandma’s house than a celebratory birthday party. Had the name of the flavor been “Sprinkle Cookies and Blackberries” I might have been more prepared for what I encountered, but as it stands this pint left me with little reason to don my pointed party hat. For those seeking a cakey scoop this summer I would recommend Baskin Robbins’ America’s Birthday Cake over this one in an instant, and you won’t have to pay to ship it.

Rating: 7/10
Found at: Salt & Straw ($11.00)

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3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Birthday Cake & Blackberries

    • Yeah it was by far the flavor I was the most excited for too, and maybe that was part of my interpretation of the pint, but I also had a scoop in-store from a different batch and had the same experience. Keep in mind it’s still S&S and delicious, I just think it might have ended up being my least favorite of the seasonal options (as from sherbet which I didn’t try) and it’s just shocking because of how much I love cake ice cream!

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  1. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t finish the pint, but S&S’s description–“hunks of three-vanilla cake”–is a real head-scratcher. It would seem more fitting to describe the mix-in as vanilla-flavored shortbread cookies. That said, I liked it more than Little G’s Confetti Birthday Cake but agree with you that Baskin Robbins’ America’s Birthday Cake is the way to go.

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