REVIEW: Pro Supps MyBar Confetti Cake Crunch and Ice Cream Cookie Crunch

As a wise man once said, “you’ve gotta get your daily turd-shaped protein injection somehow…”. Okay, maybe no one ever really said that, but I love me a good protein bar and when a new one pops onto my radar I’m eager to get a taste – turd shaped or not. The Pro Supps MyBar came onto the scene within the last year but I had yet to see them in stores, and I’m not one to take a gamble on ordering a box of 12 blindly. As I strolled the selection of porta-gains at GNC I noticed two MyBar’s tucked away on the bottom shelf, and I knew the moment was mine for the taking.

The MyBar looks very much like a Combat Crunch or MuscleTech Nitro and texturally falls somewhere in between the two. The bar is noticeably smaller but has a pretty solid density to it that makes it feel hearty in my hands. It should be noted that while they have similar calories and protein to the CC and MT bars, they’re slightly higher fat (10 grams) and lower carb (17 grams), which could be a pro or con depending on what kind of macros you’re looking for in a protein pick-me-up.

Confetti Cake Crunch:

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Fortunately the flavor of the Confetti Crunch doesn’t have any of the weird lemony Froot Loops aura of the Combat Crunch and is much more in line with MuscleTech’s solid spin on cake. It starts off cake-y and channels frosting with some nice vanilla notes and definite party vibes. The taste fades quickly and ends pretty flat with a protein supplement finish that doesn’t live up to the sprinkle crunch texture of the bar. Eating this bar reminds me a lot of Zebra Stripe gum – it starts begins with a wonderful bold flavor that is gone almost as soon as it arrives.

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When all is said and done it simply isn’t sweet enough, and for a bar with 6 grams of sugar I would expect a bit more sugary push to round out the lovely frosting beginning. It isn’t disgusting, but doesn’t reach the high points of the MuscleTech or Oh Yeah! ONE, so I’m not sure why I would get this one again.

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Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: 220 cals – 10g fat – 5g sat fat – 20mg cholesterol – 210mg sodium – 17g carb – 1g fiber – 6g sugar – 20g protein

Ice Cream Cookie Crunch:

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This bar has one of the more interesting names I’ve seen from a supplement company, and as good as an ice cream-y protein bar sounds I’m pretty skeptical of their ability to deliver. My suspicions are correct, as aside from a pretty notable creaminess in the outer chocolate coating of the bar, nothing translates ice cream here at all; not to mention ice cream doesn’t typically crunch, so the name is pretty confused overall.

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It’s a pretty standard chocolate coated chocolate protein that has a nice dense-yet-soft, almost truffle kind of texture, with only a bit of decent flavor to back it up. Much like the confetti, it begins pretty sweet with some crunchy bits and fades very quickly to finish on a protein-heavy note that leaves a slightly dry, almost chalky feeling on my tongue. It’s fine, but again, nothing at all remarkable, and doesn’t come close to any of the chocolate Combat Crunch bars, which in my opinion are the best in the game.

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Rating: 6/10

Quick Nutrition: Identical to above except 400mg sodium

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REVIEW: TastyKake Birthday Kake and Blueberry Mini Donuts

TastyKake are gunning for sweet summer nostalgia with a line of fun festive snack cakes bursting with berries and sunshine. While many of these cellophane-wrapped beauties are very hit or miss, mini donuts tends to really speak to my soul with their traditional ‘murican breakfast appeal and fun sized pop-ability. To welcome long days and short nights TastyKake blessed us with both Birthday Kake and Blueberry Mini Donuts, and I’m gonna have me a two-for-one mouth party.

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The Birthday Kake donuts, visually, are a real deal fiesta. They’re a spin on the classic mini crunch donut, but instead of being studded with crumbs of tan and brown, they’re an explosive sprinkle mix of blue, red, green, orange, and pink. The smell doesn’t immediately channel cake, but it doesn’t smell of coconut or cinnamon the way most crunch mini’s smell, and clearly they’re a different birthday beast.

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The texture is middle of the road – not super dry but also not the smoothest or moistest bagged donut I’ve had. The bite is soft with some crunch but not particularly exciting, and there isn’t nearly as much vanilla flavor as I anticipated with the big visual pop. To be honest, nothing about the flavor screams cake here aside from a touch of eggy-ness that hints at yellow cake, but not enough to truly satisfy. There are no elements of frosting or dominant vanilla that would truly channel a celebratory slice, and while they don’t taste bad, they’re ultimately kind of boring and nothing to don a pointy party hat for.

Rating: 5.5/10

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The Blueberry donuts are a summer-y spin on the standard powdered variety, with a good dose of coke white shimmer on the outside and a pretty purple on the inside. The smell is immediately big and bright with an intense sweetness and pretty authentic blueberry notes that seem more promising than the usual hyper-artificial flavors that go hand in hand with other berries (like strawberry).

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The texture on these ‘nuts is fantastic. Super soft and moist, they almost melt in my mouth when I bite in with a lovely squish that screams fresh summer delight. The blueberry is very assertive and sweet, with just a slight tartness that keeps them from going overboard. Make no mistake, they’re covered in sugar so they’re quite sweet, but the execution of the blueberry prevents the donut from being a single sugary note. While there are no actual pieces of blueberries like in a blueberry muffin, the flavor is dialed in and delicious and when it comes to the fruit-emulation game these are a real winner.

Rating: 8/10

*Disclosure*  These donuts were graciously sent to me by the folks at TastyKake but the cost of the cakes in no way influenced my opinion of them!

REVIEW: Optimum Nutrition Cake Bites (All four flavors!)

Cake bites, cake pops, cake truffles, petit fours…whatever you want to call them, they’re hot and the trend is as booming as ever.  So booming, in fact, that they’ve eclipsed the pastry scene, and like most delicious sweet things, have found themselves in the protein imitation universe.  Optimum Nutrition, whose 2016 line of protein bars were pretty lackluster, are kicking off 2017 with three flavors of protein cake bites – Birthday Cake, Chocolate Dipped Cherry, and Red Velvet (UPDATE: in August they added a fourth flavor – mini review added at the bottom).  Each package contains three circular cake bites that equal 20 grams of protein, under 25 grams of carbs, and 230-240 calories.  I’m going to break down each flavor and rate them against each other as well as on a whole.

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Birthday Cake:
The texture is softer than your average protein bar with the whipped aspect bringing a bit more bounciness and squish while still staying firm. It doesn’t particularly remind me of cake but it is different than your typical Quest or Oh Yeah! ONE bar. The vanilla flavor is strong but not overwhelmingly sweet and there is no artificial aftertaste. The strongest element of this bites’ flavor is a really wonderful buttercream finish that leaves your mouth creamy and clean with a whisper of sweetness.

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The round sprinkles on top add a nice crunch and even though there is a bit of protein flavor the whole experience feels more pastry shop authentic than most protein bars.  This is a safe flavor to offer because it tends to be popular, but it’s also competitive as there are already good options out there.

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This is not a better take on cake than MuscleTech’s Nitro bar or the Oh Yeah! One version bit it’s still pretty solid.  Rating: 7.5/10

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Chocolate Dipped Cherry:
The different fluffy texture is really at play and more effective here. It reminds me of a mousse or a marshmallow the way it holds its form yet is soft and pillowy. The cherry flavor, while it doesn’t taste like any cake I’ve ever had, is spot on and very reminiscent of a cherry Tootsie Pop in the best way. Cherry flavored things are either disgusting and medicinal or tasty and sweet like our favorite childhood candies and this cake circle falls into the latter category.  Some people will definitely hate this flavor immediately because of its sweetness but I enjoy it.

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The chocolate coating is a bit thin and could be darker but ultimately works well to counter the cherry candy flavor and make a good balanced bite. I have never had a flavor like this in a protein bar and creativity always wins extra points in my book. Rating: 8/10

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Red Velvet:
The texture on this one most closely resembles its namesake, with that slightly dense cocoa-kissed red base being the star of the show. The initial flavor is all vanilla and not too different from Birthday Cake, but then finishes with the appropriate hint of chocolate. The coating could use more of a cream cheese tang to truly drive the red velvet flavor but it has a touch of tang and is definitely creamy which helps provide the “frosting” contrast.

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This one also gets extra points for being a less predictable flavor for protein bars, with the only other option out there being the solid YUP brands’ BUP bar, which I’ve only had when ordering online due to weird/poor distribution.  Not surprisingly I think this is the least sweet of all three and is a pretty decent version of the sought after Southern cake.  Rating: 7.5/10

While these definitely aren’t a spot on spin on little bites of cake, they are a fresh take on the ever-growing market of portable protein snacks.  One thing I don’t like about this line is the decision to include zero fiber.  I don’t need 15-20 grams of fiber in a bar but throwing in 5-10 grams helps hit the nutritional needs and balance out the impact of the carbs – neither of which you get when choosing these over another supplement.  While the flavors all rated slightly higher, I’m going to give ON Cake Bites a slightly lower rating overall because of the nutritional makeup, but will still purchase these every so often.

Overall rating: 7/10

UPDATE: In August ON added a fourth flavor to the lineup – Chocolate Frosted Donut.

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This one is pretty much in line with the quality of the initial three flavors, although I like it slightly less. The sprinkles on top are just like the ones on Birthday Cake and add a nice crunch to offset the generally soft and squishy whipped interior of the bite. Does it taste like a donut? Barely. As in, it doesn’t taste like a donut for 80% of the chew and then right towards the end I get a little bit of golden egginess that reminds me of a cake donut.  Not a yeast donut like the package would imply, and not very much at all, but there’s a touch. Much like the first three there’s no weird fake sugar aftertaste and the protein vibes are present but subtle. ON’s flavor game isn’t anywhere near the level of Oh Yeah! but this is still a decently tasty product nonetheless, even if slightly below the initial three flavors.  The macros are almost identical except this one has 250 calories instead of the 230-240.

Rating: 7/10

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REVIEW: “Sweet Salty” Birthday Cake Popcorn

I love popcorn. I also love cake (see earlier Nuts ‘N More post). When I saw this plainly labeled small red bag of popcorn that boldly read BIRTHDAY CAKE at Target I immediately took a step back and had a greater appreciation for food science. Yes, a lot of folks will say the birthday cake flavor trend is old news but I still get down with it and I am hooked on the crunch of the corn, so I grabbed a bag (or three) and went in with realistic expectations.

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Immediately the bag hits you with a soft vanilla aroma that floats with the springiness of spongecake. It isn’t extremely sharp and harsh like a vanilla extract nor is it too artificial or overly sweet. Although not as strong, the aroma isn’t too far off from marshmallows, but closer to the kind you would find in Lucky Charms than a big bag of Jet-Puffed. The popcorn looks mainly plain and white with occasional small specks of color that are probably supposed to give a nod to sprinkles.

Popcorn is naturally fluffy so the texture play here actually works really well. Initially the difference between popcorn and cake seems gigantic, but when you have them together the fluffiness of the kernels and the sweetness of the seasoning does actually register “cake” with my tastebuds. The cereal-esque marshmallow smell definitely comes to life in the flavor with a dominant sweet vanilla powderiness that is pleasant for repeated crunching.

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I’m sure something like this has been done before, but most likely in a higher sugar coated kind of popcorn, more like a caramel corn or “drizzle corn”. Those things are good but I like my popcorn as more of an abundance snack than rich hyper intense dessert. Although not the strongest birthday cake flavor, the subtle sweet powdered execution on Target’s “Sweet Salty” brand birthday cake popcorn is a win for me; something that works well on its own or mixed with a salty crunch buddy like Skinny Pop, Smartfood, or Boom Chicka Pop – my three faves.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Nuts ‘N More Birthday Cake High Protein Peanut Spread

One of the most triumphant moments in anyone’s proper birthday celebrations is the inevitable leftover birthday cake and the ensuing morning of really owning that birth crown and having cake for breakfast.  Thanks to the folks at Nuts ’N More, who are celebrating their fifth birthday, we have one more excuse to have cake for breakfast before our big day with the limited release of their Birthday Cake high protein and peanut spread.

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Visually it’s festive as hell, with sprinkles dotting every surface, and the cake flavor is pretty strong.  If I had to officially assign it a cake flavor it would probably be yellow cake, with its eggy density being more dominant than a vanilla or “white” kind of cake.  In fact, there really is no prominent vanilla flavor, which is impressive, as oftentimes companies will label something as cake when its taste is simply vanilla with some decorative flair.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the flavor of “cake” is – sugar, butter, eggs, flour – but we all know it and love it and the essence is definitely triggering that part of the birthday brain.

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Of the eight ingredients sugar is the third and sprinkles are the sixth, so the Nuts ’N More folks were being real when they said it was time to celebrate.  This isn’t a low sugar affair like many other protein nut butters out there, which helped them be successful in not having to mask an abundant use of artificial sweeteners or skimp on the ‘sprinks.  The higher amount of sugar also helps keep the butter more solid, with a lot less oil separation than you usually find in Nuts ’N More products.  It required very little mixing when first opened and the initial texture is pretty much the texture the spread stays.

Speaking of texture, this butter is definitely on the grainier side, with a sugar crystal crunch in every bite.  The crunchiness goes beyond the sprinkles and feels like an un-cooked cake batter with its granulated sugar waiting to be baked into fluffy glory.  I can’t decide whether or not I like this textural play and whether or not it was intentional.  It doesn’t bother me but I also kind of wish it had the velvety smooth texture of one of D’s Natural’s peanut-based Fluffbutters.

The crunchy texture issues get greatly remedied when used as a spread on a warm piece of bread and not eaten straight out of the jar like a savage (my preferred method).  Putting the spread on a toasted english muffin and letting the cake melt into the yeasty crevices smoothed out the texture and gave it more velvety satisfaction – I can imagine this would be insanely good on a stack of warm pancakes or waffles.

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Overall this is a solid-tasting protein spread that would be a welcome addition to any breakfast, snack, or dessert, and is a fun way to switch it up from regular or flavored peanut butters.  For the extra sugar I’m not sure it’s different enough from their Salted Caramel or Toffee Crunch flavors to warrant ordering online for the average consumer but I will certainly be scraping my container clean and savoring every spoonful before my actual birthday in January when I will eat as much real cake as humanely possible.

Rating: 8/10