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: flapJACKed S’Mores Mighty Muffin

S’mores is one of the most popular flavors in snack foods the last couple of years, dominating everything from Oreo’s to breakfast cereal to ice cream to protein bars, so it’s no surprise that flapJACKed decided to try this flavor for their Mighty Muffin.  Although I’ve never had a regular s’mores muffin I like the idea and it should be relatively easy to pull off if you can get all three elements to come across – graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.  Fortunately for flapJACKed they got all three into a magical microwavable protein bomb you make yourself in 35 seconds.

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In my mind the perfect s’mores muffin would be a golden honey graham base loaded with marshmallows, chocolate, and additional chunks of graham cracker.  This Mighty Muffin has all of those components except for the cracker pieces and I can accept that as a pretty solid attempt.  The first thing you will notice is the very strong graham cracker aroma that comes from the freshly zapped muffin.  Much like a good cup of tea the smell is a lot stronger than the actual taste but the honey undercurrent is there and ties the whole s’mores experience together.  The importance of the graham oftentimes gets overlooked when companies try to make a s’mores flavor and I commend flapJACKed for not ignoring this pivotal piece of the campfire puzzle.

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Freshly zapped and muffin-esque

Putting my fork in I find marshmallows and chocolate immediately.  Although small, they are ample, and I’m never left searching for them as I continue to eat.  The chocolate chips get a little bit melty, but oddly enough the marshmallows stay completely firm, so the texture lacks that ooey gooey goodness that make s’mores so fun.  This is a bit disappointing considering the muffin comes out hot, but the sweetness of the marshmallows helps elevate the graham cracker taste in the muffin base and genuinely adds to the s’mores experience despite their lack of meltiness.  Think of these ‘mallows as more like the ones you get on top of Swiss Miss packaged hot chocolate that disappear almost immediately rather than a fresh pack of Jet Puffed.

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Much like the Double Chocolate version I reviewed earlier, this muffin benefits greatly from a little additional moisture and sweetness, either from fruit or nut butter.  The obvious pairing here is D’s Naturals S’mores Fluffbutter, which was awesome, but I found Nuts ’N More’s Birthday Cake spread to really take the s’mores experience to the next level.  This little addition helped fill in the melty gaps I was missing from the marshmallows and created a wonderful protein-loaded eating experience.  This product is not perfect but good enough to keep me trying the rest of their flavors in search of the ultimate Mighty Muffin.

Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: 210 calories – 6g fat – 350mg Sodium – 24g Carbs – 5g Fiber – 10g Sugar – 20g Protein