REVIEW: Little Debbie S’mores Cake Rolls

It’s the last week of July, which in commercial snack land means Halloween is right around the corner. Yes, even though in California, and especially in the Bay, we have yet to hit our temperature max, I know in my spooky spicy cinnamon-pumping heart that once that second week of August rolls around there will be pumpkins EVERYWHERE. So before I start spiraling into the autumnal abyss, it seems fitting to cap things off with one last summery s’mores treat, especially since I’m a pretty big cheerleader for Little Debbie’s Pumpkin Spice Rolls. Little Debbie’s S’mores Cake Rolls combine a graham cake with crème filling and a chocolate drizzle.

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REVIEW: Little Debbie Turtle Brownies

Sometimes even the trashiest of folks have to don their finest for a special outing, and that day has come for junk food Queen Little Debbie. Popping off the shelf in a notably thicker and shinier box garnished with the title “Specialty Recipe” tag, there’s a new batch of cellophane treats aimed to set the bar even higher for quick fix cakes. Little Debbie’s Turtle Brownies combine a pan-baked cake brownie topped with salty-smooth, golden brown caramel, crunchy roasted peanuts and a drizzle of fudge coating.

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REVIEW: Suzy Q’s (“Even Better Tasting”, 2018)

The bitch is back, and she’s bringin’ the thicc-ness. No, I’m not talking about Elton John, I’m talking about snack cakes, of course, and not that perma-smirkin’ Little Debbie either. I’m talkin’ about the oft-forgotten about clunky, chunky, highly criticized girl named Suzy Q.

Growing up I felt like the only weirdo that actually liked Suzy Q’s. Like most Hostess products they were essentially the same ingredients put into a different shape, but Suzy took all of the glamour out of it – no rolls, no hidden filling, no chocolate coating. Naked and exposed sponge cake with a layer of frosting. That’s it. And I loved ‘em. Then again, I also loved Sno Balls, Raspberry Zingers, and pretty much any and all quick fix cake injections, so I guess I’m just a fiend. While not nearly as pretty as a Cupcake garnished with a perfect white twirl, I always admired Suzy’s heftiness and stripped down nature, and for 2018 she’s back; “even better tasting”, and bigger than ever.

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REVIEW: Little Debbie Easter Carrot Cake Rolls

Spring time isn’t a great time for junk food and my tastebuds. After the spicy onslaught of autumn and winter, things slow down with fruit and flowers and things that don’t get me nearly as jostled as some warm spices. Sure, there’s red velvet and s’mores, but those sunny weather flavors can’t hold a candle to pumpkin or gingerbread, except for one oft neglected springy treat – carrot cake. As she usually does, Little Debbie has my back and came through this year delivering a brand new twist on her giant carb-bomb logs with Easter Carrot Cake Rolls.

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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!

HOSTESS ROUNDUP: Chocolate Cake Twinkies, White Fudge Ding Dongs, Peanut Butter Ho Ho’s

Earlier this year Hostess released three new spins on some of their established cakes, which, unlike most new/limited flavor varieties were available in the gas-station-classic single serve size instead of a big ole box of 8 or 10.  This got me excited, since I love trying new products but rarely need that many – it was a golden opportunity to taste without commitment.  The hunt was real for these bad boys, as it took me nearly two months and three different locations to track them all down.  Conveniently, all three of these cakes are being released in big box grocery format this week, so if any of these treats sound too tantalizing to deny, you can get em in a ten pack.  Alright Hostess, let’s round em up!

Chocolate Cake Twinkies

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A very basic but surprisingly interesting and successful twist to the golden sponge cake classic. It’s less greasy than yellow Twinkies but more moist than a Suzy Q, which are notoriously dry with an odd stiffness. The cake itself has a moderate chocolate flavor that reminds me of Cocoa Puffs with a light sweet profile that steers clear of any bitterness.

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The cream filling is same as any hostess product, and works well in tandem with the chocolate sponge, which overall tempers the sweetness compared to a normal Twinkies.  I enjoyed eating this a lot more than I anticipated and I would probably even buy them again!

Rating: 7.5/10

White Fudge Ding Dongs

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A fluffy, fairly one-noted sweet vanilla cake. Surprisingly less sweet than its closest competitor, Little Debbie’s Zebra Cakes, it has a noticeably rich almost buttery flavor to it.  The white fudge coating is soft and does have a slightly smoother less waxy coating than your typical Hostess outer layer. It feels a bit thicker, which is maybe the desired effect of “fudge”.

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The cream filling pops a lot less than a regular Ding Dong because of the already vanilla-sweet cake and coating. It’s more moist than the original Dong with a greater/equal distribution of cream filling that leads to an overall creamy bite. It’s not bad but it isn’t really all that great either; and I’m generally a fan of white cake with white frosting.

Rating: 6/10

Peanut Butter Ho Hos

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I’ve never had a Hostess product with peanut butter in it and I am now a happy boy.  The overall flavor is still very sweet with the dominant taste being the light chocolate of the Ho Ho cake and outer coating.  It would be nice if there was a big authentic salty PB presence to offset the sweet, but it comes off more like a sweet peanut butter frosting than true butter (which isn’t much of a surprise).

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Still, it’s peanut butter and the nuttiness is a welcome addition to the Ho Ho’s inner swirl which makes the cake overall more dynamic and interesting. That being said, it doesn’t deliver the same PB satisfaction as a Reese’s or Little Debbie’s PB creme pie so I’m not sure this would be my go to in the future if I was having a cake-y peanut butter craving.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Entenmann’s Little Bites Party Cakes

Who doesn’t love a good birthday party?  Better yet who doesn’t love a good birthday cake?  Even BETTER yet who doesn’t love BABIES?  If you aren’t evil and agree with all of those statements, then there may be a new junk food staple you can add to your forbidden cabinet of goodies.  Welcome to your next sweet tooth get together, the baby-sized Entenmann’s Little Bites Party Cakes.  The fun-sized cakes come in pouches of four poppable muffin-shaped cakes and can be found in the fiesta aisle near you.

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The cakes themselves are small and moist with an oily sheen that should be familiar to anyone who has ever had any snack cake made by Entenmann’s, Hostess, or Little Debbie.  The “party cake” tag is essentially Funfetti, or, a lightly flavored vanilla cake decked out with sprinkles and extra sweetness.  The aroma is pure white cake, with that store bought or boxed mix swagger that harkens back to all of my birthday parties from ages three through twelve.  They taste just like an unfrosted cupcake, or non-fruity muffin, with a buttery undertone that balances out the sugar for a pretty pleasant experience.

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Texturally there’s not much going on here.  The sprinkles have fully dissolved in the baking process and don’t add any crunch or grit for an entirely smooth single noted experience.  They’re soft and moist with a gentle chew that would make it easy to pop about fifteen of them without blinking an eye.

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I can’t help but feel that although they are good, the absence of frosting or any type of crunch leaves some room for improvement.  This isn’t the worst of things, seeing as frosting, peanut butter, Nutella, and any other type of spread you may have lying around could easily create four different mini cupcakes with a nice, vanilla cake base.  There is absolutely nothing offensive about these cakes, nor is there anything particularly mind blowing.  They’re a tasty, well executed version of one of the most beloved and whimsical types of cake you can find at roller rinks, bowling alley’s, and mini golf courses on a ten year old’s big day all across our fine country.

Rating: 7.5/10

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Sno Balls Ice Cream

I’ve always loved Sno Balls.  Starting at a very young age I held it down for team coconut, and those squishy mounds of jiggly marshmallow and cream-filled chocolate cake always got my chubby heart fluttering with joy.  Hell, I even like those red raspberry coconut Zingers that everyone else on earth seems to hate.  Needless to say, if there’s anything that could make Sno Balls better (aside from seasonal coloring, of course), it would be returning them to the icy tundra from which they came and immersing them in a vat of frozen creamy dairy.  Hostess and Nestle have once again combined forces to make all of our dreams come true with Sno Balls ice cream, which combines a marshmallow flavored ice cream with chocolate cake pieces and a whipped coconut swirl.  Are you dead yet?  Let’s eat.

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The ice cream is smooth and fluffy with a wonderfully decadent and addictive marshmallow texture that more closely mimics the ‘mallow than anything I’ve had not straight out of a Jet Puffed package.  There’s that undercurrent of sweet round vanilla that every so often crosses paths with a slightly gritty pink coconut swirl that is spot on the outside of Sno Balls.  It reminds me so much of eating the Hostess classic that I can almost feel the distinct squish of biting into one right out of the shiny cellophane.  Even though there isn’t tons of the swirl, I like how much they put in there because the coconut intensity weaves in and out of bites without becoming too dominant or taking over the entire profile.

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The cake pieces are dark with a brownie-like density and a distinctly deep cocoa flavor that stands out strong against the mellow marshmallow backdrop.  It’s not the highest quality mix in, but once again it stays true to the feeling and flavor of the treat that it aims to emulate.  Much like the Twinkies ice cream, the pieces are on the smaller side but there’s enough sprinkled throughout that chocolate keeps a constant presence and contributes greatly to the overall flavor.

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This ice cream does a tremendous job of putting a cold and melty twist on eating Sno Balls.  The marriage of marshmallow, coconut, and chocolate cake works really well as an ice cream that transcends the novelty appeal into something that is legitimately enjoyable and wouldn’t seem out of place at all in a higher end scoop shop.  The airier, lower milk fat type of base that Dreyers uses works much better than a denser more premium ice cream for bringing home that true marshmallow texture that the Sno Balls experience needs.  Eat this and be happy.

Rating: 8.5/10

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Frosted Strawberry Donettes

There’s something appealing about mini things. Mini cupcakes, mini peanut butter cups, personal pizzas, sneaky baby bottles of booze…and, donuts, or, Donettes, as Hostess appropriately calls them. These miniature tire-esque circles of sugary delight have always tempted me, and what better time to be lured by temptation than the season of love? To help get our love juices flowing, Hostess have injected their already aphrodisiac-laden chocolate Donettes with another aphro-treat – strawberry, for a fiery start to your Valentine’s Day morning.

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Biting in there is a predominantly sweet but slightly tart strawberry flavor that breaks through the chocolate and stands out pretty powerfully on its own. The two flavors compliment each other well, with the bite beginning on chocolate and gradually transforming to berry, leaving a distinctly artificial strawberry presence on the tongue.  While the taste is artificial and candy-like in nature it isn’t too overwhelmingly sweet, which would have made it difficult to eat more than one or two (not a problem).  Fake strawberry tends to be more agreeable and easily executed than cherry, and these little dough balls are no exception.

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The strongest element of this Donette is its texture. The outside, while still having that classic Hostess waxy element to it, is incredibly soft and thin, giving an airy snap when chewing.  That outer coating is a very distinct texture that for whatever reason works better on mini donuts than any other kind of snack cake.  The inside is very moist, and may be the freshest tasting Donette I’ve ever had from Hostess.  This could be the seasonal advantage of buying a limited item close to its release, as the expiration is still six weeks away and I’m reaping the benefits, or it could just be the luck of the draw with this particular batch.

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Is this a better junky nosh than the classic chocolate frosted Donette with the yellow inside? Nope, not for me; but it is a solid limited release that is much more worthy of burning your calories than even some of the standard editions, like Glazed. It’s got that breakfast cereal-y, Sunday morning strawberry pop that you will find either nostalgic or gross, but for $2 on sale at Target it’s hard to go wrong if you find the plump little fake chocolate ‘nuts as comforting and strangely delicious as I do.

Rating: 7/10