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)

It’s National Ice Cream Month!

While in my heart I’m a true autumn boy who loves the leaves falling, early darkened skies, and cinnamon-all-in-my-everything aesthetic of October through December, I also have a secret soft spot for July, also known as National Ice Cream Month.  Yes, I know that on social media every day is another #something day, but honoring the sacred tradition of the scoop is an actual holiday, signed into public law by Ronald Reagan on July 9, 1984.  With National Ice Cream Day coming just one week from today, on Sunday July 16, this week the skillet is going full on ice cream with nothing but dreamy, melty, delicious ice cream reviews.

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While it’s pretty evident if you’ve read anything on this site I don’t need an excuse to enjoy some ice cream, but for those of you that may need a little extra encouragement this could be a great time to go and share a scoop with someone you love.  Many shops will have specials, some will be crowded, but be honest – when has going out for ice cream ever not been awesome?  It’s one of my favorite activities, especially with this little lady, the renowned Sil B:

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What are your favorite ice cream flavors?  Or ice cream brands?  Do you have any memories associated with ice cream?  Chocolate ice cream is America’s favorite dessert, but I know you’ve got a better flavor than that – hit me with it!