Category Archives: Taste Test

For A Case of Tastykake

We don’t often cross-post our content from IPB Proper, but on a night like tonight, it only seems appropriate. Please enjoy this foray into the world of disgusting store-bought treats.

Eagle-eyed Gentle Readers around here may have noticed two recent trends in our thinking: one is that we are vaguely obsessed with the Flyers, and the other is that we’re incredibly obsessed with Tastykakes. Now, we’ve lived in the outlying Philadelphia region for the better part of our lives, and up until this very day, our only exposure to Tastykakes was those shockingly vile pictures of them on billboards along I-95 on the way back from the airport and/or sports complex in Philly. But ever since finding out that the Flyers and Tastykakes go together like, well, some sort of iconic unholy combination, it has been our sworn mission to immerse ourselves in the Tastykake experience. If our beloved Tranny Brides actually officially score goals for cases of Tastykakes (to be donated to children’s charities), we simply must know what that case of deliciousness is really like. Seriously, Gentle Reader, this is what motivates Mike Richards when he’s breaking away shorthanded; don’t even try to tell us he’s not thinking, “Dude, you just gotta score here — there’s Tastykakes on the line.”

Boomer is the most shameless of the three of us, so she willingly volunteered to go to the nearest gas station kwik-e-mart to stock up on our Tasty vittles. We weren’t sure how much would be available, so imagine our delight when she sent us an email this afternoon titled simply “yum yum” with this as the entire body of the message:

Tastykakes In The Car

Mission accomplished. We were ready to spend this evening watching the Tranny Brides on tivo delay while enjoying our very own custom-built case of Tastykakes.

Here was the haul, divvied up:

Tastykake Sampler

It should be noted that we undertook this taste test without the safety net of a spit cup; it was just us and the Tastykakes. If the Flyers give them out to sick orphans, how bad can they be?

It should also be noted that when you sit for a few minutes next to a groaning platter of pieces of Tastykake, the smell is nearly overwhelming. And the sliced-open Jelly Krimpet will glare balefully through your soul.

Peering Into Your Soul

The more we thought about it, the more terrible an idea this seemed to be. Because seriously, if the Flyers give these things away to sick orphans, there’s no way they’re edible. They are the Flyers, after all. The only thing to do is just to dig in.

Jelly Krimpets 2

Our methodology is to just plow through, and then rate them on Boomer’s proposed High Disgust Factor scale, ranging from Beaker to Boulerice (Beaker being not at all disgusting, Boulerice being, well, Boulerice).

First up: The Pound Kake Junior. It is just a little brick of pound cake. There is actually nothing junior about it, as it could probably feed a family of four for a week. This is really a manly lunchbox dessert, even by our standards.

High Disgust Factor: Knuble. It’s actually pretty likable, in a workmanlike way. It tastes not unlike microwave popcorn butter, but in cake form. Or rather, kake form.

We wash this down with generous swallows of Diet Coke (is it actually Koke tonight?) and gird ourselves for more.

Second up: Creme Filled Koffee Kake Cupcakes. We’re confused by the spellings — why aren’t they “cupkakes”? Schnookie’s especially eager for this kake, because her fondest elementary school snack memory is that one time in first grade that her class got Drake’s Coffee Cakes. To this day, when offered a free snack, she irrationally hopes it will be something like that, but she has never once, in all those years been rewarded again. This cupkake is a little blob of yellow kake with what looks like tan mouse droppings on top and a blob of gleaming white creme in the middle.

High Disgust Factor: Gagne. Almost — almost — good. But, like Gagne, it has a fatal flaw. Gagne’s is that he’s a Marty killer, and the Koffee Kake’s is that its lingering (and lingering, and lingering) aftertaste is strongly of coconut. Or Kokonut. But the mouse poops are surprisingly crunchy and delicious, and the whole thing tastes genuinely of cinnamon. If this was a free snack at some event we were attending, we’d be psyched. Until we finished eating it, and then we’d spend the rest of the event wishing the world didn’t taste of coconut.

Chocolate Cupcake

Third Up: As Pookie puts it, “Should we get this Lemon Pie out of the way?” It’s a hard brown crust around a blobby glob of dull yellow goo.

High Disgust Factor: Asham. We expected profoundly disgusting, and as it turns out, it’s actually not vomit-inducing. In other words, pleasantly surprising. The filling is fairly lemony, and the crust isn’t as stale-tasting as we thought it would be. It’s doughy and fake tasting, though — kinda like Asham.

Fourth Up: “Tasty Treat”. This is Tastykake’s contribution to the premade Rice Krispie treat canon. When cutting these things into pieces, this one smelled the worst when first opened by a knife. How do Rice Krispie treats turn out like that? How is that possible? We were about to find out.

High Disgust Factor: Carter. Dude. This is the dessert that’s all blond hair and white teeth. It tastes like a rice krispie treat that has yellow cake mix (not kake mix) powder in it. It makes us want to make our own rice krispie treats with yellow cake mix sprinkled in, just to see if we could replicate this flavor, but in a wholesome, homemade way. Heh. We actually went back for more of this one.

Tastyklair

Fifth Up: Tastyklair. Pookie: “So far we haven’t had one that makes me want to gack, but looking at the Tastyklair, I don’t think I can put it in my mouth.”

High Disgust Factor: Hextall. Ron Hextall gave us hours and hours of laughing-at-him joy while also being someone we could genuinely loathe. Likewise, this was the item that most delighted us while studying up on Tastykakes, and is also something we can genuinely regret having eaten. Pookie: “This tastes like a ‘treat’ I would have been given in Russia.” She doesn’t mean that in a nice way. Once again, it’s the doughy, dry crust, this time filled with cake-mix flavored cream and a crumbly “chocolate” topping. It’s iconically bad.

Sixth Up: Chocolate Cupcake. Tastykake totally dropped the ball naming this. It’s a dry lump of chocolate cupcake with a thin, sad layer of chocolate frosting over the top. It doesn’t look encouraging.

High Disgust Factor: Briere. We’d rather pretend this never happened. It was strangely crumbly, yet had a gummy mouthfeel. Schnookie: “This is the opposite of all the others, in that it started out revolting, then had a lingering aftertaste of just cocoa.” Pause. “No, wait. Now it’s revolting again.” Pookie: “Maybe we should rate this as a Terry Murray, because for you it was literally a choking situation.” ZING!

Seventh Up: Creme Filled Chocolate Cupcake. It looks less malignant than the plain chocolate cupcake because it has a flat smear of “white” frosting on top, and a gleaming blob or white creme in the center.

High Disgust Factor: Lindros. It’s an enigma. It doesn’t taste as bad as its non creme-filled counterpart, in large part because its cupcake foulness is broken up by that glob of sugared, whipped crisco. We rate it a Lindros because it was puzzlingly difficult to figure out what was going on with it — we couldn’t figure out what we were tasting, how bad it was, what its intentions were, and it would have been greatly improved by Scott Stevens smushing it into oblivion.

Jelly Krimpets

Eighth Up: Fudge Nut Brownie. Schnookie balked here, after struggling mightily with the chocolate cupcake. This is a very flat slab of brownie substance topped with a thick sludge of “frosting” studded with pieces of walnuts.

High Disgust Factor: Cote. Like Cote, this sucks at what it does, but it’s also kind of benign. That said, if Cote was a metaphor for this brownie, and picking Cote for a roster was a metaphor for choosing an after-dinner treat, then playing with an empty spot in the lineup would be our metaphor for opting to go dessertless. To spell it out. Pookie: “This tastes like brownie jerky.”

Butterscotch Krimpet

Based on our “observing the billboards along I-95” research, we think Krimpets are the signature Tastykake. So we saved them for last.

Ninth Up: Jelly Filled Krimpet. This is perhaps the scariest item on the plate whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Blastyklair”. It’s a sponge cake with a squirt of red goo in the center.

High Disgust Factor: Forsberg. This is a surprisingly ephemeral dessertstuff, yet it packs an enormous wallop of grotesqueness. We each took eensy-weensy bites, and yet we still found ourselves overwhelmed by the powerful wretchedness that is the flavor of the jelly filling. It tastes like a fruit roll-up that goes on for miles. Like the Flyers-Era Forsberg, it’s not very substantial, but it’s also pervasively vile. Pookie: “I felt like it wasn’t actually playing in a game, but it was still calling a press conference during the action to tell me stuff it’s already gone over time and again before.”

Tenth Up: Butterscotch Krimpet. It’s sponge cake with a limp square of tawny “frosting” drooping over the top of it. It looks almost as bad in person as it does in its I-95 glamor shots, and we hoped it would be a Tastykake experience for the ages.

High Disgust Factor: Cechmanek. The Butterscotch Krimpet is a very puzzling experience. Pookie: “I couldn’t tell you what this tasted like. It’s like… a sugary… citrus… sawdust…” Schnookie: “It’s like Roman Cechmanek. It’s beamed into my life from a mysterious planet, it’s doing god-only-knows-what here, and then it’s going to beam back away.” Pookie: “But it’s going to leave me with great happiness like Cechmanek did, because my Tastykake tasting experience is now over.”

So there you go, Gentle Reader. Perhaps our Tastykake obsession is safely behind us. If there’s one lesson we’re taking away from this exercise, it’s that you really, really don’t want to be a sick orphan in Philadelphia.

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Delicacies of Dallas: Caramel Corn

On our first night here (in Dallas) we had to stop at Patty’s local grocery store to pick up some essentials (Diet Coke, Diet Coke, ice cream, Diet Coke). As we were waltzing down the aisles, something caught our eye. Readers of IPB Proper may remember that we have a bit of a habit of impulse buying strange foods when we find ourselves in grocery stores while on vacation. In Buffalo, it was mochi. In Dallas, it was Orville Reddenbacher’s Caramel corn.

Patty was shocked that we didn’t have this particular item in New Jersey. I suspect its sphere of influence includes NJ, it’s just not part of our daily sphere of concern. And for that reason, neither of us could say no to trying it out. I mean, it’s microwave popcorn that has scads of prep instructions!

It should be noted that we were both recently struck with a completely-out-of-the-blue craving for microwave popcorn. Picking over the options at our grocery store, we selected Newman’s Own Butter Boom.

While it wasn’t half-bad — the flavor was good at first but lingered with a nasty aftertaste, and the overall consistency was rubbery — it also wasn’t so good that we felt like it was worth trying again. Evidently, we were wrong. After a bit of a microwave mishap and one bag of burnt popcorn left on the back porch to cool down, we had a bowl of fluffy white (probably rubbery) popcorn. And we had a packet of caramel. Pardon me, a “caramel flavored wafer”. The scads of instructions said to the wafer in fourths…

… And then place the resulting pieces strategically atop the popcorn…

… And then microwave it again to get the caramel wafer “bubbly and frothy”.

I’m not sure this is the very picture of “bubbly and frothy”, but it was melted enough for the next step — stirring with heat proof spoons. Patty tried to throw Schnookie off her game by shouting, “Don’t use those wooden spoons! They’ll catch fire!” But even that bit of kitchen tomfoolery didn’t keep Schnookie from stirring that popcorn-caramel concoction like a pro.

The ten minutes spent waiting for it to cool were tense and anxious. Would the popcorn be a better or worse culinary experience than the mochi? Were the off-putting aromas coming from the bowl a preview of the taste? Was the time and trouble spent making the treat utterly misspent? There was only one way to find out.

Initial reaction? Not bad! Certainly better than expected. Schnookie said it best when she said, shocked, “It’s like… caramel corn!” I’m sure Orville’s relieved we won’t sue them for false advertising. But seriously, our expectations were so low, the fact that it did briefly resemble caramel corn is a huge point in its favor. The fact that it hardened too much, too fast is a point against. The caramel was stronger than the popcorn, making it very, very difficult to pull the kernels apart. After settling some more, the caramel took on less of a caramel-y flavor and more of a toffee. Which is not a bad thing. The popcorn itself still had the rubbery microwave popcorn problem, but the coating of caramel/toffee/chemicals covered it up. All in all, it was a fun thing to try and to eat most of, but not a culinary endeavor worth repeating. So endeth our momentary infatuation with microwave popcorn.

The final review is: Microwave Caramel Popcorn – .5 stars, Mochi – negative 100 stars.

Update: 30 minutes after we finished the popcorn it became clear that it was… not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

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Filed under On The Road, Slumming It, Taste Test

The Great Garlic Taste Test Of ’08

Now that the entire garlic crop has been picked and cured, it’s time to tackle that most onerous task: figuring out which one tastes best. The three contenders in today’s battle are, in no particular order:

Persian Star

Chesnok Red

German White

The methodology was as follows:

We were going to test the flavors of the three garlics in three settings — rubbed raw on toast, roasted and spread on bread, and raw in a simple bruschetta treatment. Each type was handled with uncontaminated utensils, and they were eaten in a random, blind test.

The Persian Star had a small head with about a dozen teensy cloves. The skins of the cloves were a lovely purply red, but they were a total pain in the ass to handle. I don’t have a lot of patience with wee garlic cloves.

The Chesnok Red was basically exactly like the Persian Star. Again with the wee tiny cloves. Again with the eye-rolling and me grumbling, “This better not taste that good.”

The German White, though, was much more my speed: big cloves (but not very many of them in the head), easy to peel, basically a dream to handle.

The processing was fairly simple for this test. I toasted some slices of bread with a little olive oil for the raw-rubbed test, nestled a few cloves of each in some tin foil and drizzled them with olive oil before roasting for the roasted-and-smeared test, and stirred together some finely diced Black Plum tomatoes (from our garden), the finely minced garlic, a pinch of chiffonaded fresh basil (from our garden), and a healthy drizzle of olive oil for the bruschetta test.

Then we hunkered down for some serious bread consumption.

For the raw-garlic-rubbed-on-olive-oiled-toasts test, we ended up liking the three almost equally. We started with the German White, and felt it had “a mild, not very forward flavor” and was “complimentary”, “a team player”. The Persian Star was “more garlicky”, “sharper and sweeter”, had “a flavor that lingers”, but was “more raw-tasting” and was “asking for something else” to go with it. The Chesnok Red was our winner, by a nose, for being “a garlic-lover’s garlic” and “very strong”. In a very close vote, we decided the German White was the second best, and the Persian Star brought up the rear.

The roasted-and-smeared-on-bread test was next, and the Persian Star led things off by having a flavor “where ‘sweet’ and ‘rich’ meet”; we struggled to verbalize exactly what the flavor reminded us of, ultimately agreeing it tasted like the texture of tomato paste. It had no sharp garlic aftertaste. The Chesnok Red was up next and was “a total loser”. It tasted “like if garlic and tap water were combined”. Third was the German White, “delicious”, “light and airy”, “gardeny”, “full but not heavy — tastes like spring green”, and was fresh-tasting even when roasted. The clear winner was the German White, with the Persian Star a modest second and the Chesnok Red a crushing disappointment.

The bruschetta test was led off by the Chesnok Red, which saw a strong rebound from its failures as a roaster. It “tied the flavors together nicely”, “never tasted like raw garlic”, and was “a good team player’. The Persian Star was next and was “not as peppery as [the Chesnok], more buttery” but also “almost overpowers the tomato flavor”. The German White was the last up, and had a “warm finish” with “no sharpness”, “plays beautifully with the basil” and got the rave “all four flavors [in the tomato mixture] work together the best”. We voted the Chesnok Red our favorite in this round, narrowly edging out the German White, with the Persian Star coming up short.

Overall, even though the Chesnok Red won two of the three tests, we liked the German White best overall. The failure of the Chesnok to roast well was a damaging blow to its overall standings. The Persian Star, while delicious in its own right, wasn’t a winner in any category and had teensy cloves that are impossible to peel. So there you have it: German White it is. In fact, we just placed our order with Seeds of Change for oodles of it for next year.

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Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, Taste Test, We Grew This

Does The World Need A Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie?

Welcome to IPB Living Investigates, a hard-hitting series where we tackle the most burning of questions. Today’s edition finds us exploring the age-old question: is a chocolate peanut butter cookie really necessary. This question was first drawn to our attention… um… well… sorta just yesterday. You see, Gentle Reader, in a spur of the moment “what shall we have to celebrate this weekend’s string of S-Days?” it was decided we should make peanut butter cookies with M&Ms using the recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours. We have had much success with this recipe before so we thought we knew what we were getting into. That was, until we noticed the “Playing Around” sidebar that suggested replacing some of the flour with cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder?!?

This needed to be tried. We whipped up one batch of plain peanut butter cookies, following the original recipe to a tee, except for the omission of nuts and the addition of plain M&Ms. We then whipped up a batch using the chocolate variation, again with M&Ms instead of nuts. While mixing the second batch up, I posited the chocolate cookies had the potential to be either awesome or wholly unnecessary since the original version is so tasty on its own.

The initial review thirty minutes out of the oven was that the chocolate ones were good but not great. I decided to withhold judgment until the cookies had time to cool completely. 12 hours later the concensus is: good but not great. They have a really nice chocolately flavor with a subtle hint of peanut butter underneath, ending with a nice peanut buttery aftertaste. The M&Ms don’t really pop at all in this version, whereas the original features a huge peanut butter pow with little explosions of crunchy, sweet candy fun. The problem with the chocolate version is two-fold. One, the original recipe is so phenomenally good, it’s hard not to be disappointed to be eating a cookie so close to them but not exactly them. Two, there are so many other really great chocolate cookie recipes out there, why make a chocolate cookie that’s not out-of-this-world good?

I don’t mean to cut these cookies down too much, as they really are delicious and a very nice twist on a classic. In fact, in discussing the cookie’s merits, Schnookie and I had this exchange:

Me: I think if I made peanut butter cookies often, every three times or so, I’d change it up and make the chocolate versions.

Schnookie: Yeah, if this were your go-to cookie, that’d be great. I mean, if we made these instead of the Tollhouse chocolate chip as a fall-back cookie…

[Long, thoughtful pause of behalf of both parties.]

Me: Yeeeahhh….

This is bad news for our Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies! The world doesn’t really need a chocolate peanut butter cookie, but every so often, it certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Recipe:
Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Source: Baking From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 cups flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup peanut , crunchy or smooth (not natural) [I use smooth Skippy]
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts [I use 1/2 a small bag of plain M&Ms instead because who wants nuts in their cookies?!]

*For chocolate variation, use 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, soda, powder, salt and nutmeg. Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add peanut butter and mix for another minute. [Make sure to try the cookie pudding at this point because peanut butter butter is extraordinary.] Add sugar and brown sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for a minute each. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the dry ingredients and mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Mix in the nuts or M&Ms.

Put some sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon sized scoops of the dough into balls and roll in sugar. Using a greased fork dipped in sugar, make crisscrosses in the tops of the cookies (or, grease the bottom of a glass and dip it in the sugar, then flatten the cookie with the glass).

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies are light colored and cracked on top. (The cookies will be a little soft). Cool before eating, as they don’t taste as good when warm.

Makes a lot of cookies.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C, Taste Test

Fancy Vanilla: Is It Worth It?

We recently got into a discussion with our friend kms2 about extracts and vanillas, and it got us wondering if our reliance on Neilsen-Massey vanilla is baseless. I’ve been buying Neilsen-Massey instead of my grocery store’s standard McCormick vanilla extract for years now because Baker’s Catalog sells the 32-oz. bottles of it, and since I use a lot of it, it’s cheaper that way. But after kms2 asked if there was a discernible difference between them, I got to wondering if I hadn’t been just assuming all this time that the “fancier” vanilla was better, when in fact it wasn’t any different. It was time for a taste test, to determine if it was still worth it to mail-order my “gourmet” vanilla.

There are a lot of ways to showcase the flavor of a vanilla extract, but the choice was easy for us to make; we went with our favorite vessel for vanilla — cookie pudding. Also known as “Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough”. We figured it would be mature of us to also see how the vanilla holds up when baked, so we suffered the additional taste test burden of eating cookies proper as well. So how did it turn out?

In this corner we have McCormick real vanilla extract. This is the vanilla extract of our youths, and this batch of cookie pudding was the first time we’d made anything with it in probably ten years.

The striking thing about the McCormick cookie pudding was how buttery it tasted. And how floury. And how it didn’t really taste like anything else. The flavors of the various components of the pudding just sat there, uncombined, and then had a slightly astringent finish. The whole thing was very dull and flat.

The cookies were even worse, with a terrible astringency. These were very harsh, with a sort of burning aftertaste to them. All in all, not a pleasant cookie experience.

In the other corner we have the Neilssen-Massey, the vanilla of our adulthoods.

The pudding wasn’t as buttery as the McCormick version, but the flavors were far more united. The flour wasn’t as present as a flavor, and the salt was more smoothly integrated into the combined tastes. The vanilla itself was more flowery than the McCormick, and had none of the alcohol astringency from the first taste test.

The cookies were also smoother, and had none of the awful burn of the first batch. Maybe it’s just us, but there seemed to be no contest at all in this taste test. The McCormick vanilla (and again, this was real vanilla extract, not artificial or anything heinous like that) was a far inferior competitor. That might be because we’ve been adjusting to the flavor of the Neilsen-Massey for the last ten or so years, but whatever the reason, I’m going to keep buying my 32-oz. jugs of it through mail-order without guilt. It just tasted better.

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Living The Semi-Homemade Dream

Pookie has long been trying to get me to buy the fancy extracts sampler from Baker’s Catalog, and I finally succumbed when she convinced me that the new kitchen was a good excuse for getting them. So I’ve had these five little bottles sitting in the pantry, and I haven’t really had a lot of uses for them.

Fast forward to a month or two ago, when Boomer and I made our first venture to Costco. Being us, we couldn’t resist a box that had instructions on it for making 96 brownies:

Last weekend Pookie had the brilliant idea of using the extracts to semi-homemade up the brownie mixes; what can I say? She’s a genius! We started out with a batch of orange brownies, then moved on to the almond extract, and ended today with the coffee.

It should be mentioned that I’ve added orange extract to my homemade brownies before, so we knew it would be delicious in these. Pookie has gone so far as to say she wouldn’t be ashamed to bring a box of from-mix brownies with the orange added if she had to provide a dessert to an office potluck. I can highly recommend that as an additive. The almond also delighted me, although Pookie’s review was that if she hadn’t known that’s what the flavor was, she would have decided it was coconut, because it’s markedly not just a normal brownie, but not entirely obvious, either. It’s flowery and fresh-tasting, though, and really mellow if you let the brownies sit overnight. The coffee extract was a disappointment. It did the least of the three, both in terms of disguising the “from a box” flavor and in terms of bringing something extra to the table.

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The Great Cupcake Taste Test

So the other day we were sitting around playing video games and drinking cocktails (I know, shocking, right?), when suddenly we were all struck with an intense desire for yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting. The crappy kind, from a box, with frosting from a can. Of course, we were also having company, in the person of Katebits, so I figured it would be both fun and very mature in a hostessy sort of way to try making yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting from scratch. The problem was, I wanted the cheap-assed kind, too, so I opted to conceal my lameness behind a guise of “conducting a taste test”. It was a foolproof plan, and promised a vast quantity of cupcakes, to boot.

The contestants in this cupcake-off were Betty Crocker’s traditional, normal old yellow cake mix (not the “butter recipe” or anything crazy-assed like that) paired with a Duncan Hines variety of chocolate frosting that seemed to be just normal old frosting (not, like, “whipped” or “extra chocolatey” or whatever options they have nowadays), vs. the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Illustrated “Yellow Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting” recipe. The baking happened on a Friday afternoon, taking about an hour, start to finish, for both batches of cupcakes. Here they are, in the nude:

cupcake-taste-test-1.jpg

The Betty the Crock cupcakes were made in the standard manner. The Cook’s Illustrated ones seemed on paper like a fairly mundane sour cream cake made yellow by an excess of egg yolks. However, the batter was really, really thick. Like, pound cake batter thick. The cupcakes came out really lumpy and texturally unpleasant-looking, and had the crumb of a corn muffin. I was quite displeased, but the flavor results remained to be seen.

The Duncan Hines frosting was to be expected. The Cook’s Illustrated frosting was actually just a ganache, which the recipe suggested whipping after letting it set. I may have let mine set for a bit too long, because after whipping it I was left with just a bowl of ganache crumbles. Things were not looking good for the homemade cupcakes, especially after I discovered I pretty much had to wad a bunch of the crumbles into a ball and them smush it onto the top of the cupcake to frost it. Here are the cupcakes, bedecked with frosting and adorned with sprinkles:

cupcake-taste-test-2.jpg

The tasting itself was interesting. In one corner, the Betty Crocker cupcakes were exactly what you would expect — fake tasting, light, delicately-crumbed, smoothly frosted and, overall, reliably yummy. In the other corner we had the homemade cupcakes, which were buttery, rich, real-chocolatey and “from scratch” baked-good delicious, but were also texturally suspect. When I felt the undeniable urge for cupcakes, I wanted a nice cakey crumb, not something unholy and muffiny. While Katebits, Pookie and Boomer were all politely pro homemade cupcakes, I actually give the nod to Betty the Crock, if just for the texture. This is perhaps a taste test that needs to be revisited as I search for a new recipe to challenge my eminently beatable champion.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Cupcakes, Taste Test