Much that makes this world excellent is breaching the big 5-0 this year: Lucky Charms, The Giving Tree, the Civil Rights Act, Dr. Strangelove. Even my beloved Pop-Tarts are whipping out their walkers and hauling their rectangular, toastified hineys Over The Hill, and, in what can only be described as a birthday party for the public, Pop-Tarts is blessing us with a flavor that’s existed only in the history books since its 2009 extinction: Chocolate Vanilla Crème.
Right out of the wrapper, the smell of Cocoa Puffs poofs into the kitchen, knocking my nose around with smells of cocoa cereal and sweet, sweet sugar. There’s no trace of vanilla scooting into my nose just yet, but I’ve yet to crack open the gooey insides. Quick, get thee to a toaster!
Post-toast, the crust retains that certain crunch of a crackle that I so love to find in my Pop-Tarts, bursting open to reveal a layer of white goo that holds all the smell and consistency of marshmallow fluff.
And while the crust delivers on texture, it’s a bit dulled on the flavor spectrum. More mild than Cookies n’ Crème, less chocolatey than a Teddy Graham, the initial wafts of cocoa only transfer the lightest hints of a Tootsie-Roll-like cocoa powder into the actual taste, landing with all the sadness of a deflated red balloon from a French film.
What reins supreme is the gooey frosting center, which retains the taste and texture of a fluffified Betty Crocker Icing. The volume of his poofy innard feels scant, becoming peculiarly crusty if toasted for too long, but it delivers a powerful punch of a sugar rush with a tinge of artificial vanilla to bring some flavor to the faintly flavored crust.
Despite the wonky balance in flavor, when the forces of both elements combine, the whole Flashback Flavor tastes a bit like the birthday cake you might find at your friendly neighborhood grocer, and who’s to judge if you’re a lover grocery store birthday cake? Nary a soul! Lift up your weary head, Birthday Cake Lover, for your cake, too, should be celebrated in all its glorious, unquestioned sugary sweetness. In fact, if you or your significant other has a hankering for grocery store cake but is worried about frosting-coated fingers, consider picking up a box of these for Valentine’s Day. Nothing says, “I love you” like a new version of a formerly extinct toaster pastry.
I have a theory that, with every year we age, we get 1 percent more awesome. If that’s true, Pop-Tarts are 50 percent awesome this year. Classic flavors, like Strawberry and Brown Sugar Cinnamon, coupled with some of the newer flavors, like Pumpkin Pie and Peanut Butter, prove that Pop-Tarts’ 50 percent awesomeness has been attained. Unfortunately, this particular flavor fell just a smidge short from its tasty kin for me. While its sugary sweetness covered me to ride on a 6-day Sugar Rush, the crust was a bit flat on flavor and the filling, while fluffy, fell on the sword of too little vanilla flavor.
At the same time, while these may not amaze, I have to remember: these particular Pop-Tarts weren’t built to amaze. They were built to remind. To harken back to a Pop-Tart of yore, and, on that note, they deliver. For those nostalgic for the ol’ Chocolate Vanilla Crème or looking for a good eBay item to sell, definitely stock up now. For others searching for a powerful chocolate vanilla experience, these fall short, reminding that Pop-Tarts may be 50 percent awesome, but they still have 50 percent more room to grow.
So Happy 50th, Pop-Tarts. Thank you for bringing me your pastries. Please continue to do so for another 50. I’ll continue to eat them by the box-full.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 toaster pastry – 200 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: Kellogg’s Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Frosted Chocolate Vanilla Creme Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 8 pastries
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crispy crust. Marshmallowy sugar innards. Smells like Cocoa Puffs. Betty Crocker icing. The Giving Tree. Pop-Tarts are officially 50 percent awesome. Celebration for grocery store cake.
Cons: Not as chocolatey as they smell. More sugary than vanilla-y. Innards get cooked away when in the toaster too long. Toaster pastry extinction. Popped balloons of sorrow.