REVIEW: Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses

In my mind, and in my heart, cake and Kisses fall in essentially the same category. Short, sweet, and simple reminders that life is worth living, and ideally consumed/received on a daily basis. It is under this umbrella of logic that I read the news of Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses and proceeded to die with anticipation.

For this Target-exclusive Valentine’s Day candy Hershey’s put a spin on their popular Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor (also available as Kisses) and made a “white cookie cupcake” kiss with colored cookies and cupcake flavor. Opening the playful pink bag is like dunking your face into a Funfetti frosting wonderland, It is exactly what I wanted these Kisses to smell like.

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses 2

The initial bite is very sweet and smacks you in the face with vanilla frosting splendor. At first these Kisses taste exactly like hardened bits of Funfetti vanilla frosting with the cookie pieces in place of the festive sprinkles, and the white chocolate is the jarred faux-buttercream. Unfortunately there is a strange astringent aftertaste that dominates and leaves my mouth tasting unpleasant and artificial, almost like a cake made with too much baking soda.

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses 3

I thought it might be coming from the colored cookie pieces, which unlike in the cookies and cream version have no chocolate or specific flavor to them. I was able to isolate some of the cookies in my mouth and they tasted fine, like a slightly tame shortbread. After repeatedly trying more Kisses to shake the bitter essence, it kept coming and put a damper on the overall experience, but for some reason I kept wanting to eat them.

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses 4

There is a lore that pink or red frosting has a bitter strong flavor when compared to other dyes, likely due to the use of iodine, Red #3, or Red #40. Although not specifically listed in the ingredients, there could be an element of frosting-emulation at play here that is causing the strange aftertaste.

Whether that translates to a true cupcake experience or a failed element of execution is up to you, but it’s certainly there, and for me, ultimately distracting. Strange frosting flavors have never kept me from crushing cake in the past, and while these Kisses miss the mark of being perfect, I will still eat at least three servings of them (27 Kisses).

(Nutrition Facts – 9 pieces – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Funfetti frosting wonderland. Still oddly delicious. Foil covered in hearts. So many shades of pink.
Cons: Weird bitter aftertaste. Cake doesn’t have a crunch.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch Bars (Vanilla Crème and Mint)

Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch Bars (Vanilla Cre?me and Mint)

Hershey’s is pretty much synonymous with chocolate bars, but outside of their fan favorite Cookies ‘n’ Crème variation, they really haven’t fiddled around in the cookie game that much.

With their new Cookie Layer Crunch bars, the candy bar juggernaut looks to break some fertile ground with not just one, but THREE special-edition cookie/chocolate bar hybrids. While we’ve already covered the caramel version, today, we’ll be taking a nice, long look at the other two Cookie Layer Crunch products – the vanilla crème and mint variations.

Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch Bars (Vanilla Cre?me and Mint) 2

The hook here is very straightforward. The miniature candies are about twice as thick of your normal Hershey’s bar, with each version containing a chunky cookie crust and a hearty helping of crème inside the mantle. While both products contain chocolate chunks, the exterior chocolate shell differs – the vanilla crème iteration is milk chocolate while the mint version is dark chocolate.

Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch Bars (Vanilla Cre?me and Mint) 4

The chocolate taste is very strong in both variations, with even the vanilla crème one tasting slightly more robust than your standard Hershey’s bar. And for those of you fearing wafer-thin contents, the cookie layer is actually quite thick and crunchy, with a surprising (albeit subtle and pleasant) salty aftertaste.

Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch Bars (Vanilla Cre?me and Mint) 3

Both varieties are good, but I’d give my nod to the mint version, which has a far more potent crème flavor than the vanilla offering, which – while tasty – doesn’t have quite the kick of its shelfmate.

The products are clearly designed as stuffing stocking material. At $4 a bag, they’re a bit pricier than your average grab bag of fun-size candy bars, and weirdly enough, you only get nine pieces per unit. However, there are 3.5-ounce XL Bars of all three flavors with five pieces, so don’t say you don’t have a wide array of consumer options on the table.

The Cookie Layer Crunch bars do very much feel like “event candies,” so to speak – they’re definitely rich, flavorful and filling, plus they are rather versatile snacks. These things go with a late night cup of cranberry cola just as well as they do your morning espresso, and talk about excellent adornments for your homemade cookies and brownies!

Which sort of begs the question: how come Hershey’s isn’t selling these things in a mix-and-match format? Eh, maybe that’s something to look forward to come Christmas 2017, I suppose.

(Nutrition Facts – Vanilla Crème – 2 pieces – 210 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. Mint – 2 pieces – 200 calories, 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 6.3 oz. box/9 pieces
Purchased at: Ingles Markets
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Vanilla Crème)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Mint)
Pros: Very rich chocolaty flavors. Non-mushy interior cookie goodness. For the mint iteration, a very nice aftertaste.
Cons: The overall vanilla crème flavor is a bit underwhelming. No variety pack option. Anticipating a tenth candy bar in the bag and walking away with nothing but odd-numbered disappointment.

QUICK REVIEW: Hershey’s Caramel Apple Filled Milk Chocolates

Hershey's Caramel Apple Filled Milk Chocolates

The apple-flavored caramel oozing into my mouth once I broke it from its chocolatey womb was the only real satisfaction I got out of these new Hershey’s Caramel Apple Filled Milk Chocolates. The feeling took me back to the days when I ate Fruit Gushers or chewed bubble gum with a liquid center.

But once that caramel filling hit my taste buds, those pleasant memories turned into perplexing musings. There’s something off about the caramel. Maybe it’s the ingredient that’s trying to emulate the tartness of an apple. Maybe my taste buds are revolting because it expected pumpkin spice this time of year. I’m not sure.

But what I do know is that I opened this package a week ago and it’s still five-sixths full. Wait. Lemme go pessimistic because this is a negative review. It’s only one-sixth empty. I don’t even know if I want to give these away to trick-or-treaters for fear of retribution.

Look, I think the flavor is a bit off, but I can see others enjoying these chocolates. Maybe the trick-or-treaters will like them. It does have a flavor that most would instantly recognize as caramel apple. The exterior is the Hershey’s milk chocolate you know and love and have to suck off your fingers if you hold them for too long on a day that 75 degrees or warmer. And they do come in fun apple shapes. But, I don’t think the caramel works.

Hershey's Caramel Apple Filled Milk Chocolates 2

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10 oz bag
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (4 pieces) 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Cookie ‘n’ Mint Bar

Hershey's Cookie 'n' Mint Bar

As I kid I wanted nothing more than to go to Disney World. My parents had other plans and made me wait. Every time I asked about it, they said things like “patience is a virtue,” “you won’t appreciate it as much until you’re older,” and “get out of our house already, freeloader.”

While they eventually gave in to my incessant whining, said parents dragged my brother and me to Hershey Park twice in the meantime. For that, I always used to think of it as a second-tier vacation spot.

Now, I’m older, wiser, nostalgic, and I have to say, Hershey Park is bar none the best theme park named after a candy I have ever been to!

Hershey, Pennsylvania smelled like chocolate! They had rides that stacked up with other theme parks. There was a mascot dressed like a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! I mean, you’re cool Mickey, but you’re no peanut butter cup.

Hershey Park was as close as I’d ever get to touring Willy Wonka’s factory.

Out of all those memories, there was one thing that somehow always stood out – the free chocolate bar at the end of the tour. It was the freshest, most perfect Hershey’s bar imaginable and for that I’ve always had a soft spot for Hershey’s.

I could already predict what I was in for with the Hershey’s Cookie ‘n’ Mint Bar. It smelled just like an Andes after dinner mint, or Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie. (Aka “Grasshoppers,” if you’re a heartless heathens who refuses to help out the Girl Scouts.) Chocolate and mint may not be your favorite flavor combination, but you can’t deny the smell is fantastic. Go ahead and deny it. I dare you.

Hershey's Cookie 'n' Mint Bar 2

The candy bar tastes like a Thin Mint with less cookie. I think I prefer the ratio here. They could have just called this a “Thinner Mint” bar. The chocolate is the star of the show, instead of it being just a light coating on a cookie. The texture is exactly the same as Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Cream bars.

The chocolate taste is distinctly Hershey’s. Hershey is the only chocolate I can pinpoint blindfolded. Actually, I could probably nail Cadbury too, but beyond that? I’m not so sure.

Here’s the kicker — the Cookies ‘N’ Mint bar is not standard Hershey’s milk chocolate, but rather mint milk chocolate. I assumed the mint would be in the cookie bits, but those are apparently just chocolate flavored. The base Hershey’s chocolate itself is where the mint is.

With that said, I couldn’t really tell. I would have believed there were mint chocolate cookie pieces in regular Hershey’s chocolate if the wrapper didn’t specify.

Hershey's Cookie 'n' Mint Bar 3

So all in all, this was a success. I’d easily put this on par with Hershey’s Cookie ‘N’ Cream bars. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cookies ‘N’ Mint become a candy stand mainstay. Other than Junior Mints and York Peppermint Patties, there aren’t that many chocolate/mint staples available in your corner store.

I also don’t see why mini versions of Cookies ‘N’ Mint can’t sneak into Hershey’s mixed bags with the Krackel’s, Mr. Goodbar’s, and Hershey’s Dark’s of the world.

I realize it’s a lot to ask of that big shot Mr. Goodbar to put his ego aside and share a bag with an additional flavor, but it’s time for him to accept the times.

It appears Cookie ‘N’ Mint are going to be taking up permanent residence on candy racks nationwide, so no need to book that trip to Hershey Park to try one.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 220 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 78 cents
Size: 1.55 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Balanced flavors. Great texture. Pleasant aroma. Walking Reese’s Cups. Hershey Park’s Hershey handouts. Lessons in patience. Helping the Girl Scouts.
Cons: Couldn’t really tell it was mint chocolate. That egomaniac Mr. Goodbar. Whiny kids. Dissing the Girl Scouts.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs

An éclair looks like a chocolate bar donut and sounds like some kind of frou frou French gizmo. I can practically hear my high school French teacher scolding: “Don’t you dare forget that accent aigu above the eh (how “e” is pronounced in French)!” But, if you’ve tried to make éclairs, you’ll quickly realize that this classic French pastry deserves to be embellished with that dang accent because of how complicated it is to make.

So what business does Hershey’s have with éclairs? Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs of course! Yep, sounds odd to me too. But I taste-tested these with an open mind. After trying these babies, Hershey’s can make all the frozen ready-to-eat desserts they want!

Instead of instant gratification, I had to thaw the mini éclairs for two hours in the fridge or 30 minutes at room temperature. I jokingly complain, but I’ll take a 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time any day. Unfortunately, my first red flag was that there was freezer burn; little ice crystals were hugging each of the mini éclairs. But, there’s no way to tell if the freezer burn was user error. So, I’ll give Hershey’s the benefit of the doubt – maybe I didn’t get the box into the freezer quickly enough from Walmart. The packaging does warn not to refreeze!

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs 2

Either way, because of the freezer burn, the mini éclairs didn’t look great thawed. The ice crystals melted down and made the chocolate look like it was balmy with sweat. Yum, sweaty chocolate. Surprisingly, the overall structural integrity of the oblong choux pastry remained intact. I expected the pastry itself to collapse after the freezer burn thawed out.

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs 3

I got through each mini éclair in three swift bites. The crème inside was very luscious and did not have an oily mouthfeel. Paired with the Hershey’s chocolate glaze, it was like I was eating creamy, milk chocolate goodness. The combination was also not sickeningly sweet; I’m not a fan of desserts that are cloyingly sweet. The glaze reminded me of the outside of a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone. And, like a dipped cone, the chocolate wrapped each choux pastry perfectly and the ratio was perfect – just enough for the amount of pastry.

The chocolate glaze was the choux pastry’s saving grace because the pastry itself wasn’t great. Could I tell the éclair had been frozen? If I didn’t personally thaw them, I might not have been able to. But, there was something about the pastry texture that clearly wasn’t fresh. It’s like fresh bagels vs. the day-old bagel pile – it tastes about the same but it’s missing that fresh dough elasticity and spring.

I could totally see myself bringing Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs for a potluck and shamelessly taking credit for making them. But, Hershey’s must think we’re all ants because these mini éclairs are teeny-tiny! This is ‘MURRICAA!! However, Hershey’s is staying true to the essence of an éclair with this mini innovation. After all, éclairs were named after lightning because people eat ‘em (especially me) lightning quick!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 éclairs – 270 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.52
Size: 10.58 oz box/about 20 pieces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time. Luscious crème. Creamy, milk chocolate goodness like a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone.
Cons: Freezer burn. Sweaty chocolate. Choux pastry = day old bagel pile. Éclairs for ants.