REVIEW: Hostess Brownies made with Milk Chocolate M&M’s

Hostess Brownies made with Milk Chocolate M&M's

Dear Hostess,

Let me start by saying that I’ve always been loyal.

I’ve been eating your cakes since I first misinterpreted the song’s lyrics as “Twinkie Twinkie Little Star.” When a friend bet me $2 that I couldn’t eat an entire Ho Ho in one bite, you better believe I sucked it down like a crème-stuffed Kobayashi. Your treats even helped me escape grade school shame, as I bragged to my friends how I had a girlfriend named Suzy Q.

“You wouldn’t know her. She goes to another school!”

That’s why I’m sorry. I’m sorry that even after I resisted the smutty Nutty Bars and curvaceous Swiss Rolls of Little Debbie, that foul temptress broke my willpower with her decadent Cosmic Brownies.

I’m a sucker for sticky, artificial brownies, and your discontinued Brownie Bites left a hole in my life that only Debbie’s fudgy bricks could fill.

But it’s okay, because now you have these new brownies made with M&M’s. I understand there’s a new man in your life, but I’m going to prove that I can treat you better than that wisecracking red M&M ever could. I’m gonna eat this entire box of brownies, just like the good old days when we’d munch through pouches of Mini Muffins without a care or “suggested serving size” in the world.

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Your candy-studded brownies are shorter, but girthier than the connected LEGO bricks of Cosmic Brownies. This is good: I like a minimalistic gal. And upon first bite, I immediately remembered why I love you, Hostess.

All the grandmas of the world can heave a collective sigh of relief, because these are no replacement for homemade brownies—there’s no eggy denseness, dark cocoa complexity, or touch of vanilla. But what there is is fudge, and lots of it: way more than in any Cosmic Brownie.

Between the frosting and the hyper-crumbly base, your brownies have enough rich fudge flavor to make Fudgy the Whale fudge his pants. It’s super sweet, but also pleasantly buttery. You always did know how to butter me up, Hostess.

Your M&M’s brownies beat Debbie’s in texture, too. While hers may have a compelling chewiness, yours are more satisfyingly soft and spongy. Combined with the smooth frosting, the whole brownie feels and tastes like a cream-less Oreo Cakester with Hostess Cupcake icing.

And since I’d give up my right arm, my right to bear arms, and my beloved childhood Teddy Bear to bring Oreo Cakesters back from the snack graveyard, this comparison is a high compliment.

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Oh, and the M&M’s? They’re way better than any lame Cosmic Chips, because they’re M&M’s Minis. With a fun, crackling texture contrast and a superior shell-to-chocolate ratio that would make a normal M&M consider liposuction, the Minis provide bombshell bursts of milky sweetness in an otherwise fudge-dominated world.

There aren’t many M&M’s on top, but there are more buried down in your brownies’ deepest recesses. It’s like the old phrase says: “you can’t judge a book by its miniaturized milk chocolate morsel bedazzled cover.”

Sure, your brownies aren’t perfect: they’re too small for a satisfying snack, they make a hell of a crumb-spewing mess, and they have an uncomfortable oily aftertaste. But I’m willing to look past that if you can forgive my infidelity. I promise, my sordid affair with Deborah is over, and you and I still have many happy fudgy days ahead.

I don’t need Cosmic Brownies to have out of this world taste, Hostess. Because when it comes to highly processed snack cakes, you are my universe.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 brownie – 170 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 64 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9.1. oz box/6 brownies
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: A fudgy ménage à trois between candy, Cupcake, and Cakester. Deeply buried Mini M&M’s landmines. Squares so spongy that Nickelodeon might sue. Building my inevitable tomb out of fudgy bricks.
Cons: Kicking up brownie crumb dust clouds. Won’t out-Grandma your Grandma. Snack cake infidelity. Crying over old Polaroids of Oreo Cakesters.

REVIEW: Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Cake Mix

Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Cake Mix with Original Doughnut Glaze

In my eyes, there are only two kinds of ring-shaped confections. There are donuts, and there are doughnuts.

Donuts fit the technical definition of “sweet fried dessert made from yeast or cake,” but only doughnuts have that extra bit of greatness that sets them above other pastries. It could be a magical moistness, or perhaps a glaze that caresses my arteries with a loving embrace of death that whispers, “Shhh, no more tears. Only dreams now.”

The divine tastiness of doughnuts is right there in the name. DoUGHnuts: the very same ecstatic and nearly orgasmic “UGH” that I emit when biting into a decadent doughnut.

So that’s my one question for Betty Crocker’s Krispy Kreme Cake Mix. Is it gonna be a donut…or a doughnut?

The mix can be made into a cake or several cupcakes, but since I’m a grown ass man and not an elementary school kid forced to bring in treats for his own birthday (seriously, what’s up with that tradition?), I’m going to make a sheet of buttery flour that’s big enough to double as a pillow.

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When it comes to baking, I’m a little less Wolfgang Puck and a little more Wolfgang “F*** It,” so I’m glad I only have to toss water, eggs, and oil into the mix and go (dough)nuts with a whisk.

I spend 40 agonizing minutes watching my oven gestate and give birth to a warm, custard-colored baby. It’s just like any real birth, only with more drool and a slightly lower chance of me soiling myself from exertion.

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It’s a boy! Err…maybe a girl. Who cares: I’ll name it Kris.

Time for glazing. The box insists with odd specificity that I must squeeze the glaze pouch ten—count ‘em—ten (10) times before opening. I don’t want the vengeful ghost of Betty Crocker to bludgeon me with a stale Honey Cruller, so I follow orders.

The charming white goo inside tastes just like Krispy Kreme’s infamous glaze: a perfect, slightly gritty mix of sugar, corn syrup, milk, and magical unicorn blood (probably). It takes all the restraint I have to not plunge a Capri Sun straw into the pouch and suck it dry until I die shortly after.

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After I glaze it like the world’s largest Toaster Strudel, my cake baby is ready for eating. Please don’t mention that last sentence at my future wife’s baby shower.

So what’s the verdict?

Dough yeah, baby.

The cake’s fluffy innards may be light and pillowy like most Betty Crocker cakes (and not at all like an actual doughnut), but the flavor differentiates itself with a noticeable sour cream tang and a pleasant lemon zest finish.

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The real winning part of the cake is the gooey, sticky meeting point between golden browned cake and glaze. It does an admirable job of mimicking the fried and mouth-watering exterior of a Krispy Kreme. In fact, it’s so good that I was tempted to scalp my cake and eat just the top layer like a greedy child licking the creme from an Oreo.

With that being said, I was ready to give this cake mix top marks. But then I remembered that I could have walked down the grocery aisle and bought a half dozen actual Krispy Kremes for the same price, which would’ve been a whole lot more sour cream tang for my buck.

So while this Krispy Kreme mix rises above Betty Crocker’s other cake mixes, it doesn’t quite reach the level of the real, doughnutty thing.

If you wanna rise that high, Betty, you’re gonna need a lot more yeast.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/9 of cake as prepared – 280 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Item: Betty Crocker Krispy Kreme Cake Mix
Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: 16.3 oz. box
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Getting as close to a doughnut as a cake can possibly aspire. Golden brown cake scalps. Cryptozoological glaze. Watching the miracle of birth at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cons: Still just a cake wearing a doughnut Halloween costume. Over-airy cake guts. Possibly divisive lemon flavor. Feeling glazed & confused after too much sugar.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies

As I sit here gazing out at mounds of dirty snow piled as far as the eye can see, I dream of a better place.

So disillusioned, I choose to believe a bite into Pepperidge Farm’s new Banana Chocolate Milano cookie will result in a reverse York Peppermint Patty effect and I will be whisked away to beautiful Milan, Italy.

Perhaps one single bite will send me to a tropical island, where I can pluck ripe bananas straight from a tree. We’ll soon find out.

It seems wild to call a cookie that is shelved right next to fish-shaped crackers aimed at children “decadent,” but that’s the word that comes to mind when I think of a Milano.

I’m of the opinion you can’t screw up a Milano. I’ve tried plenty of varieties and liked em all. I’m also a massive banana groupie (that doesn’t sound right) so I have no doubts these would be winners.

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I don’t know what it is with Pepperidge Farm’s packaging, but I never seem to open it properly. After tearing the bag to shreds, I was hit with an unmistakable banana scent that perked me up. It reminded me of the smell when you walk into a bakery. I was now ready to be whisked away.

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When I took the first bite into the wafer, nothing happened. The world isn’t fair.

It tasted as if the wafer had a bit of banana flavor baked in. But I couldn’t really tell if it was the banana filling bleeding through. I’m pleading ignorance here. I think it just tasted that way since it’s such an airy wafer. That’s one of the best parts about Milano, the crunchy, but not at all dense cookie.

I put it in my mouth and inhaled it like a total weirdo. Who does that? I essentially tried to smoke a cookie. I can tell you there is a nice banana…um, air when you try to smoke a cookie. Don’t smoke cookies, kids.

It wasn’t until I hit the center that the banana flavor come out in full force.

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There’s a thin layer of banana filling with the familiar chocolate layer. It had a similar texture to the chocolate. The bag actually refers to it as “banana flavored chocolate.”

Here’s my question: Where has “banana flavored chocolate” been my entire life? This was a revelation for me. I mean, I’m sure plenty of products have used a similar substance before, but why wasn’t I aware of it? I feel like I’ve missed so much. “Banana flavored chocolate” is awesome. I want more of this banana chocolate concoction in my life.

The banana is strong but not overly so. I think banana bread is very dependent on texture, but these should remind you of that flavor. Few things top a nice fresh slice of banana bread, but these are a great attempt at imitating the flavor in cookie form, with the added bonus of chocolate mixed in.

After the initial tasting, I kept a few aside to have with my morning coffee, and it was naturally a delicious pairing. Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies are a home run. As far as I’m concerned, Pepperidge Farm still hasn’t made a bad Milano.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Banana Chocolate Milano Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: 7 oz. (about 16 cookies)
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Banana flavored chocolate. Milano’s consistency. Airy wafer. Great for dipping. No artificial flavors or preservatives. A short reprieve from the winter blues.
Cons: No instant transportation properties in each bite. A rapidly growing cookie smoking habit. Fear of missing out on more banana flavored chocolate treats. Pain in the neck packaging. Limited edition.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Among the world of berries, raspberries are a hard sell. They’re bitter, rot fast, and are filled with teeny pulp bits that get stuck in your teeth, but they also have a distinct sweet, flowery profile that I crave at the inconvenient hour of now, when they’re overpriced, out-of-season, and tasteless.

Which is why I bit into the surface of my Hostess Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cup Cake without hesitation, cracking through the sheen of the fudgy top layer. That upper crust carries the responsibility of the “Dark Chocolate” title, and, while I wouldn’t deem it a full-blown 70 percent cacao by any stretch of the imagination, there is a certain nutty, semisweet chocolate echo at the front that I appreciate before I reach the full sugar surge underneath.

And it’s a clutter of sugary fluff under that surface, the glurping, gloopy icing poofing out like a misfit marshmallow. That frosting floof carries the texture of Cool Whip and a raspberry perfume that could rival a Bath and Body Works. Indeed, it has an artificial raspberry kick at the forefront with a high-fructose-sugary backdrop. It’s like Pillsbury frosting got put in the Super Collider with Raspberry Jelly Bellies. Pretty intense in that special, non-natural way.

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The chocolate cake is of a familiar Hostess Cupcake variety: a little oily, a little spongy, a little ho-hum on flavor, all held within a distinctive squishy texture that may or may not remind me of a Shamwow. It tastes quite simply of packaged pound cake with a little cocoa, and, while I may hope for something a little more chocolate-forward, I respect that the cake embraces what it is: a vehicle that can be enhanced by the addition of ice cream.

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In 1971, Hostess introduced Captain Cupcake, the rotund, spyglass-wielding naval officer who ate a few too many Hostess Chocolate cupcakes before turning into one. What would Captain Cupcake say about these new Hostess Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes?

I can’t say. This is mainly because Captain Cupcake is an anthropomorphic baked good with a position in the Navy, and I would regret speaking for such a high-ranking officer. For me, however, these cupcakes were neither a bonafide hit nor a heartbreaking miss.

The floofy raspberry filling was pleasant enough, the chocolate cake was moist, and the icing top held a pleasant semisweet fudginess. At the same time, the cake was a little tasteless, the preservatives were a little over abundant (is hydrogenated beef tallow really an essential ingredient?), and the false raspberry lingered a little long, but, hey, it’s tough to alter the austerity of false raspberry.

Overall, I declare this a decent cupcake for the forthcoming Valentine’s celebration. What’s better is that you’ll wait in no lines to get it, withdraw no loan to afford it, and can eat it at any hour you desire. All it takes is ripping open a plastic wrapper and maybe some ice cream. This can happen. This can happen now.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cupcake – 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.5 oz/8 cupcakes
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tender cake. Fudgy icing top. Floofy filling like Cool Whip. 8 swirls of icing. Mario Kart. Captain Cupcake.
Cons: Hydrogenated beef tallow. Filling tastes a smidge like children’s toothpaste. Texture like a Super Shammy. Smells from Bath and Body Works, The unexplained disappearance of Captain Cupcake.

REVIEW: Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn

Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn

Every time I see a bag of Angie’s kettle corn with the words “BOOM CHICKA POP” in gigantic type, 70’s porn music pops into my head. Why? Because “bow chicka wow wow” is like the emoji for porn movie music.

But I did not buy Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn because of the porn music bumpin’ in my head. I bought it because there hasn’t been an Angie’s Holidrizzle flavor that’s disappointed me, and I thought this flavor would continue that streak.

And you’ve probably figured out that by ending the previous paragraph with that sentence, I’ve pretty much told you I did not care for this hot cocoa and marshmallow-flavored kettle corn.

Opening the bag brings out a pleasant Cracker Jack—like aroma, but one opened bag and two minutes later I asked myself, “Where did Angie’s go wrong?”

The front of the bag says, “contains nothing but ingredients you’ll love.” Cane sugar…love. Popcorn…love. Sunflower oil…like. Palm kernel oil…like. Nonfat dry milk…like. Cocoa powder…love. Sea salt…love. Natural flavors…not sure what they are. Soy lecithin…I could go either way.

So I love most of its ingredients, but I don’t love its flavor. It just doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t come close to tasting anything like hot cocoa and marshmallows. At times, there’s a flavor that reminds me of toffee. But at other times, there’s a flavor that I would describe as sweet plastic. Maybe the kettle corn’s flavor is an abstract interpretation of hot cocoa and marshmallows, and the sweet plasticiness represents the marshmallow and its pliability.

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Where does this sweet plastic flavor come from? My guess is that I should be blaming the chocolate drizzle, which fortunately wasn’t liberally drizzled over the kettle corn. But once the chocolate drizzle melts away, it tastes like standard kettle corn.

Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn isn’t gross enough to make me throw away four-fifths of the bag, go back to Target to demand my money back, or use it as coal in a Christmas stocking to punish the naughty. After all, I did end up finishing the bag, albeit slowly. But out of all the new hot cocoa-flavored products I’ve tried this year, this has got to be my least favorite.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 cups – 140 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 4.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Not totally gross. Least favorite hot cocoa-flavored product I’ve tried this season. Contains ingredients that I love.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like hot cocoa and marshmallows. At times it has a sweet plastic flavor. Having 70’s porn music pop up in my head every time I see a bag of Angie’s popcorn.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos

Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos

How the Grinch Stole Hostess

The Grinch plotted again how to ruin the holidays.
Though it was only November and they were still far away!
He planned to steal all the cheer from every household and home.
Not a holiday was safe: no Christmas, Kwanzaa, or “shalom.”

He slunk down each chimney, having his treacherous fun.
Only once did a fire scorch his furry green buns.
But in the last house, whilst piling gifts in his sack,
He smelled something sweet that took him aback.

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Sneering at what the foolish kids had left out for Santa Claus,
He grabbed the strange brown cylinders with his foul, dirty paws.
“These aren’t cookies,” he said. “They’re Peppermint Ho Hos from Hostess!”
“When it came to minty pink cream, these are said to have the most-est!”

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“These snacks are so cheery,” said The Grinch. “I’ll gobble them down!”
“Without their merry Devil’s food cake, all the people will frown!”
But the Grinch gasped at the serving: “380 calories? Who eats three?”
“Meh, I deserve it. Being evil makes a Grinch hungry!”

His yellow teeth broke the chocolate coating; it shattered into bits.
“A wonderful mess,” he spewed. “The maid will throw fits!”
But he found the Ho Ho’s exterior to be much too waxy and bland.
“I’d get more chocolate flavor from a brown RoseArt crayon!”

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The sponge cake beneath was also merely so-so.
It was airy and quite chewy, with only traces of cocoa.
The Grinch wondered how it could be so un-sweet with 14 grams of sugar.
Some Hostess cakes were moist; this was as dry as his plucked boogers!

But then he reached the cream, and his opinion did sway.
“This novel pink goo could make anyone’s day!”
“It’s more thick than a Twinkie’s; that whipped crap’s just exhausting.”
“This is pleasantly gritty, rich and dense like buttercream frosting!”

As for mint flavor, it was there: but not burning or biting.
Balanced by vanilla, it was refreshing and exciting!
Yet, he’d be hard pressed to call it distinctly peppermint cuisine.
With his crusty eyes closed, it tasted just like spearmint or wintergreen.

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He scarfed down another Ho Ho whole, whilst trashing the family’s wreath.
“The soft choco-mint together’s like a Thin Mint…made for those without teeth!”
The Grinch thought they’d make great party favors: a fine novelty treat.
The cream was memorable, but the purchase wouldn’t be a repeat.

The Grinch cackled and left, ready to watch all the fuss.
“Little Cindy will learn new words when she hears Daddy cuss!”
The next morning he peered down from his horrible hill,
But saw nothing but cheer, A Christmas Story marathons, and goodwill!

“Christmas came without Ho Hos,” he murmured. “It came without Cupcakes!”
“It came without Little Debbie, Entenmann’s, or Drake’s!”
“Maybe holidays,” he thought slowly, “don’t come from processed food.”
“Maybe holidays are about who you’re with, not just what is chewed.”

So the Grinch went back into town, and returned what he stole.
Perhaps this year Santa wouldn’t gift him a metric s*** ton of coal.
Legends say the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day!
Though that was probably the 6 grams of fat per Ho Ho, his doctor would say.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 cakes – 380 calories, 17 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 43 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 pack
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Inventive and thick cream. Squishy, tubular Thin Mint understudies. Avoiding the obvious “Ho Ho Hos” joke. Learning life lessons through snack cake fan fiction. The delightful irony of “Christmas Devil’s food cake.”
Cons: The Ho Hos’ so-so cocoa. Coating shatters faster than a leg lamp. Santa-sized serving sizes. An inevitable law-Seuss from Dr. Seuss’ attorneys.