REVIEW: Dunkin’ Cake Batter Signature Latte

Dunkin Cake Batter Signature Latte 1

Summer is (sort of) here, and with it comes Dunkin’s new summer menu featuring the Cake Batter Signature Latte because nothing says summer like stirring unbaked cake into your coffee. What, you’ve never done that? Do you mean to tell me you’ve never set out to make a cake, decided it was too hot to turn on the oven, and then solved the problem by just swirling the batter into your espresso? Yeah, me neither, but that didn’t stop me from deciding I needed to know what it would be like if I did.

Combining espresso and milk with cake batter flavor and topped with whipped cream, mocha drizzle, and rainbow sprinkles, this beverage blurs the lines between coffee and dessert. It looks like something you’d order if you decided to have a little party for yourself.

My quest for this party began on a cold Chicago day where summer felt far away, but the idea of coffee with sprinkles felt just right. I ordered both iced and hot versions, and my request was met with confusion. I couldn’t tell if this was because the employee didn’t understand why I’d want both or if he didn’t know what the Cake Batter Latte was. After some questioning, I received them, and now it was my turn to be confused.

Dunkin Cake Batter Signature Latte First Attempt

Both had whipped cream and sprinkles, but “rainbow” would be a stretch as most were white or very muted pastels. Where there should have been a mocha drizzle, there was a thin, tan syrup and a dash of brown powder. The drinks weren’t bad but were kind of sad looking and tasted nothing like cake batter. I walked away thinking I had two possibly hazelnut flavored lattes and vowed to try again.

Ok, Round Two! A new day, a new Dunkin’ location.

Dunkin Cake Batter Signature Latte Cake on Summer

This time I opted for just the iced version and was relieved when it looked more like the image on the menu encouraging me to “Cake on the Summer.” Don’t mind if I do! The mocha drizzle was clearly present this time, and the sprinkles had a brighter appearance. Then it came to taste time and I was disappointed that the bulk of this coffee is the same flavor I had before, and it still doesn’t taste like cake batter to me. It seemed closer to a French Vanilla and I’m wondering if the nuttiness is some sort of almond flavoring. Almond extract is a fairly typical ingredient in many cakes, so maybe it’s unfair to say this doesn’t taste like one. I should say that it doesn’t taste like the kind I thought it would, a vanilla-forward birthday cake mix. Maybe this tastes like a petit four?

Dunkin Cake Batter Signature Latte Sprinkles

Dunkin Cake Batter Signature Latte Mocha Drizzle

The espresso has a rich flavor and the (non)cake batter flavoring and toppings don’t totally overwhelm it. It’s sweet but more balanced than you might anticipate something swirled with cake batter to be. The mocha drizzle doesn’t add much taste but aesthetically contributes to a decorated cake look, and the drink itself is pleasantly creamy. Some sips seem thicker and sweeter, like frosting, which wouldn’t really be present in cake batter but does make one think of cake. The highlights for me were any sips with sprinkles. They don’t taste like anything, but they provide some textural pop and festivity. If made correctly, this drink looks like it should be served next to presents and a bounce house, but the taste doesn’t deliver the same amount of fun.

Update: There was a birthday in my house this week, and because I care about authenticity, I sampled a boxed mug cake batter and a homemade cupcake batter. Both confirmed my suspicions that I know what cake batter tastes like, and this latte doesn’t capture it.

Purchased Price: $5.29
Size: Medium (Iced)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Medium iced with whole milk) 440 calories, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 67 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 62 grams of sugar (45 grams of added sugar), and 11 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs City Sweets Ice Cream Collection

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Pints

In its new City Sweets collection, Haagen-Dazs pairs some of its beloved ice cream flavors with classic city snacks and desserts you might eat with one hand while strolling around town. Available in Dulce De Leche Churro, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, Summer Berry Cake Pop, Coffee Chocolate Brownie, and Black & White Cookie, it’s pretty clear right away that some of these flavors make more sense than others.

Black & White cookies are an iconic New York treat, and churros and pretzels are things I’d associate with grabbing from a street cart on the corner, but cake pops seem to have made their way into the lineup solely by virtue of being on a stick. I guess they have them at Starbucks, and it’s hard to walk around a city without bumping into thirty of those. Maybe San Antonio or Atlanta is known for their cake pop culture and I wasn’t aware? Coffee could certainly be something you’d walk around with, and a brownie is handheld, but that one doesn’t exactly scream “city” to me either. That being said, I’ve never been one to turn down a brownie regardless of its credibility as street fare, so let’s find out if these pints deserve a place in my bodega’s freezer.

Black & White Cookie

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Black  White Top

Black & White Cookie combines “vanilla bean ice cream with soft cookie pieces and ripples of chocolate frosting.” Beneath this description, they encourage us to “Forget the cookie and grab your spoon,” and I agree with Haagen-Dazs here. I prefer this flavor in ice cream format more than any Black & White cookie I’ve ever eaten.

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Black  White Cookie Spoon

There are a very generous number of cookie pieces throughout the pint, and they mimic the soft texture of a Black & White cookie surprisingly well without ending up soggy. There are actually so many pieces that I think I got at least one in just about every bite. While you don’t really notice them tasting lemony, I did see lemon oil in the ingredients list, which I think is often typical of the cookie base in these treats. Points for authenticity, Haagen-Dazs. The frosting ripple tastes and feels like actual frosting and not just a generic chocolate sauce. I anticipated this pint being fairly boring, but it ended up being my favorite of the bunch.

Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 410 calories, 24 grams of total fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 110 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 36 grams of total sugars, 28 grams of added sugars, 6 grams of protein

Coffee Chocolate Brownie

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Coffee Chocolate Brownie

Coffee Chocolate Brownie features “classic coffee ice cream, gooey brownies, rich espresso chocolate sauce, and crunchy cocoa nibs.” I’ve had better coffee ice creams, but I still like the base here, and while it’s not as present as some of the swirls in the other flavors, the espresso chocolate sauce does give a nice coffee flavor boost when you get some.

I have two main issues with this flavor. First, it seems that most of the cocoa nibs have been pulverized, so instead of getting a crunchy bit here and there, a lot of spoonfuls are kind of gritty (is this the city tie-in?). The other problem is the brownie pieces in my pint were almost nonexistent. For as many cookie pieces as there were in Black & White, I had to go digging to find any brownies, and when I did, they were too small to be anything but the suggestion that possibly a brownie had once been nearby. There weren’t any chunks large enough to have a gooey texture, and if brownie wasn’t in the name of the ice cream, I couldn’t have told you this contained brownies.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 360 calories, 20 grams of total fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 31 grams of total sugars, 25 grams of added sugars, 6 grams of protein

Dulce De Leche Churro

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Dulce de Leche Churro

In Dulce De Leche Churro, “cinnamon churro ice cream and thick, gooey dulce de leche sauce” get paired up with “crispy, cinnamon-y churro pieces.” This ice cream stands out to me as creamier than some of the others, and the base does taste like cinnamon churros and not just cinnamon. I really like it. The dulce de leche ribbon is thick and gooey as advertised. The churro pieces themselves are plentiful, but unfortunately, they fall into two categories. Some are crispy, almost surprisingly so, more reminiscent of crunchy cereal pieces than the crispy outside of fried dough. There’s an audible crunch to them, and my first few bites had only these pieces.

It came as a different sort of surprise when I ran across one of the non-crispy pieces. They look the same as the crispy ones but bloated, like whatever they were coated in failed to keep the ice cream from saturating the interiors. These pieces have a chewy (not in a good way), waxy texture to them, and I was tempted to spit them out. They seem like maybe they’re not supposed to be in there, like part of the cardboard container somehow ended up getting mixed in. If you can avoid or overlook these pieces, this flavor might be the best one, but that’ll take some careful eating because there are a lot of them.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 390 calories, 23 grams of total fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 37 grams of total sugars, 30 grams of added sugars, 5 grams of protein

Summer Berry Cake Pop

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Summer Berry Cake Pop Bowl

In Summer Berry Cake Pop, we’re given the duo of strawberry ice cream and sweet cream ice cream with “perfect, fluffy cake pieces” finished with “tangy raspberry sauce.” I like the strawberry ice cream, and the sweet cream flavor, while not particularly noticeable as sweet cream, is fine enough. When it comes to the cake, though, this is another instance of the mix-in being a dud. There are more cake chunks than there were brownies, and the cake pieces don’t detract from my enjoyment like the weird churro ones did. Instead, they’re just kind of there. They don’t really taste like anything, and there’s definitely nothing fluffy about them. Are cake pops ever fluffy? They’re kind of an underwhelming dessert to begin with. When you take fluffy cake, tear and smoosh it to pieces, then smash those pieces back together, you’re left with a denser and arguably less enjoyable product than you started with. So if you take this into account, the cake pieces here probably do taste like what you might expect from a cake pop. The best feature of this pint is the raspberry sauce thickly swirled throughout, and it delivers the tanginess it claims.

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Summer Berry Cake Pop Closeup

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 320 calories, 20 grams of total fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 29 grams of total sugars, 23 grams of added sugars, 5 grams of protein

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Top

For Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, Haagen-Dazs says, “our incredible chocolate ice cream and thick, creamy peanut butter are complemented by crunchy, lightly salted pretzel pieces.” As a huge pretzel person, I was eager to dig into this one but immediately realized I’d have to exercise some patience. It was clear upon opening that it needed some time to soften up, and even after a few minutes when I tried to spoon some out, I basically picked the top third of the pint up in a solid piece revealing the peanut butter to be totally in the center, more like what you’d find in a pint with a “core” than one with peanut butter dispersed throughout. This core is solid, and I had to hack at it to distribute it throughout a serving. Otherwise, it’s all chocolate ice cream with no peanut butter flavor.

Haagen Dazs City Sweets Collection Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel

The pretzel pieces are individually coated in chocolate which keeps them enjoyably crunchy and adds a deeper chocolate flavor than the ice cream alone. There are a lot of them, and you’re likely to have one in each spoonful, so you know this is a pretzel ice cream. While not mentioned in the description, there are also fudgy chocolate pieces that don’t have pretzel centers. When I’m getting sad that I don’t taste any peanut butter, one of these fudgy pieces shows up to make me forget I’m missing a component.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 450 calories, 30 grams of total fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 gram of dietary fiber, 28 grams of total sugars, 21 grams of added sugars, 9 grams of protein

There was potential with this series, but most of the flavors missed the mark. Black & White Cookie does its namesake proud and is way worth picking up, but most of them melted under the bright lights. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to get the others, but none of them are so bad that you’ll drop them in the park for the pigeons…except maybe those soggy churro pieces you set aside.

Purchased Price: $4.79 each
Size: 14 oz
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco

REVIEW: Magnum Duet Ice Cream Bars

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Box

Who’s ready for a bit of Magnum math? Magnum’s new Duet bars come in a trio of flavors. Each package contains three ice cream bars, and each bar is dipped in two different kinds of chocolate. Two flavors are fully dipped in white chocolate and half dipped in milk chocolate, while the third is fully dipped in milk chocolate and half dipped in dark chocolate. One flavor also contains a chocolate ganache swirl and dark chocolate cookie pieces. If you eat one of each flavor bar and white chocolate isn’t actually chocolate, how many different types of chocolate did you just consume? The answer is…four? Oh, I thought that would be more impressive. Let’s forget the math and focus on the ice cream.

Magnum is known for its high quality Belgian chocolate and the signature cracking layer/shell on its pints and novelties. According to Magnum, Duets are the first ice cream bars to be dipped in two different kinds of chocolate. I accept this as truth because I can’t recall having one that was twice dipped, and I applaud Magnum for taking ice cream bar dipping to new heights. The double-coated bars come in Cookie Duet, Chocolate Duet, and Almond Duet varieties. This was my first experience with any Magnum products, and I began my journey with Cookie Duet.

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Cookie 1

Emerging from its swanky brown and gold wrapper, the bar looks just like the picture on the box. This one is fully dipped in white chocolate that’s studded with dark chocolate cookie pieces, half dipped in milk chocolate and features vanilla ice cream with a chocolate ganache swirl. I was pleasantly surprised to find the swirl more prominent than expected. Both coating layers have a nice thickness, and they do taste like a better quality chocolate than you’re used to finding on an ice cream bar. The bottom portion has a cookies ‘n cream vibe, and the cookie nuggets have stayed crunchy, which gives some textural interest. The ice cream itself is rich and creamy.

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Cookie 2

If I had any complaint, it would be that biting through the chocolate, while not challenging, resulted in pieces breaking off and sometimes falling. As a subscriber to the five-second rule (or more accurately, just someone who doesn’t care if their food falls on the floor as long as it didn’t fall in anything gross), this wasn’t really an issue, and I just started to pull off and eat the pieces I knew were likely to drop. I enjoyed everything about Cookie Duet, and it set the bar high for the rest.

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Chocolate 1

Next up, Chocolate Duet. It also features vanilla ice cream enrobed fully in white chocolate and half dipped in milk chocolate. This time the ice cream contains a raspberry swirl. After experiencing the thicker-than-pictured swirl in the Cookie Duet, I was hopeful that the raspberry would be the same and lend some welcome fruitiness. Unfortunately, I had to get several bites in before any berry stripes appeared, and while there’s a hint of raspberry flavor, it’s so slight that I almost wonder why they bothered.

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Chocolate 2

In Magnum’s defense, the thin lines of berry swirl look like they do on the box, so it isn’t like they claimed to be bursting with berry, but I don’t understand the point. Raspberry doesn’t get mentioned in the flavor name and shouldn’t since it’s barely detectable. With a name like Chocolate Duet, I think they should have leaned into it and used chocolate ice cream or something to set this apart from the rest. It just seems like a more plain version of Cookie Duet.

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Almond 1

The last of the group is Almond Duet which stands out for having almond ice cream, a full milk chocolate dip, and a half dark chocolate dip. The ice cream has a brown sugar almond butter swirl, and there are almond pieces in the coating. I enjoyed the dark chocolate dip and the almond ice cream but again was disappointed to find the brown sugar almond butter swirl (which sounds delicious!) to be almost nonexistent. At one point, I thought I was about to discover a bigger pocket of almond butter, but it sadly turned out to be just the wooden stick. The almond pieces are small and nice for texture but don’t add much almond flavor. This was the only bar for me where no coating pieces ended up on the ground.

Magnum Duets Ice Cream Bars Almond 2

Eating any of these bars is a pleasurable experience because it’s hard to argue with good quality ice cream and chocolate, but for me, the only Duet to really sing was Cookie. With more pronounced swirls, the other varieties could be something special, but in their current state, I don’t think they’re as exciting as some other options in the frozen novelty section. The bars do hit a nice sweet spot in serving size as they’re more substantial than something mini but having one or two doesn’t seem as heavy as a bowl of ice cream. I would purchase Cookie Duet again but pass on the rest.

Purchased Price: $4.79 each
Size: 3-pack box
Purchased at: Mariano’s
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cookie Duet), 6 out of 10 (Chocolate Duet), 7 out of 10 (Almond Duet)
Nutrition Facts: (1 bar) Cookie Duet – 240 calories, 15 total grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 20 grams of total sugars includes 15 grams of added sugars, and 4 grams of protein. Chocolate Duet – 230 calories, 15 total grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of total sugars includes 14 grams of added sugars, and 4 grams of protein. Almond Duet – 240 calories, 16 total grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of total sugars includes 13 grams of added sugars, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Cheez-It Puff’d

Cheez It Puff d Bags

What are Cheez-It Puff’d?

A new variety of baked snacks from Cheez-It, these tout themselves as “cheesy, airy, & puffy” and come in three flavors: Double Cheese, White Cheddar, and Scorchin’ Hot Cheddar. They strongly resemble a Cheez-It product from a few years ago, Cheez-It Crunch’d, but because I never sampled those, I can’t confirm if Puff’d is a retooling of Crunch’d or something entirely new. These are Cheez-It’s version of a cheese puff.

How are they?

Cheez It Puff d Back Bag

At first glance, promising. They come in bags that assure you they’re “crave-ably cheesy,” “incredibly airy,” and “perfectly puffy.” The shapes look like they’d be fun to eat and the smallish size makes them seem like a snack you could toss up and catch in your mouth like popcorn. Occasionally two of them remain stuck together in a neat little domino shape. They look like the sort of thing you’d have in a bowl and happily munch on, eating way too many because they’re so light and airy. Unfortunately, the fun stops there because these are not good.

Cheez It Puff d Closeup

They remind me of several types of things you would use to fill a box for shipping so the contents don’t break in transit. My first thought was that these are like eating old packing peanuts. Not even fresh packing peanuts but more like what I imagine the packing peanuts that surround the Christmas ornaments I inherited from my grandmother decades ago probably taste like. Next, I thought about another box filler, those not-totally inflated little plastic bags of air that all come connected to each other. Remember what I thought was a cute domino shape? It’s actually just two of those stuck-together bags. While eating, I thought to myself, “these are why some people really hate cheese puffs.” There’s something strange about them right from the start. It’s almost as if they’re stale, even though I know that’s not possible. Any puffiness they have immediately melts away the second they’re in your mouth and what’s left is pretty off-putting and oddly sticky.

Anything else you need to know?

They say they’re baked with real cheese inside and out, and I don’t have any complaints about the flavors. Double Cheese has the most regular taste of the trio and is the least remarkable. I’m unclear if there are supposed to be two different cheeses (presumably cheddar and something else?) or if it’s just supposed to be twice the amount of the regular cheese flavor. At any rate, it doesn’t stand out as being particularly strong. The White Cheddar version is sharper and more distinctive. Scorchin’ Hot Cheddar isn’t too fiery to handle but has a pleasant heat.


Cheez It Puff d Bowls

I like cheese puffs and want to like these, but I can’t get past the texture. If you give them a try, I’d recommend White Cheddar or Scorchin’ Hot Cheddar. A single serving is 40 pieces, and this is a rare case in snacking where I won’t come close to eating that many.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 5.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Mariano’s
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Double Cheese), 5 out of 10 (White Cheddar), 5 out of 10 (Scorchin’ Hot Cheddar)
Nutrition Facts: For all three flavors (40 pieces) 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of total sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos

Flamin Hot Cool Ranch Doritos Bag

Look out! Chester Cheetah and his mischievous buddy Sparky are unleashing their wild sides again, this time blasting fiery clouds of spicy, neon red Cheetle all over poor, unsuspecting Cool Ranch Doritos. What exactly is fueling this fire? Did the folks at Frito-Lay accidentally make way too much Hot dust and the solution to this abundance is to dump it on everything?

Okay, I’m a little biased. I enjoy spicy foods but just can’t get behind Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. It isn’t that they’re too hot, but I find whatever the hot stuff is detracts from my enjoyment of the classic Cheetos taste. I acknowledge that I’m in the minority here because Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have a fierce and loyal following, and Frito-Lay knows it. It’s no accident that they’re sprinkling this seasoning on every product they make. More red dye 40 means more sales. Hot is popular and it’s my own fault I’ve never warmed to the concept.

Flamin Hot Cool Ranch Doritos Compare

With probable disappointment in mind, I still couldn’t help but pick up the familiar blue Cool Ranch bag, now featuring its corny triangle engulfed in flames. A peek inside revealed the expected aggressively red powder, and I figured I knew what I was in for. Some of the chips are liberally coated, but others seem almost like regular Cool Ranch Doritos that were spared the dousing of hell pollen.

Flamin Hot Cool Ranch Doritos Closeup

I ate one. Then three more. These chips still taste like Cool Ranch! In fact, Cool Ranch is the first thing I taste and continue to taste, even if my fingers are bright red. I have to eat several of them before the heat starts creeping in, and when it does make its presence known, it doesn’t overwhelm. It’s a pleasant pepper heat, and the ranch flavor never takes a back seat to it. I actually like these. I like them a lot.

Flamin Hot Cool Ranch Doritos Plated

How hot are they? I’m not sure I’d call them Flamin’ because I have to eat a lot of these before I even begin to feel the need to reach for a cooling beverage, and they certainly aren’t so hot that I ever need to take a break from eating them. My almost empty bag can attest to that. I think a pretty perfect balance has been struck here. These taste like the chips everyone already loves but pack just slightly more of a punch. I can’t say that I prefer them to regular Cool Ranch Doritos, but I can embrace them in a way I’ve never been able to with Flamin’ Hot editions before.

Now that this door has been opened, does it mean I should finally make that box of Flamin’ Hot mac and cheese that’s been sitting in my cupboard for a year and a half? If I do, you can be sure I’m going to pour these Dorito crumbs on top.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9 1/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Mariano’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams – about 12 chips) 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.