The more prominent flavor trends of the past few years have succeeded in creating buzz and profits, but often there’s a limited shelf life for seasonal tastes. Who wants a Pumpkin Spice Latte in the middle of August? Who eats “peppermint stick” anything after December?
But a current trend has a lot more elbow room when it comes to its endurance.
Birthday cake flavors are a “thing” now. I know this because I groggily watched chipper young women discuss the various cake-infused products on a TODAY show segment a few weeks ago. It makes sense. Is there a more universal holiday than a birthday? Literally everyone has one. And many have fond memories of being a kid and tearing through presents before power-eating a huge chunk of cake.
Because of the birthday experience’s universality, most of us indulge in a slice of birthday cake at least once a year. It’s not a taste associated with a season or holiday; birthday cake works anytime. There’s also a nostalgic tug to the flavor’s unspoken sales pitch.
In about 20 minutes at a Kroger recently, I was able to find roughly a half dozen “birthday cake” offshoots. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of a “trend” but, as mentioned, the TODAY show did a whole segment about it!
Despite not being overwhelmed by my findings (I was sad I couldn’t find the birthday-cake-flavored Muscle Milk protein drink), I did, however, carry home a fairly full, ridiculously festive haul.
And birthday cake is not the only cake that has been exploited by the sweets overlords.
German chocolate cake has been hybridized with other sweets, particularly ice cream, where it’s become a common flavor that’s possibly more popular than its namesake. Carrot cake gave it a go but never widely caught on. A relatively newer trend is red velvet cake-flavored sweets, which, like German chocolate cake, work especially well in ice cream. And the cupcake trend of a few years ago still lingers on supermarket shelves.
“Birthday Cake Flavor” is very specific and very generic. For some reason, cake with overly sweet frosting, a smattering of “sprinkles” and vanilla batter has been adopted as the universal “Birthday Cake Flavor,” even though some of us consider a nice dark-chocolate cake with milk-chocolate frosting the height of birthday cake greatness.
I’ve previously written about Birthday Cake M&Ms, as they stood as another example of M&Ms’ failure to come up with a passable new flavor (the chocolate flavoring often overpowers many of the candy’s more recent offerings, including the cake ones). And I don’t drink, so I can’t tell you what Smirnoff’s Iced Cake-flavored vodka is like. I imagine it’s similar to eating a Twinkie and chasing it with nail polish remover.
Of my haul, the Birthday Frosting-Filled Chips Ahoy were the best of the bunch. Instead of trying to bake cake flavoring into the chocolate chip cookie, the Chips Ahoy geniuses simply injected each cookie with a layer of white frosting flecked with rainbow sprinkles. It works very well, though the cookies seem smaller than usual Chips Ahoy and are very soft and moist, crumbling at the first nibble.
Birthday Cake is one of the seeming eight million different flavors the makers of Oreo cookies have been toying with lately, too. Oreo’s offering also goes after the frosting taste, giving the beloved Oreo filling a birthday-frosting twist and some colorful sprinkles, which, as with most birthday-cake items I tried, seem more for appearance than taste. It’s a pleasant enough spin on an old classic.
The Blue Bunny brand Premium Birthday Party Ice Cream Sandwiches try to recreate my favorite way to eat birthday cake — completely blended with a scoop of ice cream. They’re like the usual chocolate/vanilla ice cream sandwiches, but the frosting-flavored ice cream is sandwiched between two sweet cake-y crackers. It works pretty well (especially for a somewhat “off brand”), though some chunks of birthday cake in the ice cream would put it over the top.
Entenmann’s gets in on the birthday-cake craze with their Party Cakes, part of the company’s line of “Little Bites” — packs of mini-muffins designed to make you think you’re watching your caloric intake because you’re eating from a pre-portioned bag. About an inch in diameter, I enjoyed the rainbow-specked muffin cakes, mostly because the sweetness wasn’t overpowering.
That may be what keeps birthday cake-flavored snacks from catching on long-term — by its nature, birthday cake is way sweeter and more sugary than it needs to be, which makes it an acceptable once-every-few-months treat. Maybe kids would love to recreate that flavor party experience daily, but for most normal adults, the limited exposure we traditionally have to birthday cake is more than enough.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org or @CityBeatMusic
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