Friday, April 26, 2019

Cafe Roma Chocolate Lava Cake (Dollar Tree)

Haven't seen this at any Dollar Tree in over a year, so had to steal this screen grab. (Img Credit: Markis Pea Welby)
Any time I go to Dollar Tree, I usually end up walking back and forth down their freezer section, looking for something that I wouldn't be absolutely terrified to eat. I consider myself to be very open-minded with many food stuffs, but some of those things just look too grotesque even for me. I mean, meat products, or seafood for a dollar? I'm not so sure about that—if it doesn't get you sick, it will more than likely taste like junk and be an unnecessary waste of money. I don't care if it is only a dollar, sometimes those add up.

I literally was on my fourth or fifth freezer pass (this on a return trip to the freezer: the first time I took one or two passes before deciding to move on), and was just about to head up and pay without anything, when this little guy caught my eye. He was a little difficult to see, because he was placed near the connection of two panes of freezer glass, but once I saw him, I knew I'd found something I wanted to try. I immediately grabbed him, and put him in my basket, then made a beeline for the registers, because by that time, I'd already spent way too much time and money there.

A couple days later, and just in the middle of the day, I was looking for a snack. As usual, there were precious few things in the house, but I saw this when I opened the freezer. Might as well give this a go, I thought to myself, and I proceeded to tear into it (after microwaving it, of course). Immediately, I was put-off by it, as the entire outer edge of the cake is unusually tough, and packs in very little flavor, and I was ready to toss in the towel and chalk this up as yet another Dollar Tree failure.

Only it's not, because the actual inside is a completely different beast: it's moist, very chocolatey, and if you can believe me, unusually delicious. Now, if you're expecting a rush of delicious chocolate liquid to ooze out after cutting into it (as I was), you'll be sorely disappointed, because there isn't any at all: after all, I thought that was the whole "lava" part in the product's title. But the chocolate innards have the same delectably rich taste without it, putting it pretty much on par with every other lava cake I've had (though, to be fair, haven't been many).

For $1, some of Dollar Tree's single-serve desserts are a little on the small side, and feel unjustly overpriced. Here, though, you get quite a bit of lava cake for the money; it's about the same size as any other lava cake that I've seen, so I can't knock it for that. The quick cooking time (it suggests 20-30 seconds in the microwave, but our microwave sucks and needed closer to a minute) makes it a perfect little dessert to have at any point of the day, and you can top this puppy off with ice cream and hot fudge for a sensational treat that you'd pay upwards of $8 for at virtually any restaurant!

About the only drawback is that tougher chocolate ring around the outside. I get that it's probably a cheap way to keep the inner chocolate part from collapsing, but it's still very off-putting, and not a feature I remember in any other lava cake I've ever had. It was especially noticeable toward the end, as there was only a little bit of actual lava cake left, I had to blend the bites with the “outer shell” and it noticeably affected the flavor to the negative. Dealing with it isn't that hard...either suck it up and eat the whole thing all at once, to get the worst part out of the way, or if you don't mind being wasteful, just peel it off and chuck it. But if you do that, keep in mind you're also throwing away half the cake.

I made the mistake of buying only one, and even though I look virtually every time I go, I've never seen these on the shelves again. As far as Dollar Tree desserts go, this just might be the crème de la crème: A hidden gem, one that they could probably slap some fancier packaging on, and sell for twice, or maybe even three times the price at a traditional supermarket. If you have these at your local DT, or see them anywhere else for a buck, do yourself a favor and stock up on them. I wish I would have.

Overall: 8/10. An exceptional treat for the price, especially given the store that it came from. A few of Dollar Tree's desserts I've had previously, are too small to justify the price, if not outright horrid. These, on the other hand, are fantastic, barring the weird ring of tough chocolate that surrounds it (I'm assuming maybe to keep the soft insides from collapsing, but it's more exaggerated than any other lava cake I've had). The soft, moist innards (apologies for the gross term) are rich and delightfully flavorful, while the size is pretty impressive for a buck. Note that this isn't the “molten” version, so don't expect any liquid chocolate to seep out (much to my dismay), but it honestly doesn't need it, because it's very delicious on its own. They could put it in fancier packaging and sell them for twice, maybe even three times the price at a traditional supermarket. If you see them, as I haven't since getting this once over a year ago, be sure to stock up!

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