Baker's Select Vanilla Creme Cakes (Dollar Tree)

 

An unopened box of Baker's Select Vanilla Creme Cakes
The individual packaging is the best part...it's amazing! No joke.

I like grabbing some junk food every now and again from Dollar Tree, mainly because it can be inexpensive, and because I occasionally find some gems. Sure, most of their sweets are pretty forgettable, but they’ve had chocolate chip sandwich cookies (that I loved right as they stopped carrying), and some of my favorite powdered donuts. Granted, both of those are available under the Mrs. Freshley’s label, which seem to be good knockoffs of other mass-produced cake and pastry companies, but for a much cheaper price.

I decided to take a couple of big risks with this one: not only did I go outside the comfort of the Mrs. Freshley’s brand label, but I also got a snack that I’m fairly indifferent about to begin with: Twinkies. I’ve never really been a huge fan of them—even as a youngster—and still don’t really care too much about their famous combination of (admittedly) moist sponge cake with super-sweet white cream filling. (I do, however, really like the banana version.) But hey, that also potentially gave Dollar Tree’s version a fighting chance: I wouldn’t be comparing them so much as just seeing if they can stand on their own merits.

Each package contains five individually wrapped vanilla crème cakes for a mere dollar, which of course translates to just twenty cents per cake. That’s value no matter how you look at it (and also makes you kind of question what’s in there—or not—to make them so cheap). Now, two things about my first impression really stand out to me, and actually somewhat heightened my expectations: the packaging, and the cake itself. The cake just looks so moist and delicious that it made my mouth water—no joke. I figured they would get the shape down (which they do), but I wasn’t at all expecting a similar “freshness” and moisture level. And that packaging…who in the hell makes it? It’s phenomenal. I never get worked up about packaging, especially the stuff that you just rip off to throw away, but the individual wrapping around each cake deserves special attention. It’s almost satin-y soft, and feels like something that would be more at home on a premium product, rather than a dollar store item.

Seriously, is it just me? No one else seems to be making such a big deal about it, but I’m almost obsessed with that stuff. It steals the show. It makes you think you're getting something that's far beyond anything you deserve...why aren't more premium products using this kind of thing? And how is it, of all places, on a dollar store food item?

Anyway, the cake itself is pretty ho-hum, when all is said and done. Actually, let me rephrase that: the cake part is actually pretty good, tasting somewhat like a pound cake (and also somewhat like my memories of the national brand cake taste like), and with just as much moistness as you’d expect from looking at it. The issue I have with these stem from the least likely of sources: the cream filling. To call it “disappointing” can’t possibly do it justice. It’s not that it’s gross, because it’s not, but in some ways it’s even worse because it’s virtually tasteless. If anything I figured the icing would be on point but the cake itself would be dry, or taste weird…never in my wildest dreams did I think a dollar store product would botch icing, of all things.

Overall: 5/10. They’re not nearly as inedible as I thought they’d be, but when the star of an edible product is the packaging, you know you’ve failed somewhere. The "pastry" - or whatever it qualifies as - is actually pretty good: it's fairly moist and has a taste akin to a pound cake. It lays a solid foundation that's completely let down by, of all things, the cream, which is light and bland. I can't recall another dollar store junk food that fails by falling short in the sweetness department, which is a major letdown. But seriously, that individual packaging is phenomenal.

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