“TOP SECRET,” warned the silver briefcase in fat, red typeface.
It was a press kit more elaborate than most we get here at Post Food HQ. Nestled in a soft, black liner, like a disassembled sniper rifle belonging to some forgotten James Bond villain, was our package: the new Frosting Creations from Duncan Hines.
The company calls it “a ground-breaking proprietary frosting system.” The system has two components, a plain frosting “starter” (or as you might know it: frosting) and a flavor mix, available in 12 mostly psychedelic-colored varieties. Parts sold separately, as they say.
Because it wasn’t enough that I already had almond cookies and hazelnut gelato sitting around my house, I decided that I needed to try this product for you, our reading public.
I baked my favorite chocolate cupcakes and carefully considered the pairing options among the flavor mixes we received: mint chocolate, orange creme, cinnamon roll, cotton candy, white chocolate raspberry and chocolate marshmallow. I chose white chocolate raspberry and cotton candy, what I considered a good combination of safe and whimsical.
Just to know exactly what I was working with, I took a taste of the unadulterated frosting starter. A blank slate, to be sure, and one with a gummy, greasy texture. I’d already come this far, though. I couldn’t turn back now.
I opened the white chocolate raspberry mix and began to dump it into the well I’d dug in the starter. Most went into the frosting canister, but some flew into the air, a fine, purple particulate powder that landed in my throat and elicited a cough. There was a distinct chemical smell that reminded me of air freshener. The cotton candy proved slightly less offensive.
At this point, my baker instincts were on red alert. The frosting did not seem like frosting. It was runny and unnaturally glossy. When I pulled a knife out of it, threads stretched between the utensil and the can, similar to when I make marshmallows.
I eyed my cupcakes. What had they done to deserve this probably disastrous fate?
As if a cute puppy could save the sinking ship, I did my best to pipe the frosting onto the cakes. It ran and looked nothing like the fluffy images from Duncan Hines.
My husband (he of the wisdom, “Canned frosting is supposed to be easy. Why make it more complicated?”) and I split one cupcake of each flavor. The chocolate cake cut slightly into the tongue-numbing sweetness of the frosting, but not nearly enough to prevent it from being Just. Plain. Gross.
I’ve enjoyed my share of prefab frostings, and these abominations don’t deserve a place on the same grocery store shelf. It doesn’t come close to even the most basic buttercream made of butter and confectioner’s sugar. In fact, I’d rank it below having no cupcake at all.
The morning after my baking test I discovered a set of keys in the silver briefcase. How fitting. Duncan Hines would do us all a favor by locking up its latest release and throwing away the key. This is one secret that never should have been shared.