I’ll admit, sulkily, and only when it’s pried out of me, that I have a bit of a competitive edge. I’ve lost board game partners over it, gym buddies, and oddly enough, study group members, but by far the most annoyed with this habit is…me. You see, through a culinary lens, I see myself as an organic experiment. What will happen if I feed myself this? Or this?
One of my favorite games is to take a food I like and eliminate it from a meal, seeing if I missed it. This can range from the simple, where tofu crumbles replace meat in chili, to the more effort-intense. Vegan cheese? In my pasta? It’s more common than you think. By far, though, the most arduous challenge came up yesterday, and it all started with a timely delivery of Jeni’s Ice Cream. You may remember the name- I’ve waxed poetic on them a few times and have been anxiously awaiting their new flavors. This time around, I could tell they outdid themselves with their new Super Pop Cakes Collection– not cake pops…think a little more sophisticated, with five special edition flavors riffing around cakes from across the globe.
Like a child on Christmas, I opened the box, tossing the paper aside and briefly playing with the included dry ice, to reveal the five flavors. For this collection, Jeni’s has gone international with flavors like Hummingbird Cake to Icelandic Happy Marriage Cake, with funky flavor mix-ins from rhubarb to kiwi, all chock-full of cake. Of course, I could only see one thing. In the entire five pints of ice cream, not one was chocolate. Aware of my chocolate ice cream-loving status, I stared, agape. How could this be? And more importantly, could they pull it off?
I couldn’t stand the pressure, so I flung the lid off the nearest container and took a spoonful. Holy cream, chocolate who? That would be the Tres Leches Cake with Here ‘n’ There Cherries that I was trying, fully pushing any memories of cacao from my mind. My god, what a condensed flavor. Although I was initially worried that the coconut in this would be overpowering, it played beautifully with the creamy, caramely flavors of the condensed milk. My sole criticism with this was that the “here ‘n’ there” cherries seemed to be “nowhere ‘n’ there” as the pint (yes, we demolished it) contained a single lone candied cherry. Nevertheless, still packed a serious flavor.
Moving on, we opened the brightest and pinkest offering of the set, Magnolia Mochi. While I confess I initially raised an eyebrow at the Barbie pink, floral-scented offering, this was Keepitcoming Love’s soul in a pint of ice cream. Her favorite flavors are floral and mildly sweet and she adores all things Japanese, so to have an artisanal version including these components left her absolutely giddy. The flavor was fresh, imparting a hint of lemon and a slight soapiness at the end. While I did enjoy this, I’m afraid I’ll lose an arm if I try to wrest this one out of her grip.
While Miss Love devoured Magnolia Mochi, I had my sights set on the Icelandic Happy Marriage Cake, featuring a skyr ice cream base, sugary toasted oat cake crumbles, and a rhubarb compote. I was smitten with this ice cream and kept coming back to it after I’d tasted the remaining flavors. The skyr had the clean, light flavor of ricotta and the oat cake pieces were huge, crumbling on the tongue and still very crispy. In each bite, I got at least one large piece. The rhubarb compote was surprisingly not completely frozen and, despite its jammy, slippery texture, was pleasantly tart.
The visual showstopper of the collection was unequivocally the Mango Kiwi Special Cake, resplendent in bright orange and green with enormous chunks of fluffy angel food cake that remained surprisingly airy despite being frozen. I was impressed that this flavor, with so many typically sweet components, was one of the most restrained of the varieties. That may have had to do with the fact that this was not ice cream, but frozen yogurt, so it had more of a bite and less of an unctuous creaminess to it than rainbow sherbert.
I was excited about Hummingbird Cake because it contained coconut and mashed banana, two flavors I’d recently sampled in ice cream of a similar quality. Creamy and tangy in flavor, reminiscent of the fluffy cream cheese frosting atop such a cake, it carried an intense and authentic mashed banana flavor peppered with cinnamon and nutmeg, earthy and sweet. The coconut wasn’t as present in this one texturally, but offered another layer of richness unto the dessert. Purportedly, there were pineapple chunks in this one but I didn’t really get any of them.
These ice creams were diverse and exceptional, going past the birthday cake standards and pushing the boundaries of what it means to have your cake and lick it, too. Chocolate? Take a back seat. There’s a new scoop in town. You can purchase the Super Pop Cakes Collection starting March 2nd at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and in their scoop shops, too!