Snack Critic: Stuff These Chocolate-Filled Chocolate Snack Cakes into Your LunchboxApril 5, 2017
Growing up is great and all, but we harken back to the good ol’ days of being in our elementary school uniforms, where salvation (a.k.a. recess) comes when the bell rings at 9 am. Past the chips and the sandwiches, one snack genre excels at satisfying the need for something sweet and (somewhat) filling: Snack cakes—in all their pre-packaged, tightly-sealed, preservative-laden glory. Granted, nothing beats freshly-baked, from-scratch baked goods, but these treats have the advantage of being ultra-portable, easily fitting into any lunchbox, and having long shelf lives—ready to quell any cake craving. You’ll find snack cakes in different flavors and forms, and the chocolate-filled chocolate cake bar (think choc-ified Twinkies) is a fast favorite in these parts. Get a glass of milk ready (or ~coffee~ if you must reaffirm your adulthood) as we munch our way through five bars, all in the name of discovering how each of these snack cakes fare.
Hapi Bar displays a pale-looking cake on the packaging, which its actual contents does not stray from—an achievement in a world where as far as commercialized food goes, expectations are not always met by reality. Take a bite and you find a cake that is on the dry and airy side, with little to no flavor on its own (aside from a sort of milkiness we associate with Lemon Square brand snack cakes). Crumbly initially, it dissolves into an odd, pasty texture in the mouth. Its redeeming factor might be the filling, which takes on a thick, frosting-like consistency (right down to the gritty finish of powdered sugar in the mix) and a decent chocolate syrup-like flavor—but comes sparse, not even filling up the entire length of the cake. To be fair it’s the cheapest of the lot, so we weren’t expecting it to be the best, but this definitely requires downing with lots and lots of milk.
Our second snack cake comes from one of the older brands of the bunch. Maybe it’s just that it’s been years since we’ve last had a pack, but opening the package only left us with disappointment given how much smaller it looks compared to what we remember. The cake portion feels dry and crumbles too easily for our liking, but takes on a decent cocoa-y flavor accentuated with a touch of salt. The filling isn’t bad though: a sticky, malt-y goop that helps moisten its surrounding cake and make it slide down easier down the throat.
A visual stunner compared to its two predecessors, Fudgee boasts of a dark, glossy surface that calls out for you to take a bite. Sadly the moistness of the cake is limited to its edges as the inside remains dry and crumbly, though its more open crumb makes it feel fluffier. The filling, thankfully, takes on a sticky, candy-like consistency that clings onto each crevice and make the overall bite feel chewy and luscious. More notably, Fudgee takes on a markedly robust, roasty flavor with what seems to be the addition of coffee to give the impression of it being darker.
Lava’s cake carries even darker, sleeker appearance than Fudgee’s. Splitting the cake apart, it might seem that this bar lacks filling—but dig deeper and you’ll find that the filling is injected in smaller doses, but in numerous intervals across the cake rather than just the center. The result? A snack cake where the cake and the filling are integrated into one fudgy, (relatively) moist, almost brownie-like bite. The flavor is similar to Quake’s in that it’s chocolatey in a rounded, malty, milky way, but with a touch more darkness.
Whammo’s was a cult favorite in the 90’s and made a successful comeback last year. This time around it takes on a relatively esoteric character, being sold exclusively at 7-Eleven stores and—thanks to the bigger portion you get per packet (likely having retained the old serving size)—is peddled at a much higher price. The flavor isn’t all that chocolate-y to be honest, smelling and tasting more like licorice (yes, licorice) than cocoa and finishing with a chemical aftertaste. (If you’ve ever made one of those Southern Coca-Cola cakes, this actually tastes somewhat close.) But Whammo’s far trumps all other snack cakes in texture, with a cake that is soft and moist enough that it almost feels fresh-baked, and a filling that actually feels wet and slick on the tongue.
With varying textures and flavors, there’s something for everyone. Looking for a deeper chocolate punch? Try Lava or Fudgee Bars. Like it fluffy and moist? Grab Fudgee or Whammo’s. Want something denser and more fudge-like? Get Lava. Lighter and airier (hey, it has its place)? Hapi or Quake. But whether you’re 9 or 29, these snack cakes are a great way to make the mid-meal break just a wee bit sweeter.