Taste Test: Canned cakes and pudding

Taste Test: Canned cakes and pudding

Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at tastetest@theonion.com.

Dessert can be delivered in many ways and still be delectable: It can come straight out of the oven or spend a long stretch in a freezer. It can be pre-packaged in plastic, like Oreos or Snickers. But at The A.V. Club's Taste Test labs, we discovered today that one dessert-delivery system is pretty much a complete failure: cans. We should've known, considering that last week's Taste Test proved that canned bread and canned cheese weren't too good. But put enough sugar in something and it's bound to be okay, isn't it? Perhaps not.

We tried three different canned delicacies, procured over the last year from a variety of sources. First off was Heinz-brand spotted dick, which is apparently a common dessert in the UK, but is the symptom of an STD here in the States. (Brits, it's as if you imported a canned dessert called "diseased cock" from us.) I get the feeling from looking at the can—which has been on my desk eliciting laughs for about nine months—that spotted dick isn't just something British people eat, it's something OLD British people eat. The can even looks old-fashioned, with a colorful label showing what's inside: a bread pudding with raisins, basically. It contains the basic ingredients—sugar, flour, water, vegetable oil, dried skim milk, etc. It looks a bit like death, but so do most canned foods.

Next up was something called New England Style Indian Pudding, which I procured from Mainegoodies.com, which also sells the canned bread we ate last week. None of us had ever heard of Indian pudding, but since it's from Maine, we assume it's Native American, not, y'know, them other Indians. Strangely, though, the can describes it as "a truly unique Yankee dessert!" It also contains pretty basic stuff: water, molasses, corn meal, milk, butter, evaporated cane juice, salt, and—mysteriously—"proprietary spices." Ooh. Also: "No MSG! No trans fat!" Still, half a cup of this stuff will deliver 170 calories.

Finally, a huge can of Irish Whiskey Cake, sent to us (along with the canned bacon from a few weeks ago) by intrepid Taste Test reader Rick. It's made in the USA by a company called Caledonian Kitchen, and its giant can features lots of text and Irish-looking graphics. There's some hoo-ha about the history of Irish Whiskey itself, along with the story of the cake. According to the can, "This is a deliciously rich, dense, and moist cake. The blend of pure creamery butter, ground pecans, and golden raisins beautifully complements the fine premium Irish whiskey." And it goes on: "We use our own unique process of gently pressure-cooking in a can to preserve the goodness and flavor normally lost in the usual oven-baking process." Sounds pretty good, right? All three have natural ingredients, nothing that should fail in making the transition to the can…

The taste: But they did, with varying degrees of fail-osity. Let's start with the worst: Indian Pudding. It looks and smells like extraordinarily wet Alpo, and the strength of its odor poured out of the can immediately. If it's possible for a food to be smooth and gritty at the same time, Indian Pudding is it. Imagine semi-solid poo soaking in a can of poo-colored liquid, and you've got the visual. Naturally, no one wanted to taste it, but brave Dave Chang stepped up to the plate. Even his hardened palate couldn't handle the sickly sweetness. Imagine eating pumpkin-pie filling straight from the can, only with pumpkin-pie-filling juice surrounding it, and extra pungency. And corn. This is serious business, and we'd like to hear from people who actually eat this stuff. Maybe if you make it from scratch, there's something to it, but in a can? Big, big loser.

Next up, spotted dick. It didn't look good plopping out of its little can, either, but most everyone here at TT labs would rather eat an entire can of this stuff (which turned out to be slightly expired, by the way) than a bite of Indian pudding. Spotted dick is maybe what we were hoping for with the canned bread last week—a little moister, a little sweeter. Not terrible, but certainly not something we'd go out of our way to eat again. Did I mention it's called spotted dick? Do sitcoms in England have a field day with this? "My dick isn't spotted or moist enough, and it smells like it's turned!"

Finally, the Irish Whiskey Cake, which I feel would have actually found some real fans if it weren't for the fact that when we opened it, there appeared to be a fairly sizeable spot of mold on it. I guess that's isn't surprising, considering it doesn't have any preservatives, but still—ewww. Also, the thing weighs about 900 pounds. If you eat one-sixth of this can (about four ounces), you've consumed 659 calories and 43 grams of fat. A Big Mac, for comparison, weighs 7.5 ounces and has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. Yes, that is totally fucking insane. Still, the cake is pretty tasty, with a seriously strong whiskey flavor. It better be the tastiest thing in the world with that many calories. Regardless of its halfway-decent taste, most testers remained scared of the whiskey cake's power. It remains on the kitchen table, with various plastic utensils sticking out of it. A failure in a sea of them, sadly.

Office reactions:

Spotted Dick

— "It tastes like I'm sucking off Andy Rooney."

— "Not bad!

— "It's very moist."

— "I can't tell if it's raisins or berries." "It's spots!"

— "Oh, the changing nature of slang is a cruel beast! But this is the least offensive of the desserts. I still couldn't couldn't imagine eating more than a bite, but it's not revolting."

— "When warmed up, it's pretty good. Lightly spiced cake with raisins. Mildly sweet."

— "Not very good when compared to fresh-baked cakes, but still edible. Think turkey loaf or Spaghetti-O's."

— "I'm finding it hard not to think of Nixon or Cheney when putting this in my mouth. Having a bit of a Larry Craig moment."

Whiskey Cake

— "Eww. Eww? It's really dry and dense."

— "They didn't skimp on the whiskey, that's for sure!"

— "Nasty. If I'm gonna get 50 grams of fat and more than 600 calories in one serving, it'd better taste pretty damn good."

— "Most disappointing item of this batch. Dense, dark, and boozy, but not in a fun way. Mostly musty and old-tasting."

— "The whiskey overwhelms any other flavors in the cake. The cake itself seems more preserved and petrified as a result of being soaked in so much alcohol."

— "Makes me long for the brown bread in a can. That shit was infinitely more palatable by comparison."

Indian Pudding

— "It just tastes like rancid pumpkin pie."

— "I give it a D-, the gentleman's F."

— "The visual combined with the texture was too much."

— "It's almost flan-ish, and I hate flan."

— "It looks like diarrhea."

— "Fucking disgusting. In the nanosecond it took for my tongue to register this in my brain, I knew I had to spit it out."

— "This was the worst-tasting Taste Test ever."

— "Main problem was texture. More like a congealed mass than a smooth pudding. The water it was swimming in didn't help whet my appetite."

— "I taste pumpkin and maybe some spice. It's not sweet, really, just mealy and gritty. Wow, the gag reflexes are really starting to kick in at this point."

— "Not quite dog food. More like old people's food."

— From a passerby: "It stinks like something sugary in here, but it still smells like poo."

Where to find them: Online outlets, if you dare.

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