Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Baker Josef's Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix

I am still in awe of the righteous new labeling system that Russ recently implemented on this site. So, to honor that system, I very thoughtfully considered which category(ies) to put this crumbcake in. Please follow my process of logic:

-Coffee helps one wake up and is thus a morning beverage.
-This cake is to be associated with coffee.
-Therefore, this cake can, at least part of the time, be considered a morning food.

Hence, it is filed under breakfast.

But it is also cake, and cake is very often eaten as dessert, ergo it should also be categorized as dessert, under "snacks and desserts."

And we shall spend the remainder of this blog entry discussing the categorization of the item under its third and final heading of "Not Bad."

Indeed, this is a prime example of a "Not Bad" Trader Joe's product. A week or two ago, we examined TJ's Chocolate Cake and Frosting Mixes, which are, in all respects, Pantheon Level foods. Those products surpassed expectations in every way, and in my life, they shall evermore be the standards by which all chocolate cakes and chocolate icings shall be measured.

This cake, however, can not be placed in such high esteem. It tasted pretty good...but it was sort of...uneven. The ribbon of cinnamoniness was the biggest offender. Instead of coming out like the photo on the box, which depicts a thin layer of soft, cinnamonish goodness evenly spread throughout each piece, there were large clumps of a harder, chewier cinnamon-based substance, unevenly and haphazardly dispersed about the cake. The cinnamon parts tasted overly sugary, and they left a slightly unpleasant aftertaste. The texture of the cake was fine, but any bites that contained this cinnamon ribbon were contaminated with a gritty feeling that cheapened the fluffiness of the main cake material.

Despite my complaints, this product was still among the best coffee cakes I've tried. (Although, truth be told, I haven't eaten many different coffee cakes. The nasty, pre-packaged vending machine variety doesn't count). The cake does go well with coffee, and it's certain to satisfy any sweet-tooth cravings you might encounter during your break.

If you're a huge fan of coffee cake, this is surely worth a try, but if you're just looking for a random cake mix to whip up for dessert or a special occasion, we recommend getting the chocolate cake first.

One last thought: who came up with the idea of crumb cake, anyway? Aren't our lives complicated enough without someone deliberately trying to make food that falls apart when we eat it? Not only do we have to spend time baking, preparing, and serving this stuff, but we have to wash dishes, clear the table, and on top of it all, break out the dust buster now, too. No thanks. One more reason to stick with the chocolate cake.

Sonia gives it 3 out of 5 stars. I'm definitely a bigger fan of sugary breakfast foods than she is. I give it a 3.5 out of 5. Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

4 comments:

  1. How much do you think the preparation of the cake contributed to the uneven distribution of cinnamon throughout? (Do you think this was just something that was completely unavoidable?) I happen to really like coffee cake, so am very curious.

    I agree - - food that falls apart. I mean, why bother baking it into a cake shape in the first place?

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  2. Ariel and/or Lindsay,

    A significant part of the uneven cinnamon-distribution problem could have been our fault. But what we got was such a far cry from the picture, that we doubt it would ever turn out exactly like it looks there, unless you would get a professional pastry chef to bake it for you or something...

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  3. With low expectations, I prepared this for a party. It was a HUGE hit! Looked good, and tasted great. It was gone before the official party cake was gone.

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  4. I've tried this cake mix and I thought it was amazing. I brought it into the office and people were all over it. There is definitely a trick to getting the middle layer to spread out evenly, and that's mixing the unsalted butter with the crumbs to a very fine consistency before spreading it on the cake batter. In baking class, when we did this with flour, they taught us that this was called "rubbing in" and it should look almost like coarse ground sand when you're done. Can be labour intensive but worth it. Good luck!

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