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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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Of all the gluten-free baked goods we've tried so far, I would have to say the Macarons and the Snickerdoodles have been the best.

In the case of the macarons, there's a texture we're not used to eating all the time. It's a uniquely "macaron" or "macaroon" texture. And, personally, I've had way more macarons from TJ's than from anywhere else. But in the case of the snickerdoodles, they approximated a very "normal" texture without using gluten. It's harder to imitate something that's usually made with gluten than it is to just make something different.

So making a gluten free cupcake seems like it should be pretty close to impossible. But I've gotta say, they came incredibly close.

Once again, they nailed the flavor of a chocolate cupcake. I personally liked the frosting, too, although Sonia thinks it was too heavy for her tastes. I must admit, it was thick and very buttery. But it had a nice vanilla taste, and it blended well with the chocolate cake.

The cake part was super-moist. It broke apart in the same way any chocolate cake would, but once you started chewing it, there was just a tiny hint of what I might call "starchiness." It's like portions of the cake crumbs wanted to stick together just a hair more than with a glutenful cupcake that perfectly "melts in your mouth." But that's nitpicking. Really. The effect was very subtle, and if I hadn't already known that these were gluten-free cupcakes, I might not have noticed it. I think it's gotta be the "potato starch" that you can see there in the ingredients list photo, which wound up looking like the culinary equivalent of an American Apparel ad. I washed it all down with a tasty caramel latte, and my tummy was a happy camper. And sure enough, my stomach didn't puff up the way it does when I eat regular cupcakes. I should probably do this gluten-free thing full time. With products like these, I wouldn't feel like I'm giving up the world.

The checkout guy at Trader Joe's exclaimed, "Enjoy the cupcakes. They're excellent!" when I bought them. He's certainly not wrong. Sonia's only complaint was the heaviness of the buttercream, although I was a fan of the icing. And my only complaint is the oh-so-barely-there weirdness of the cake texture. Definitely, if you're eating gluten-free out of necessity, these cupcakes will be your friends.

Sonia gives them 4 stars. I think they're worthy of a 4.5.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


  1. They should be excellent - they have over 9 teaspoons of sugar in each cupcake!

  2. As long as the sugar is gluten-free...

  3. I just picked up a package of these gluten free cupcakes in mint chocolate and they are DELISH! They are actually better than the ones I've from a local gluten free bakery. The price is right, 4 for $3.99! YUM!

    1. We'll have to look for them, CandidabBrava!

  4. They're very yummy just too many calories 😳

  5. Just got these - and they are good - as long as you get rid of at least 3/4 of the icing!! If you want to actually eat cake: don't buy these.
    If you want an excuse to just eat icing: go for it!!
    And yes: I know that sugar does not have gluten....