What Shame Looks Like

100 Calorie Packs of Cinnamon Coffee Cakes

By: Hostess

I Paid: $3.99 for six 1.125-ounce packs (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3stars


Marketing: 3stars

It’s official: The 100-calorie-pack craze has gotten out of hand. How can that be objectively determined? Hostess is now offering 100-calorie packs of its Cinnamon Coffee Cakes.

“Cinnamon Coffee Cakes” sounds a little rich and indulgent to function as part of the 100-calorie restrained-eating thing. You might fear that the taste of the cakes would be heavily compromised in order to make them diet-ready, but you’d be wrong. They taste pretty rich, and, in their own Hostess way, authentic.

But here’s the story: Each individual 33.333-calorie cake (three come in one pack) is about the size of a thick coat button. Calling each cake bite-size is appropriate only if the biter in question is a housecat or an unambitious raccoon. I suspect I could easily pack four or five into my mouth simultaneously.

And although the coffee cakes aren’t exactly culinary genius—they’re soft, relatively insipid yellow cake topped with crunchy bits of cinnamon sugar—the cinnamon and crunch are both sufficiently prominent to make the cakes legitimately tasty.

Thus, the other functional problem with this 100-calorie concept: You are hereby dared to enjoy the contents of one of these packs, and then not immediately open a second package. Not only is such an experience inevitable (and defeating of the overall purpose of the 100-calorie pack), but it also leaves a pile of Hostess-related detritus in its wake—one torn-up piece of cellophane and one little strip of cardboard per three-pack consumed. You want to know what shame made tangible looks like? There you go.

Tic Tac Citrus Punch

By: Ferrero U.S.A.

I Paid: $1.29 for a 1.7-ounce box (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 2stars


Marketing: 4stars

Medicine fetishists—you know who you are—can’t help but enjoy the sterile, pill-like profile of Tic Tacs, the candy that masquerades as a breath mint. Now Tic Tac is rolling out a Citrus Punch limited edition: a big, pretty, clear plastic box filled with pink (grapefruit), green (lime), and orange (orange) candy. If there’s another form of domestically available candy that’s closer to being the iPhone of the genre, it has yet to make itself known.

From a visual-interest perspective, the Citrus Punch box does a better job than the all-orange Tic Tacs. The problem, however, is that your first mouthful will most likely taste like grapefruit-scented soap. The carnauba wax is a strong player in the mints’ taste and texture—I assume that the wax is imparting the soaplike flavor—and the grapefruit Tic Tacs are far too strong for their size. The grapefruit, in fact, overwhelms anything it’s near. The result is a handful of candy that’s not so much like fruit punch as it is a fruit punch in the mouth.

The effect of eating the grapefruit Tic Tacs is not entirely unlike sampling a range of mellow California wines after tasting an 18-year-old bourbon. Your palate is blown out, and everything after that last fiery swallow of distilled corn goodness is more or less irrelevant. That said, artists looking to make a striking visual impression and garner a link from Fark and/or Boing Boing could do worse than to photograph a nude model cavorting in a bathtub filled with these things. (Hint: Go with a bald, tattoo-sporting fat guy for artistic cred; an attractive young lady for maximum Internet exposure.)

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.