Even before the cupcake craze, I was fascinated with inventive frosting flavors. My wedding cake had maple cream icing (amazing), and I have fond memories of the first time I tasted green tea frosting (thank you, college roommate).
In the past, I've made my own alternative flavors at home (ginger, Oreo), but at the moment very limited kitchen supplies make domestic experimentation difficult.
Duncan Hines must have felt my frustration from afar, because it now offers a series of mix-it-yourself frosting varieties.
It works like this: You buy a starter tub of white (which seems to be both a flavor and a color) frosting and then add a packet of powdered "seasoning," of sorts.
Options include Mint Chocolate, Mocha, Orange Creme, Cotton Candy, Chocolate Almond, Cinnamon Roll, Bubble Gum, Caramel, Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate Marshmallow and Strawberry Shortcake.
My local supermarket only offers about half of these flavors. I chose caramel and strawberry shortcake. The bubble gum flavor was tempting, but I wussed out in fear of creating a frosting that reminded me of the amoxicillin I relished in my childhood. Don't need to reactivate that addiction.
Technically, one is supposed to use one packet per tub of starter, but to cut costs and facilitate experimentation, I decided to divide my tub in half and use just part of each packet.
While I was mixing the caramel, the smell of maple syrup wafted through the air, which then made me question whether my conception of "caramel" was really more "butterscotch" and Duncan Hines was more on point with its version.
But then I remembered I was dealing with artificial flavors.
The caramel frosting was nonetheless delicious, although to me it still tasted more syrupy than buttery. The strawberry shortcake left far more to be desired: namely, the specific taste of strawberries, as the flavor was more Amorphous Red Fruit. Not terrible, just blander and more saccharine.
I tried each frosting separately with a spoon, then used them to garnish some freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies. What about cake, you say? Sorry, none to be had in Casa O'Leary, and spongy cinnamon-y oats were actually a lovely complement and a terrific way to sabotage the potential healthfulness of the cookie.
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