Taste Test: Canned Cakes And Pudding

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trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature
Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new
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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
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

— "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

— "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

— "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

— "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

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

Where to find them: Online outlets, if you