In December of last year, I read a charming piece in the New York Times about the “funfetti explosion,” Julia Moskin’s description of the rapid rise in popularity of garish garnishes comprising all colors in our material culture. “Largely through photo-friendly social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, they have coated the entire world of baking — and beyond,” Moskin outlined. “Rainbow sprinkles (also known as Funfetti and unicorn food) first invaded cookies and waffles; then marched on, swarming over cocktails and croissants, and finally, as a design motif, onto phone cases, scented candles and press-on nails.”
The phenomenon, at least on a national level, continues as just this month Starbucks launched a limited run of its own rainbow confection, the “Unicorn Frappuccino,” which showcases interwoven sky-blue and Pepto-Bismol-pink colored, nebulously fruit-flavored frozen beverages topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. Like its animal namesake, this drink is now the stuff of legend, having been retired soon after its introduction.
Although I was far from deeming Moskin’s piece “fake news,” I did wonder whether her argument held true in the Houston market.
After last week, I am no longer uncertain.
When I popped into Dessert Gallery Bakery & Café for my version of happy hour (cold milk and giant slice of cake as a reward for a day of hard editing), I eschewed my normal selection (“Toffelicious” cake) for a gargantuan slice of a three-tier “Unicorn” cake heavily inflected by all colors of the visible light spectrum. While in theory this concoction should have tasted the same as vanilla cake, its scattering of vibrant speckles made it that much more magical.
Fewer than 48 hours later, I was still dreaming of this cake when I stumbled upon its fraternal twin at Randall’s. Their version, which boasted exponentially more surface sprinkles, was even more alluring, though sadly not sold by the slice. And I have a personal rule of only buying whole cakes for myself on Fridays and Saturdays.*
My week of funfetti/unicorn food-spotting ended, ironically, at the gym, as I was about to attend a spin class in order to work off some of the cake and frosting calories required for this journalistic investigation. Breaking news on the locker room television: El Bolillo Bakery has launched a unicorn version of pan dulce and is besieged with orders, shown below.
Yes, I think the unicorn has landed.
*Exception: Sundays are also permissible on long weekends.