That's some bright frosting ...

As an unabashed Pillsbury enthusiast and avid collector of Doughboy memorabilia, it pains me to write this review.

Pillsbury’s new limited-edition caramel apple and candy apple cake mixes (and corresponding icings) taste exactly like caramel apples and candy apples, respectively ... and that’s the whole damn problem.

When a product proclaims to approximate a very specific flavor (e.g., Red Velvet Pop-Tarts, Peanut Butter Pie Oreos), I have very modest expectations. And in the rare case said product meets or exceeds those expectations, I am delighted and impressed, even if this achievement arises through artificial means.

Strangely, however, it's the mix's successful mimicry of the confections that inspired them that makes them so unpalatable. For the sake of consistency in my test-baking and test-tasting conditions, I made cupcakes from each mix and frosted them with their matching theme frosting. The candy apple cupcakes smelled and tasted like they were made with triple-distilled, highly concentrated green apple Jolly Rancher syrup. Its accompanying icing is even more disgusting for its amorphous fake red berry notes. These cupcakes represent the worst version of real candy apples (i.e., laden with high fructose red No. 40 corn syrup) and their only virtue is a significantly less sticky texture.

Less odoriferous and slightly more appetizing (but only comparatively) were the caramel apple cupcakes, thanks probably to the inclusion of actual caramel in the flavoring, which functioned to offset the pungent green apple component. And of all four products, the caramel apple frosting was the only one I could conceive of purchasing again and reappropriating (icing on a spice cake, perhaps) because the dominant, pleasant burnt sugar tones pushed Granny Smith into the background.

Given the fact that I spotted the cake mixes discounted to less than a dollar at Kroger, and the icing tubs going for two for $1.50, it appears they’re not flying off the shelves.

Oh, my darling Doughboy, you struck out this time.

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