In January, I visited Babycakes at Downtown Disney, and tried the cupcakes that my friends had been raving about. And, well, I wasn’t thrilled. But I was glad to see Disney making room for healthy foods, and promised the manager that I’d give Babycakes another try.
Last week, I made good on that promise, and stopped in at Babycakes for the WDW Today Reunion 2011 Bye Bye Babycakes Brunch. This time, I tried several menu items: A quartet of mini-”doughnuts”, a frozen chocolate-chip-cookie sandwich, and a piece of a giant chocolate-chip-cookie sandwich.
The chocolate-chip-cookie sandwiches were fantastic, both the large and the small. Had nobody told me these were vegan, kosher, refined-sugar-free, and free of a variety of common allergens, I wouldn’t have noticed. The cookie itself was fairly basic, essentially a delivery system for the super-sweet frosting and the generous heaps of chocolate chips.
The “doughnuts” provided the more interesting case study. And yes, I’ve got “doughnuts” in quotes on purpose. Biting into one for the first time, I was surprised by the texture. They’re crunchier and slightly more oily than one would generally expect from a doughnut, and perhaps even a little sweeter. The chocolate glazed was the closest to a traditional doughnut in flavor, though with the slightly-crunchy, moist texture that all the doughnuts shared (I assume they’re all made with the same doughnut base, with different toppings on each). The coconut and vanilla glazed doughnuts were both quite subtle flavors. I’d been told that the cookie crunch was their best seller; the crunchy glaze felt slightly strange in combination with the slightly-crunchy doughnut itself.
Now, I’m not generally a food reviewer, and I must tell you I’ve never paid such careful attention to eating a doughnut in my life. I sat at a table with a few other reunion-goers, who watched with amusement as I nibbled, took notes, and occasionally made thoughtful faces. On careful thought, I decided that if I’d stopped into a doughnut shop to pick these up on the way to work and was nibbling at one on my desk, they might just have seemed regular. They were all perfectly fine, snackable “doughnuts.” And here’s where we need to bring nutritional analysis into the mix.
I’m a Bostonian, so my default doughnut is the Dunkin’. (We’ve got some coffee wars here between Dunkin’ and Starbucks, but the doughnut field is pretty darn tied up. There are at least three DD’s within a quarter mile of my house.) Fortunately, both Dunkin’ Donuts and Babycakes provide nutritional analysis of (at least some ) of their products online, so I picked fairly equivalent doughnuts and did the math, comparing only on the categories in which both companies had provided data.
Now, don’t go being surprised that the calories aren’t that different. Or that there’s still a decent amount of fat. Vegan food was never promised to be low-calorie. Don’t go thinking that you can eat unlimited sweets at Babycakes (or any other healthier-food outlet) because they’re so healthy they just don’t count. Your metabolism is still doing the math.
Do notice, though, there are a couple places where Babycakes is remarkably different: Dietary fiber, and fat. Doughnuts aren’t part of my everyday diet, and I don’t think I’d want to change that. But the difference in fiber and fat listed for these fairly-equivalent doughnuts is enough to make a real difference if you’re eating these sweets on a regular basis. Your metabolism hasn’t put down the calculator, but your arteries might just be thanking you. And I wouldn’t say you’re sacrificing taste by going with these doughnuts — just choosing a different taste.
Would it make sense to call these something other than doughnuts, just to avoid the surprise factor? I’m not sure. They look like doughnuts, so chances are people would think of them as such even if sold under a different name. It’s an interesting exercise in marketing, perhaps good fodder for a paper in one of my business school classes sometime.
I’ll definitely go back to Babycakes again, and this time not just because I promised I would. I might still stay away from the cupcakes; I suspect their stronger suits are the products with more add-ons (such as frosting or chocolate chips), rather than those where the cake/cookie itself takes center stage. If you’ve eaten at Babycakes and have a favorite product to recommend, drop me a note so I’ll know what to try next time!