Serious Eats: Sweets
Fast Food Dessert Battle: Wendy's Twisted Frosty vs. McFlurry vs. BK Sundae Shake
"The Twisted Frosty retains the enigmatic Frosty consistency: not quite solid, not quite liquid, but somewhere in between."
While on a church retreat, one of my friends tossed his McFlurry out the sunroof of the car. A van carrying the rest of our youth group was following us at the time. Much to our delight (even the youth group leader who was driving), the McFlurry exploded on the windshield of the Church van. All those in the van were too amazed at the precision of the shot to be angry. Whoever said Presbyterians don't know how to have fun?
With summer upon us again, I thought I'd review the dessert offerings at the big three fast food chains. For 2010, think mixes. The big three fast food chains—McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King—are all offering some type of blended dessert.
In the beginning, there was only the Frosty (it first came out when the chain started in 1969). But since then, both McDonald's and Burger King have added some type of blended treat to their menus. At McDonald's, of course it's the McFlurry, a soft-serve ice cream with toppings mixed in. Burger King has introduced the BK Sundae Shake, a choice of shake—chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry—with Oreo topping, whipped cream, and a dash of hot fudge. Not to be outdone, Wendy's now offers a Frosty Redux called the Twisted Frosty—a chocolate or vanilla Frosty base with toppings "twisted" in.
Wendy's Twisted Frosty
I first noticed the Twisted Frosty on a recent trip to Wendy's. I tried a chocolate with Oreo—it was much better than I imagined it would be. It doesn't achieve DQ Blizzard status, but it's not far off. Wendy's does a good job blending the Oreo in, and the Frosty base stays solid enough that you still have to use a spoon. The Twisted Frosty retains the enigmatic Frosty consistency: not quite solid, not quite liquid, but somewhere in between. On another visit, I tried a vanilla with M&M's. It began in a more liquid state than the first, and melted fairly quickly. Though both tasted like real ice cream, they can melt quickly, and the twisting can accelerate the melting process.
Next on my list was the true blend veteran: the McFlurry. I went with the vanilla with Oreo. The soft serve reminded me of Dairy Queen's: it's creamy, sweet, and artificially vanilla-tasting (but not like Breyers with those real vanilla bean specks). It leaves a bit of a gummy aftertaste, probably attributable to Carageenan, Xantham Gum, or some other thickener.
Unlike the Oreo chunks at some ice cream shops, McDonald's Oreo topping resembles Oreo gravel, as if only the smaller pieces pass through the Oreo topping sifter. McFlurries are dependable and consistent, in addition to being fairly resistant to melting. Must be the carageenen.
Burger King's BK Sundae Shake
This one is less a soft-serve—instead, Burger King attempts more of a malt shoppe shake. Judging by the new straw, they clearly listened to customer feedback. Finally! A pipe-like straw that boasts sturdy plastic and a half-inch diameter, perfect for thick shakes. But ironically, Burger King's shake isn't all that substantial.
Once it was in my mouth, the shake had the consistency of whipped cream, a sort of melt-in-your-mouth quality. At a certain point, I couldn't tell where the whipped cream ended and the shake began. To make matters worse, this is a BIY: blend it yourself. To their credit though, Burger King generously adds large chucks of Oreo, which can be found at the bottom (like prizes in breakfast cereal).
Ultimately, the trio form a dessert spectrum.
The McFlurry represents the most solid, the Twisted Frosty a hybrid product, and the BK Sundae Shake a regular shake.
The McFlurry ultimately is ho-hum. It doesn't stand out, but it doesn't really try to. The BK Sundae Shake is non-traditional, which I applaud, but ultimately, their shakes aren't that good to begin with, so it falls flat (the Oreos are the best part). Personally, I think the Twisted Frosty is the best. It tastes the most like real ice cream, whereas the other two taste artificial and manufactured. Though I'm sure it's still far from all-natural, the Twisted Frosty at least keeps me guessing.
About the author: John M. Edwards has reviewed a handful of fast food burgers for A Hamburger Today's Reality Check series, but today he went beyond burgers—in fact, he went beyond savory foods altogether with this sweet taste test. —The Mgmt.
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