I used to baby sit. A lot. While most moms were more than happy to let me destroy their kitchen in the name of homemade, organic baked goods, some didn't have the requisite supplies (not even flour) and they didn't really want me to have to go out and buy them. To compensate, they'd give me a box or two of cake/cookie/muffin mix and a sixer of eggs.
That's why I was familiar with the Pillsbury Funfetti Cookies which we reviewed a few years ago. And why, when I saw that Pillsbury had one-upped themselves by introducing a Funfetti Cookie Pop Kit, I wanted to give them a go. You never know when life will throw you back on the old nanny circuit, and I'd like to be prepared.
These are exactly as they sound: Funfetti cookies on a stick. Well, almost. Unlike the original mix, these cookies don't contain sprinkles in the dough. The cookies are plain sugar cookies and the sprinkles are only added at the end, to be decoratively flung over the frosting. In my mind, this destroys the whole essence of Funfetti sweets, which is the joy of being able to say, "There are sprinkles...in my cake!"
But personal feelings aside, I tried to evaluate these as they would be seen by one of my charges. Thus, in the following critique, I will play the role of both adult and child.
The first step is to make the cookie dough by combining the mix, an egg, and a stick of softened butter (they recommend microwaving the butter for 15 seconds.) My adult self did the smart thing—lightly beating the egg before adding in the mix. But with the butter only softened, and a whole lot of powdery mix, it took me a few minutes to get the dry dough to come together. By the end, child Carrie was getting a little impatient and adult Carrie was trying not to break a sweat. Finally, it was a uniform ball of cake batter-smelling dough. Younger Carrie wanted to try to the raw dough, and older Carrie let her.
The best part came next. You roll the dough into balls the size of heaping tablespoons, stick a popsicle stick into the center of each ball, lightly flatten them, and put them on a baking sheet. Young Carrie begged to try it herself. Adult Carrie sighed and said, "OK but try to make them the same size." Young Carrie made a few too big. Still, everyone was excited by the strange vision of baking popsicle sticks. Young Carrie: Won't they catch on fire? Adult Carrie: Of course not! (God I hope the answer is no.)
While we wait for the cookies to bake, we cut open the package of frosting and take a bite. Older Carrie: These taste just like the vanilla frosting from Dunkaroos (which, ok, I horded as a child.) It's sugary with an aggressive vanilla scent. Younger Carrie: Dunka-whos?
Finally the cookies come out, golden brown and sticks intact. Cooling was a bit of an issue, not just because it is difficult to ask a er, child to wait to eat warm cookies, but because the popiscles are actually quite fragile. Lesson learned from broken pops: the cookies are heavy and need to be fully cooled before you move them.
The frosting comes in two bags. You squish it around (both Carries enjoyed this) then pipe it out over your cookie. This is difficult for a child with limited dexterity, and by the second row of cookies, I decided to cut the bag of frosting open and use a knife. The sprinkles also come in a separate little bag—as can be expected, pouring rainbow sprinkles over the tops of the cookies is fun yet messy. Adult Carrie hopes she charged the Dustbuster.
From an adult perspective, the frosted cookies are, not surprisingly, way, way too sweet. The unfrosted cookies are saturated with artificial butter. And while I'll admit I enjoyed the taste for the first few bites (especially while warm) just one cookie quickly made me feel sick. Young Carrie could have eaten the whole tray, but would have also felt sick. Frosted, the cookies become almost cake-like. They're heavy and thick, with a competing vanilla-sugar-butter flavor. I'm sure kids will love them.
The biggest issue with these cookies pops is actually the fact that they're pops. It's kind of awkward to eat a monsterous frosted cookie off of a Popsicle stick. Younger Carrie got crumbs everywhere. Adult Carrie felt ridiculous nibbling her cookie like a rabbit.
I could be wrong, but I just don't think that kids are going to be as intrigued by the cookie pop idea as adults think they will be. It's a well-intentioned gimmick, but I've found that kids don't need fun new excuses to eat sugar. They don't like cupcakes for the same reasons that adults like cupcakes, and here the pop format seems more of a hindrance to their ultimate goal: scarfing down sugar. I like the added teamwork that forming the pops allows, but that's because I enjoy cooking with children. Even if working from a mix, I'd choose the original Funfetti cookies, and jazz them up with cookie cutter shapes.