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Taste test: Easter treats, from pound cake mix to vegan cheesecake

Spring break and Easter often mean extra visitors. Our tasters are always looking for a quick treat to have on hand when home becomes a gathering place for friends and family. This week, we sampled four desserts to keep in the pantry or freezer to welcome those invited and unexpected guests. A couple of treats were good enough to serve all summer.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

ProductKrusteaz Meyer Lemon Pound Cake Mix Daiya dairy-free, gluten-free New York Cheesecake Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Caramelized Oat Ice Cream Pepperidge Farm Tangy Key Lime Layer Cake

Lemon flavor enveloped this dessert from the pound cake to the sweet, fruity glaze on top. Judges said it looked like it was made from scratch. "It's really moist with a nice lemon drizzle," said one judge. "You can smell the lemon and it seems like a pleasant, straightforward pound cake." She said it would be especially delicious topped with strawberries or ice cream. Another said it would be great topped with frosting. Panelists said the cake had a nice, melt-in-your-mouth crumb and just enough lemony zing to impress friends and family.For individuals with food sensitivities, this dessert is a good option, judges said. "For a vegan cheesecake, it's pretty good," said one panelist. "The color is an unfortunate beige and the crust is a little mealy, but the filling is quite good. Feeding vegans is tricky, and this would fit the bill." Another said he appreciated that it was labeled as New York cheesecake, but he said it wasn't assertive enough to come from Manhattan. "It's more like it's from Brooklyn," he said. "The flavors are a bit timid and the crust is a little weak like it's from Queens. Perhaps this would find ardent supporters on Long Island," he joked.We thought the addition of oats was an interesting twist in this ice cream. Most of our judges agreed. "I love it — it's a winner," said one taster, describing the flavor as "a bit of heaven." A couple of panelists said the pale, brown color and little bits of chocolate crumbles weren't enough to earn their votes. But they did like the sweetness of the ice cream, saying it was nicely flavored without being too rich.Even though we're told key lime desserts are not supposed to be green, this pastel green cake had enough flavor to overcome any criticism about authenticity. "It would look great on the Easter buffet," said one judge. "It's got a very tender crumb with just enough key lime flavor," said another. A third judge gave it two thumbs up and a high five, saying, "Thank the stars for Pepperidge Farm. It is the one true constant in this world of variables."

they buy?
All four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$2.69 for a 16.5-ounce box from Winn-Dixie.$8.99 for a 14.1-ounce box from Publix.$4.97 for a 14-ounce tub from Publix.$4.49 for a 19.6-ounce box from Publix.

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and editorial director of; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving sizeOne of 10 slicesOne of 4 slicesHalf cupOne of 8 slices
Fat/Fiber1.5g / 0g24g / 2g18g / 0g12g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium26g / 250mg17g / 420mg25g / 65mg23g / 115mg
Carbs/Protein40g / 2g34g / 3g29g / 5g34g / 1g

Taste test: Easter treats, from pound cake mix to vegan cheesecake 03/21/16 [Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2016 11:08am]
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