Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

A Little Debbie battle royale

Lissa Townsend Rodgers
April 16, 2018

These are the times that try men’s souls. The task of ranking Little Debbie products inspired smiles at first, but soon proved to be a daunting task indeed. The gulping-down of Swiss rolls gave way to the tentative tasting of glazed doughnuts to the unwilling nibbling of fudge-dipped strawberry cakes. But I survived to help guide you in your future munchie choices. All the Little Debbies have also gone on to better things: The leftover snack cakes were donated to a Las Vegas theater company for their production of a play about Marie Antoinette. I may have been stricken with a few whopper stomach aches, but I did end up supporting the arts. 

Here are 21 Little Debbie snacks, ranked.

 

21. Banana Marshmallow Creme Pie

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

I head the words banana and marshmallow and saw what looked like a moonpie and I thought “This is going to be awesome.” How wrong I was. How very goddamn wrong. Has anyone ever considered how banana flavoring tastes nothing like banana? This is an icky-sweet wad of goo between two dried-out cookies, coated in yellow stuff. Do not want.

20. Fudge Dipped Strawberry Cakes

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

This cake is strawberry like scented candles, hand soap, and air freshener are strawberry and tastes about as good. But, hey, at least they’re honest enough to make “artificially flavored” the second largest font on the box. The “fudge” is weirdly dry and doesn’t taste like anything.

19. Cookies and Creme Cakes

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

The next time there’s a flood, someone should send boxes of Little Debbie Cookies and Creme Cakes to solve the problem. The dry cake will soak it up and then the confectioners sugar frosting will meld with the water to form a tooth-rotting caulk.

18. Fudge Dipped Banana Rolls

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

I approached these with great trepidation, given the horror that was the Banana Marshmallow Creme Pie. They were not as vile, but I didn't want to eat them. I’m still not sure how this “flavor” is “banana.”

17. Red Velvet Cakes

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Like the Cookies and Creme Cakes, but red and slightly less dry. Which counts for something, I suppose.

16. Pecan Spinwheels

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

I can see the spinwheel, but I’m not tasting the pecan. I’m tasting something that's sort of cinnamon and some kind of extract. Still, it’s the first of the Little Debbies to look like something humans would actually want to eat, rather than prop food.

15. Zebra Cake

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

I was very disappointed to see that this was just a pale yellow cake and the only “zebra” aspect is a squiggle of chocolate icing across the white.

14. Oatmeal Creme Pie

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A good oatmeal cookie has a certain heft and homespun taste. The rough texture of the oats contrasted with the buttery smoothness of the other ingredients are what makes it. However, the Little Debbie oatmeal cookie, while possessed of a pleasing moistness, totally blows the texture—not oats, just little lumps, it seems. There’s a swath of canned frosting in between that adds nothing to the experience.

13.  Glazed Donuts

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It’s the sort of thing you find on a TV shoot's craft service table and eat because you’re starving.

12. Creme Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

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This Little Debbie version of the Hostess classic doesn’t stack up. If this original is devil’s food, this is more a snack in purgatory and the frosting lacks the “remove like a chocolate lid” thickness. It’s a meh chocolate cake with goo inside.

11. Fig Bar

Photo courtesy of Little Debbie

Here we have Little Debbie pretending to be Nabisco. Like the Creme FIlled Chocolate Cupcake, it’s got the look down and the texture of the pastry bit is OK, if a bit on the dry side, but the filling is wrong. There’s not enough of it and it’s not spicy enough. Consider it the C-grade version of the Fig Newton’s A.

10. Cosmic Brownie and 9. Fudge Brownie with English Walnuts

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

These are the same brownie with different things on top: B-grade walnuts or generic M&Ms. I left one of these out overnight and it retained the same adequate chocolate flavor and fudgelike texture. It's fine, nothing special.

8. Star Crunch

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Sort of like a Nestle Crunch bar but Frankensteined with a Rice Krispie treat and a handful of melted caramels into a giant cookie. And this is not a bad thing. In fact, Star Crunch used to be my jam when I was a kid. It’s a bit too sweet for me now, but it still retains a certain charm—at least for as long as I can stop wondering whether the tooth decay or the diabeetus will get me first.

7. Strawberry Shortcake Roll

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Mercifully, the strawberry of the shortcake bears no resemblance to the strawberry of the fudge cake. Here, it’s like strawberry sundae topping, rolled up with yellow cake and white creme frosting. Still, it’s not a bad combo: The three flavors and textures merge nicely and the creme and jelly keep the cake moist.

6. Fudge Round

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

A triple threat of chocolate combines chocolate frosting sandwiched between giant chocolate cookies and drizzled with chocolate glaze. With a cold glass of milk, it’s a fine accompaniment for sitcom reruns.

5. Salted Caramel Cookie Bar

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Think oversized Twix, but with a cookie part that’s more wafer than shortbread and thinner caramel that stretches out. If they could work some pretzel into this, they’d really be onto something. As it is: Acceptable.

4. Crunch Donuts

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They’re not really crunch doughnuts: More like crumb doughnuts—little yellow doughnuts encrusted with golden, faintly buttery crumbs. If it sounds good, that’s because it is.

3. Apple Fruit Pie

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

It’s like a fat Pop-Tart and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Thick pastry is stuffed with apple pie filling and glazed with sugar for something that’s part breakfast, part dessert. There’s also something viscerally satisfying about biting into the shell-like outside to the sweet apple ooze inside.

2. Swiss Roll

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Lil’ D does well with the roll format. The Swiss Roll is dark chocolate cake rolled up with white frosting and dipped in chocolate coating. The chocolate coating actually tastes like chocolate, finally, and the cake is reasonably rich and I’ll even forgive the sugar frosting under these circumstances. The label also assure us that is it “Swiss Inspiration: Baked in the USA” in case you thought this was some kind of snotty import.

1. Nutty Buddy

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

As is true of many great chefs, Little Debbie’s finest creations are those that are truly original. Comprised of thin wafers that are barely covered in chocolate, the Nutty Buddy is light in flavor and texture. The pastry and chocolate melt together in each bite and there isn't that overwhelming white-sugar flavor of other treats in the Little Debbie arsenal. Well done, Deb.

 

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