I don’t seek out sweet food. It’s sort of a habit I got into as an adult at some point. I don’t dislike dessert; I just don’t actively consider it. If I’m out for lunch or dinner I load up on the savory stuff and mostly get too full to go for anything else afterward, other than maybe a few pieces of fruit. When it comes to fast food desserts, it never even occurs to me to look at that corner of the menu board, let alone sample any of its offerings, since fast food is generally pretty heavy to begin with. And because I’ve avoided dessert for so long, volunteering to try Popeyes new Banana Cream Cake was pretty out of character.
This cake, on paper, is reminiscent of Nilla Wafer banana pudding, a specialty in American Southern cuisine (which Popeyes is always seeking to emulate). The new offering features a simple vanilla cake topped with banana-flavored cream, Nilla wafer crumbles sprinkled on top. Pretty straightforward. It’s surprising the chain hasn’t released this item before.
I visited a Popeyes location near The Takeout’s Chicago headquarters, and since I hadn’t packed a lunch—I know, I know—I ended up munching on a spicy fried chicken meal before I tasted the cake. I always go spicy, dark meat, with red beans and rice as my side. Any other order is inferior.
After all that salty and heavy fried food, I tucked into the sweet stuff. I figure that’s a more accurate way to assess the new cake, anyway, because no one is going to Popeyes just for the dessert; they’ll likely have a stomach full of fried chicken, too.
The Banana Cream Cake is served in a cup; mine came pretty banged up, with the whipped topping all pushed to one side, but at least that way I got to see the sponge underneath. The cake is moist, a little dense, and tastes for all the world like it was made from boxed cake mix. I grew up eating box mix cakes, so that fact unexpectedly brought me back to my childhood, in a good way.
The banana flavor tastes fairly artificial, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m generally not a fan of that flavor, but I appreciated that it wasn’t overly aggressive here, despite being front and center. Each spoonful of cake with the right amount of fluffy topping made for a balanced bite (though the Nilla Wafers weren’t detectible), and suddenly I found myself thinking, “Wait... I like this.”
What just happened? Am I a dessert person now?
Though I’m not entirely sure I’d reach for this cake after a meal of fried chicken again, I’m happy to say it managed to perk up my mood up a little today, since its quality was a pleasant surprise. The fact that it was just a simple Banana Cream Cake felt oddly refreshing, too; I’ve become too accustomed to brightly colored, eye-catching concoctions with names like “Banana-tastic Slammajamma Dingdong Fritter.” Obviously, this cake won’t remotely hold a candle to something you can pick up at an independently owned bakery, but good is good.
If you’re in the mood to order one, I’d recommend you just try it by itself as an afternoon snack. I know the siren song of Popeyes chicken can be pretty irresistible, but the Banana Cream Cake stands up on its own as a little treat—and at $2.99, the price is right. It’s too bad Popeyes doesn’t serve coffee, because then I might really become a sweets person.