We like to taste things, here at Paste. We’re tasters by nature, and it’s understandable—a good excuse to take a few minutes off from the grind, to gather around a communal table, spend some time in conversation with fellow writers or editors and taste or rank whatever we can get our hands on. We’ve done it with countless craft beer varieties—most recently with American porters, although our massive American IPA tasting is coming very soon. We’ve done it with ginger ales. But Easter candy? That’s a new one for us.
We thought it would be fun. We’re human, after all—we like candy. What could go wrong? But oh dear, this tasting was a struggle. There’s just something so forced about the very idea of most Easter candies, so blatantly artificial and pastel-shaded, that after a few bites of THIS marshmallow-stuffed blob or THAT chocolate-covered horror, it, well … it starts to weigh down on you. It breaks your spirit and steals your innocence. Perhaps 10 candies would have been fun and games. Tasting 22 different ones at once? That was ill-advised.
And so, we decided to document the experience and create the below matrix, which displays where each candy landed in our informal scoring. The two axis were determined by 1-10 ratings, which ranged from “bad to good” in terms of flavor and “conventional to weird” in terms of presentation or execution. We also took a moment to jot down a few notes about each—hopefully they’ll give you an idea of what to seek out or avoid in your own Easter basket.
Cadbury Creme Eggs
A classic of the genre, your appreciation of a Cadbury Creme Egg is likely determined entirely by your resistance to the massively sugary “creme” goo that one finds in the interior. The chocolate exterior is ultimately an afterthought, as said goo assaults the taste buds with brutal, saccharine force.
Cadbury Mini Eggs
Probably the best overall delivery of plain ‘ole chocolate on the table, the Cadbury Mini Eggs have a bit of an odd, sandy texture to their shells but taste great—might be the best tasting chocolate we had all day.
To say that chocolate-covered Peeps are not aesthetically pleasing would be a gross understatement—they look like something your insolent dog might leave as a surprise in your loafers for daring to challenge his authority. The chocolate coating is terrible. The artificial, gummy marshmallow inside isn’t much better. These Peeps went a long way toward turning Paste editor Josh Jackson against the idea of chocolate-coated marshmallows in general, which would be great, if there weren’t three or four more of the exact same style of candy on the table.
Cottontale Fudge Crisp Bunny Mix
A weirdly complicated name to essentially mean “chocolate crisp,” in the style of a Nestle Crunch, this is classic Easter candy—just your standard chocolate bunny, with a bit of a crunch to liven things up. Solidly in the middle of the pack.
Hershey’s Marshmallow Eggs
Duking it out with Chocolate Peeps for the title of “worst chocolate-covered marshmallow” is the offering from Hershey’s, which features incredibly bland, tasteless marshmallows and the usual Hershey’s chocolate you’ve known all your life. Not good, but still probably has a slight edge on the Choco-Peep.
Little Beauty Chocolate Bunny
The worst pure chocolate on the table, this thing was so bad that it made us scan the ingredients list, where “cocoa” is the fourth ingredient—after “sugar,” “vegetable oil” and “whey.” Because you definitely want more sugary whey in your chocolate than actual chocolate. So sugary that some of our teeth manifested spontaneous sympathy cavities in protest.
Marshmallow Chicks & Bunnies
“A big multi-bag where all the marshmallows are stuck together into one mass you get to pry apart with your hands” is not the most promising origin for Easter candy, and indeed, this was one of the least pleasant things on the table. They’re simple, you can say that for them. It’s just a bag of simple, pastel-colored, really awful marshmallows. Make of that what you will.
Party Cake Peeps
Here’s one that actually took us by surprise in a pleasant way for once. We didn’t expect much from this violently blue twist on the classic Peep, but the addition of the “birthday cake and frosting” flavor, through whatever sorcery conjured it up, was actually most welcome in making the marshmallow taste more like a solid, well-conceived flavor rather than a tasteless blob or mass of pure sugar. This was definitely our favorite in the marshmallow/Peep subgenre of weird Easter candies.
The classic Peep is a bit better than some of the other marshmallow junk if only because it’s coated in a fine layer of granulated sugar, which helps the mallow actually taste like something and gives is a bit of texture. It’s certainly better than the “marshmallow chicks and bunnies,” but let’s all be honest and admit to ourselves that the most fun thing one can do with Peeps isn’t eating them but rather putting them in the microwave to watch them explode.
Peepsters Creamy Milk Chocolate
What a strange little product this one is—”Peepsters” are tiny chocolates that look a bit like a Rolo, except their interior is an intensely sweet marshmallow with an aroma that’s like opening a fresh bag of Lucky Charms. Which is to say, they’re confusing but actually sort of enjoyable, in a “Oh god, what am I doing to my body?” sort of way.
It’s Pez. Except out of a rabbit. You know it. You love it. Maybe you hate it. But I’m not writing any more about Pez.
They’re Reese’s classic peanut butter cups, except in egg form. They’re delicious, with just the right chocolate to peanut butter ratio. We devoured them all before the actual tasting even began, so don’t bother looking for them in the photo. If I could wake up on Easter morning to find a ten pound sack of any of these candies sitting at the food of my bed, I would choose these.
Reese’s White Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs
These larger, white chocolate-coated eggs were strange and a bit divisive—although we still love the sweetened peanut butter filling you find in any Reese’s, we question whether white chocolate works as a pairing … particularly because one can barely even taste the actual white chocolate on these things. The peanut butter ratio is far stronger here, which makes them a touch overbearing and unbalanced. Yes, I realize the absurdity of describing a candy as “unbalanced.”
Russell Stover Marshmallow Milk Chocolate Eggs
Similar to the Hershey’s chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs, the Russell Stover ones are slightly (and I mean slightly) better, if only because the chocolate is of a bit better quality. Still not great, but with a choice between the two we’ll take this one every time.
Russell Stover Marshmallow Rabbit
Pretty much the exact same thing as the milk chocolate eggs, except in a rabbit. Identical in any other respect that might matter.
Russell Stover Iddy Biddy Bunnies
By no means are these tiny chocolate bunnies bad, but they’re oddly unsatisfying. The chocolate is okay, certainly much better than the disgusting Little Beauty chocolate bunny, but who has ever wanted a candy that consists of really, really small bits of pure chocolate? M&M’s are coated in a candy shell for this very reason—tiny little pieces of chocolate have a tendency to melt. Their design is fundamentally awkward.
Russell Stover Pectin Jelly Beans
Once again, if you’ve never had a jelly bean in your life, there’s probably very little I can do at this point to really sell you on the concept. Everyone eats jelly beans at Easter time, or at least pretends to and then stashes them in their back pocket to be surreptitiously tossed in the garbage later.
Snickers Peanut Butter Eggs
I find this one interesting because it’s almost like one classic candy infringing on the intellectual property of another. On one hand, it’s got all the elements of a classic Snickers. But then it’s also got the sweetened peanut butter that tastes almost precisely like the interior of a Reese’s. Those two elements work together pretty darn well, but what is the result? A Snickers with peanut butter? Or a Reese’s with peanuts and nougat?
Sour Bunny Jolly Ranchers
Like a lot of sour candies, these twists on a jolly rancher are more interested in being sour than in delivering the original intent of the product (deliciously artificial fruit flavors). We can’t imagine any scenario where regular Jolly Ranchers wouldn’t be considered superior.
Sour Watermelon Peeps
Oh no. Oh NO. What in the hell are these things? We thought we had seen weird and objectionable, and then along came the watermelon-flavored Peeps. We’re disturbed by the very idea of the concept’s genesis—who in their right mind looked at the marshmallow of a Peep and thought that pink, artificially watermelon-flavored sludge would be a great way to improve it? This person needs to be locked up. If he or she is walking among us, then society is not safe. The mere fact that Paste Music/TV editor Bonnie Stiernberg seemed to oddly enjoy these Peeps (in opposition to everyone else) is cause for suspicion and alarm.
Swedish Fish Eggs
There’s something vaguely off-putting in the realization that this product essentially claims to be candy caviar, but in terms of flavor they’re actually pretty damn awesome. What it actually boils down to is a multi-flavor pack for Swedish Fish that adds other great flavors such as orange (for the eggs). This might actually be superior to the regular Swedish Fish packages you see in stores for the rest of the year, if only for the novelty and variation.
Whoppers Robin Eggs
A fun little spin on the usual, chocolate-coated Whoppers malted milk balls, the robin egg variant has a hard candy shell that is a bit more like an M&M, with a small amount of chocolate and that simultaneously chewy and crunchy interior that make Whoppers delicious in very small quantities and sickening when you eat more than a dozen. Anyone remember the references in Calvin & Hobbes to his favorite cereal, “Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs”? Whoppers were always what I pictured as the closest real-world substitution.
This tasting was not one of our better ideas from a “not feeling like garbage” standpoint. To quote a certain taster’s score sheet, shortly before she succumbed to the lure of the watermelon Peeps: “I thought this would be fun and give us a sugar high, but instead I just vaguely feel like I need to throw up and/or take a nap.”