The Cake That Should Not Be

As many of my friends know, I'll periodically eat something I'm not supposed to. This isn't out of any compulsion like pica, but more out of curiosity. I wonder about dry cat food that says it now has "20% more fish flavor", and how exactly they determine that, so I'll do a taste comparison. In specific regard to the dry cat food, I can't say that one tastes 20% fishier than the other; all I can really say is that they are both 100% disgusting, and I won't let my cat lick me on the face any more after that.

Recently, while in Oregon, I was at an awesome Japanese grocery store called Uwajimaya. Among the unusual array of Japanese snacks like shrimp chips, Pokemon soda, and mint candy for men, I saw a durian hanging in the produce section. In the last couple of years, I've heard off and on about durian showing up on bizarre food shows, such as Bizarre Foods. Everything, I've heard about this fruit is that it smells awful. So awful, in fact, that in some places in Southeast Asia, you can't bring them on public transportation or into restaurants and bars.

No durian and no napalm allowed.

I figured anything that smells so amazingly foul that it's reviled throughout Southeast Asia is something I need to eat at least once. However, the damn things are heavy, expensive, and I'm not at all sure how you're supposed to hack into the the thing to get the edible part out. Worse, I'm not even sure which parts are edible.

And it looks so tasty and inviting from the outside.

It looks like what I imagine you'd be left with if you managed to corner a dragon or triceratops and castrated it. They're fucking Indonesian mountain oysters. There's only a certain amount of work I'm willing to put in to carve up something that as far as I know is going to leave the whole house smelling like a hobo for days on end, and durian fruit was too much work.

Luckily, in the bread section, I found the perfect combination of cost and convenience: durian cake.

That baker guy is so happy, it must be awesome!

At a buck and a quarter, this was the kind of investment I was looking for. I've certainly spent more money on dumber stuff in my life, so I wouldn't feel bad if durian cake didn't prove to be the taste sensation I was hoping for from a snack cake made with a fruit that'll get you a $5000 fine in Singapore.

Nervously, as if I expected a toxic cloud of stink gas to come rolling out of the clear wrapper, I opened it up and took a bit out. To my surprise, I wasn't knocked unconscious or left vomiting, (in fact, I didn't smell anything just opening the cake) so moved along got into the durian cake experience.

Appearance and Texture

This is a nice looking little moist snack cake. For everything horrible I'd heard about durian fruit, I was expecting something really unpleasant. Pretty golden color, moist and a little bit spongy. Based on the appearance and texture, I was now actually anticipating a pleasant and tasty little cake. After all, I'd read that durian could have a good flavor if you could overlook the smell. Speaking of which....

There's no way something that looks this good could be bad.

Aroma

Before taking a bite of it, I inhaled deeply to get a good whiff of the cake. And this is where I first started to understand how deceptive the cake was in it's appearance. It smelled faintly of a locker room. Not a freshly painted locker room, but one at a public school that long ago ran out of funds for extravagant projects such as making the boys' locker room not smell like Yog Sothoth's asshole and ball sweat. Someone with a more sensitive stomach than me (see "dry cat food" above) might well gag at this smell, as their body realized this cake is just wrong, and tries to make sure not a single molecule of it is ingested.

Still, even though I was pretty sure it wasn't going to end well, I didn't inhale a noseful of footsweat and sugar to chicken out at this point. So I moved on to the final step, and popped it in my mouth.

Taste

At first, durian cake tastes like a pretty moist snack cake should. Sugary and light. Remember my mention of Yog Sothoth up there? That wasn't accidental. The best adjective I can think of to describe this cake is Lovecraftian. It is the cake that should not be. When the protagonists in some of Lovecraft's stories see into strange places with angles and colors that are just wrong and evil, at once familiar and utterly alien...that's what durian cake is like. It lies to you with its snack cake flavor on the front end, only to turn out to be utterly wrong when the flavor of an Elder God's thousand year old used Odor Eaters hits your tongue. Worse, because the foul flavor didn't kick in immediately, I couldn't just spit it out upon contact and have a quick shot of bourbon to get the taste out of my mouth. I had to finish the deal, choke down this vile confection, and then live with the taste and odor haunting my mouth for the next half hour, no matter what I ate or drank to try and get rid of it. It stained my palate.

Given the choice between eating durian cake and dry cat food again....I think I'd probably opt for the durian cake, but the whole time, I'd probably wonder if I'd really made the right choice.1

  1. Cover image by Roberta R.. Licensed under Creative Commons.