As I awaited the train one sunny Thursday afternoon, I realised I hadn’t had a brownie all day, and wondered if Pumpkin had brownies. Well, Pumpkin certainly sell something called a chocolate brownie, alright.
Let me get a quick obligatory preamble out of the way: Pumpkin is a cafe chain which I’ve basically only seen in railway stations in the UK, and it turns out that that’s because that’s basically the only place they exist. Apparently they’re owned by the same people who own all the other brands that you basically only see in railway stations, which explains why in Leicester station they don’t even bother to put up a proper divider between Upper Crust and Pumpkin. It’s not the sort of place I’d ever go by choice. I’m sure in the past I’ve had some disappointing coffees from Pumpkin when needs must.
So what qualifies this thing that I bought to call itself a chocolate brownie? I think this might be a reasonable question to ask at this point. I’ve previously explored at least one version of the “Is this a brownie?” question, and at the present moment I’ve written three separate posts about things that are not brownies, but which in one way or another laid claim to a brownie name. And in general, for the purpose of this blog, I will probably feel free to review anything which calls itself a brownie or which is similarly brownie-adjacent. But is this thing actually a brownie?
The brownie is arguably a subset of (chocolate) cake. It has the same base ingredients and essentially the same baking process. Now, for me personally, there are two things I want a brownie to give me: a rich gooey texture and a great chocolate taste. The former is where brownies are distinguished from the rest of the cake world for me. A brownie’s texture might be somewhere on a ‘fudgey’ to ‘cakey’ scale, but it doesn’t feel like a cake. It’s richer and more dense and… I can’t think of another word that describes it as well as ‘gooey’. If you decided to make a cake and changed to a brownie halfway through, you’d end up with an undercooked cake. If you were trying to make a cake with a brownie recipe, you’d get a failed cake, which I think is how I’ve previously described some terrible brownies.
But I think you shouldn’t ever actually eat a ‘brownie’ and feel like you were just eating a standard cake. That’s a failure of classification, or cooking, or ingredients, or something. That’s somewhat how I felt when eating the Chocofruit brownie, but they had the additional excuse of the brownie being vegan (making the fudgey end of the spectrum harder to reach) and additionally I’ve noticed recently that they have rebranded them as “vegan cakes” which I fully support.
Not to spoil the scoring too much, but: when I ate this thing, I felt like I was eating an almost acceptable piece of chocolate cake. I would never have called it a brownie if that hadn’t previously been done for me. So that’s what led me down this train of thought. I’ll accept that Pumpkin identify it as a brownie, but for me, I don’t buy that this is actually a brownie.
Taste: Not good. It had an artificial and bland feel. It tasted very much like I expected from how it looked and from its plastic wrapping. 2/10
Texture: It wasn’t dry, but as I’ve already gone into in detail, I would consider giving this an extremely low Texture score on the grounds that it totally fails to have brownie texture. With some reflection, I’ve decided that I’ll judge this on the objective texture (as much as possible) and so, for a surprisingly not-dry and soft piece of cake, it gets 4/10
Presentation: Looks boring as crap, came wrapped in plastic, doesn’t deserve much. 1/5
Value: £1.99 which actually seems quite cheap for the size of, er, brownie on offer here. It’s not great, of course, but it seems decent value. 6/10
Fudge Factor: Tempting to give the -5 for “not a brownie” here, but look. It calls itself a brownie, and I disagree, but it’s not actually enough of a failure of a dessert to deserve that kind of marking down. I’m just gonna say, it’s not my thing, and leave it at that. 0/5
Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?
I cannot recommend this to you. It’s already a pretty sad state to be in, if you need something sweet and Pumpkin is your only option and you’re still desperate enough to go for it. If you ever find yourself in such dire straits: I’m sorry for you; and I suggest you take your chances with something other than the ‘brownie’.
Maybe they’ll have brownies in Milan…?