I generally avoid Walmart. Whenever I’m forced to traverse its unhallowed grounds, my goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible. But I glimpsed three words in the freezer aisle that caught my eye: The Pizza Cupcake. That phrase prompted an immediate retrace of my steps.
By now, maybe you’ve seen these frozen dough puffs in your own local Walmart. The boxes are colorful, the mascot is cute, and the photos and text are bright and inviting. “The secret dough you’ll love!” screams the tagline, on both the pepperoni and margherita variants.
But what’s that strange, off-putting symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the box? “Shark Tank”—oh, no. Can it be? Am I about to try a product from the culinary equivalent of the “As Seen on TV” shelves?
Apart from food-based programming such as Chopped and Iron Chef, reality TV is decidedly not my thing, so I’ve never gotten into Shark Tank, the ABC reality show in which entrepreneurs present their most promising business ideas to a panel of millionaire investors. But when it comes to something like The Pizza Cupcake, my media diet is immaterial. What matters is the vision and effort put into the product by its creators.
Andrea and Michelle Meggiato have traveled a long and international road to bring their snacking vision to life. And their story, if you’d care to read it, is a good one. Even before they secured a deal on Shark Tank, the couple’s Pizza Cupcakes had made their way to New York’s Citi Field and the World Trade Center, and they’d been named among the “Best Father’s Day Gifts for Pizza Lovers” by Forbes. Perhaps their biggest step came near the end of last year, when Walmart picked up the puffs for retail.
But can the product live up to its gimmick and hype? Armed with a box of both flavors, I was only too happy to investigate.
Like all the best frozen foods, The Pizza Cupcake’s cooking directions are simple and short: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, cook for 12 minutes, and let rest for one minute. There’s also an air fryer method, with a six-minute bake at 350 degrees. In the interest of science, I employed both appliances simultaneously.
Both cooking methods yield up a scent that’s decidedly less “pizzeria” and more “bakery playing around with cheese.” Given the box’s emphasis on “flaky, buttery” dough, this makes sense. The air-fryer cupcakes came out on top, both in terms of cooking speed and overall appearance. Their exteriors where distinctly crisp, and the pepperoni on top obtained a decent char.
The oven-baked pizza cupcakes were noticeably softer, but not exactly in a bad way. I’d describe them as more pillowy, while the texture of the air-fried cupcakes was biscuit-like. The toppings showed a bit less browning coming from the oven, and I suppose I could have tossed them back in for a few minutes. But in a repeatable scientific test, one must follow the instructions they’re given.
We’ll begin with the air-fried version, which (due to their shorter cooking time) were the first to hit the plate. To my surprise, they turned out to be the superior offering. The crust was soft and flavorful, and the interior was somehow lighter than expected.
Not to say that the oven-cooked cupcakes weren’t good (they were). But as suspected, 12 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit wasn’t enough to get the crispness I prefer, leaving the pepperoni and cheese a bit chewy. Still warm, though, and still tasty—we can blame this shortfall on my oven.
But what about the sauce? Looking at the frozen cupcakes and their lack of visible tomato, I was worried they’d turn out dry. Thankfully, I was mistaken. The hidden inner portion of each Pizza Cupcake is lined with a bold, clean-tasting sauce that, quite frankly, was my favorite part of the experience.
Finally, a word on the toppings: If you eat meat, I recommend that you opt for the pepperoni version. It adds a bit of zing that the margherita lacks, though both have a solid overall flavor.
You’re surely wondering if these trendy morsels are worth the price. Well, maybe. If you’re the type of person who loves Totino’s Pizza Rolls or Bagel Bites, then Pizza Cupcakes are a natural step up. This product would also be an excellent party appetizer, though the cost might quickly grow prohibitive. For a box of six cupcakes, my local Walmart charged $8.98. That’s slightly under $1.50 a portion. And at just 54 grams and about two bites per serving, it makes for a relatively expensive option to feed a crowd.
That said, The Pizza Cupcake is a well-made, tasty alternative to the usual freezer suspects. If you can swallow the price tag, their fluffy crust and tasty filling is a genuine pleasure to chew.