Little Debbie's Taste Test | Varyer
Lil Debbie’sTaste Test
January 2022


In July of 2020, we undertook a seriously ambitious research project internally. In a website content planning meeting, we realized our shared love for Little Debbie cakes as well as the sheer amount of snack cakes that exist. We wondered if we could do the unthinkable - if we would be able to try all the products that exist and determine once and for all, which is the best.

In order to validate our final conclusion, we approached this challenge by using the Scientific Method that none of us have practiced in the last 10 years. If you google the Scientific Method, there will be various options with a different amount of steps that come up, but for our purposes, we ran with the one that made the most sense - Question, Hypothesis, Research, Analysis and Conclusion.

Let’s do some science.


Which Little Debbie snack cake is the best snack cake?


While our personal taste preferences will have a range, a clear winner will emerge. This winner will likely be one of the most famous of cakes - the Oatmeal Creme Pie, the Swiss Roll, or the Nutty Buddy Wafer Bars (per the Little Debbie website.)


The research phase was, unsurprisingly, the longest phase of this project and took place in three subphases - gathering the goods, designing the tool, and finally, gathering the data.

PDF of the booklet is here if you’d like to download for your own taste test.

1. Gathering the goods - Before we could begin our field testing, we needed to figure out how many snack cakes existed. Where better to start than emailing the gal herself.

a. Our initial email to the Little Debbie headquarters was ignored for a few weeks. When finally passed along to the head of marketing, he denied our request to partner and act as sponsor for this taste test.

b. Despite the rejection, we were able to utilize the corporate website as a resource. Lucky for us, has a complete listing of their products online. Unluckily for us, it seems like some of the treats on there aren’t actually sold anywhere (other than the rare occasion of ebay for some of the real oldies). But they do have an often inaccurate snack finder!

c. While no entity sold all cakes, we found that trusty company Target, sold at least 50% of the cakes. We ordered the cakes, but ran into another roadblock. Due to an unfortunate glitch in the system, Target sent our box of cakes to an unsuspecting woman in Maine. When we reordered, they sent the same box, once again to Maine. And once again, reordered and sent to Maine. (Shout out to Pam, of Freeport, Maine - we don’t know what you did with all the cakes, but we hope they brought you joy.)

d. Finally, after many tries, many stores, and many shipments, we received the majority of the cakes - in fact, we were able to collect all but two, for a total of 43 snack cakes.

2. Designing the tool- With the cakes secured, we turned our attention to designing our tool for the gathering of data.

a. Former Creative Producer, Alyssa Beers, whipped up a great outline of how to be a good judge and scoring system. Understanding that the snacks are not one-dimensional, we planned to rate each snack on appearance, texture, flavor, and repeatability. Each snack would be rated in each category (as defined by Lil Deb herself: brownies, cakes, cookies, donuts, muffins, pastries, pies, and snack bars) from a range of one (worst) to ten (best).

b. Alyssa worked with designer, Bianca Albino, to create the best taste-test booklet we’ve ever seen. The idea was that this tool would serve us in the Lil Deb journey but could also be used to rate any food category in the world (you could do oreos, types of banana, all egg dishes in a diner, you name it) so we went to the core of the judging experience and illustrated the four senses in big, bold, snooty graphics in the cover, representing the ruthless critics we all are inside. Then drew some human characters having reactions to the foods they were tasting delighted, grossed out, indifferent, puzzled to adorn each page.
We also had an idea to add a window that people could use to either draw the food they were tasting or to cut and glue a piece of the wrapper it came in, so you have the visual reference to really encapsulate the experience.

c. Complete with instructions of how to be a good judge, a list of adjectives to use to describe food, areas for ratings, comments, and sketches, we were ready to start tasting.

3. Gathering the data - We have the cakes, we have the tool, now it’s time to taste. Yet again, we found ourselves with some roadblocks.

a. As we started our data collection period, we found that we generally only had the capacity for one Little Debbie snack a day. We were in the office together two days a week at the time of data collection so progress was happening a little slower than anticipated.

b. There are a few haters in our office who refused to try the Little Debbie cakes, skewing the data collection to those of sweet-lovers and/or masochists.

c. We also had a bit of trouble with our air conditioning over the summer, causing the snack cakes to have a bit of a melt-down (Literally, melted snacks. This likely impacted the overall taste of the snacks.)

d.After about 2 months of data collection, and about 40% participation across the team, we decided to end our research phase and move to the analysis.


All of the ratings of the cakes can be found here.

Each Varyer employee was supplied with 43 different Little Debbie Snack Cakes to try. There are 10 Varyer employees. We had 430 Little Debbie snack cakes (plus extras) as our sample. Of these, we had 43 ratings gathered by our team.

Of the 43 ratings, 27 snacks were scored by 4 employees.

(Tragically, we lost one employee’s data, so the results are skewed.)

We had 50% participation across Varyer team (including the missing booklet), but only 10% of samples rated.

Of the ratings supplied, here were the finalists:


Unicorn Cake, Chocolate Cupcake and Zebra Cakes were rated best with a perfect score of 10.

The Strawberry Shortcake Roll scored the worst with a rating of 2.


The Frosted Fudge Cake and Chocolate Cupcake were rated best with a perfect score of 10.

The Strawberry Shortcake Roll was in last place with a rating of 1.


Oatmeal Creme Pies reigned supreme with a rating of 10.

The Strawberry Shortcake Roll was worst with a score of 1.


The Chocolate Cupcake and Oatmeal Creme Pie tied for first with a rating of 10.

A three-way tie, the Banana Twins, Devil Creme, Strawberry Shortcake Roll, were ranked worst with a rating of 1.

Overall rating

The Chocolate Cupcake is our winner, with an average score of 9.5 - pretty damn high!

On trend with the rest of the results, The Strawberry Shortcake lost with an overall average score of 1.25.

It’s important to note that Varyer Director of Operations, Taylor Mauch, was single handedly responsible for the downfall of the Strawberry Shortcake Roll, as she was the only one to rate the cake.

When asked to comment on the results, she said,

Amazingly, strawberry desserts (including cake!) are my FAVORITE, but that was just offensive.

Taylor Mauch


While a winner did emerge, only 2 people actually rated the cake, creating a lot of uncertainty around if we can actually declare that as the favorite. Similarly, the snack cake that was rated the worst was only rated by one person, leaving a lot up to personal taste preference.

In the end, this was a failed experiment, and it turns out that we were asking the wrong question all along. The right question would’ve been “is it possible to try all the existing Little Debbie cakes” and the answer is no.