Dessert for Dinner at Disney World: An Investigative Report
We invited distinguished scientists from all over the world to come and work here at the Really Top Secret Disney Tourist Blog Labs. Unfortunately, none of them showed up. So instead, the two of us do all of the research and field testing, and would like to think we “walk the walk” so to speak.
Rather than just doing the fun stuff at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, etc., we also do things like stay in shady motels near the parks that are literally collapsing on guests to tell you whether they’re worth the money saved (absolutely not). Sit at bus stops and time transportation frequency at the Skyliner resorts. Buy everything at the Italy booth, knowing full well it’ll be terrible.
Then there’s the “research” with air quotes. Stopping at our favorite ice cream spots to perform quality control checks. Watching Country Bear Christmas to confirm that the international treasure is still blowing the mind of every guest who sees it. Spending hours upon hours testing the rocking chair and fireplace comfort levels at Wilderness Lodge. Essential stuff, but hardly grueling. Our latest “investigative reporting” definitely falls into the latter category…
In actuality, this is where the overwhelming majority of our research falls. Even most things we wouldn’t do except ‘for the sake of the blog’ end up being fun or at least having silver linings. Things like face character dining that make me uncomfortable have given us a convenient excuse to dine inside castles and eat delicious steaks. Combing through public documents and meeting notes has taught me a lot about a range of interesting topics totally unrelated to Disney. Again, you get the idea.
Today’s “research” isn’t even the begrudging or silver lining type. It’s the flat out fun variety, as I pulled the “research” card to give me an excuse to order multiple desserts for dinner in lieu of “real” food. Just to investigate whether or not it could be done…
For this dinner, we headed to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to eat at Gasparilla Island Grill.
A few years ago, this counter service restaurant was overhauled, totally redoing the menu, which catapulted it to the top of our List of the Best Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World. It’s been going slowly downhill since–but still enough of the menu retained to make it worthwhile. With more removed during the phased reopening, that’s not currently the case.
Nevertheless, we were committed to dining at Gasparilla Island Grill and wanting to check out what modifications were in place.
As you can see, the interior has been modified with pickup stations and the self-service stations all blocked off, which are now staffed by Cast Members. On the plus side, it’s possible to order from the register here, so Mobile Order is not required (but still recommended).
Sarah ordered the Impossible Burger topped with “Cheddar” on a Brioche Bun served with House-made Chips. (Apologies for the photo, I snapped it out of habit without the expectation of actually using it.)
While this patty purports to be an Impossible Burger, it tasted like black beans that were compressed, dehydrated, dry-aged, smoked, and slow-cooked. Among the worst things I’ve ever tried at Walt Disney World–I don’t know how Sarah ate it all. (She’s the real MVP in this research meal.)
For lack of better options, I opted to order two new desserts…for research. In actuality it was both about researching something new and that they looked and sounded fantastic–way better than the entree alternatives on the menu.
One thing that we will not be researching is the list of ingredients on each package. I didn’t even realize there are as many artificial colors as those found in the cupcake. (When it comes to Walt Disney World ingredients, I’d simply rather not know. Ignorance is bliss.)
Here the desserts are “unboxed.”
On the left is the Fall Flavors Cupcake; on the right is the Churro Ã‰clair. Total cost for the two was just over $12–less expensive than that Impossible Burger!
Gasparilla Island Grill’s menu describes the Churro Ã‰clair as an “Ã‰clair Shell filled with Cinnamon Mousse and Crunchy Churro Pieces topped with White Chocolate.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I think Walt Disney World’s churros are vastly overrated. They are frequently stale or overcooked and, quite frankly, Costco does them better for one dollar.
Thankfully, the Churro Ã‰clair does not suffer from these same faults.
It offers the same signature flavor, but exponentially more ambitious. The pastry itself is flaky and fresh, the filling is fantastic, and offers just enough texture to evoke the iconic park snack. Basically, the Churro Ã‰clair takes everything that works and is beloved about churros elevates that, and discards the rest. Highly recommended.
Next, the Fall Flavors Cupcake: “Cinnamon-spiced Cupcake with Apple Filling topped with a Sugar Pumpkin and Maple Buttercream in festive fall colors.”
Setting aside the eye-popping list of ingredients, this is absolutely fantastic. Truly a next-level Walt Disney World cupcake that’s nothing like the norm.
Had I not made the mistake of reading the list of ingredients, I would’ve said this tasted more natural and less artificial.
It’s definitely really (REALLY!) sweet, but the spectacular pumpkin and maple flavors to the buttercream give it more of an “earthiness” (not quite the right term, but I’m having a tough time articulating how it tasted). The typical buttercream on a Disney cupcake tastes more like a color, whereas this is flavors found in nature.
Then there’s the cake itself, which is denser and has a cinnamon flavor through and through. The apple inside is another wonderful touch, and a far cry from the normal filling.
All in all, the varied textures and range of fall flavors culminate in a cupcake that looks and tastes excellent. It’s definitely sweet, but not in an overly fake or excessive way. Suffice to say, one of my all-time favorite Walt Disney World cupcakes. This is also highly recommended–my pick if you’re only ordering one of the two.
Ultimately, my investigative reporting confirms that two desserts can make a great dinner at Walt Disney World. Probably not the most healthy meal, but definitely as filling and tastier than anything else I would’ve ordered (which also wouldn’t have been the pinnacle of healthy eating) if recent history with Gasparilla Island Grill is any indication. Plus, a sugar high as a bonus!
While this post might seem a bit ‘excessive’ these desserts were fantastic and I think it’s worth drawing attention to fun ‘diversions’ at Walt Disney World right now given all of the many cuts and snack spots that are still closed. While I would not recommend a special trip over from Magic Kingdom just for these desserts (there truly are no entrees on the current/temporary menu worth seeking out), I would recommend a progressive dinner, starting at Grand Floridian Cafe for their buttermilk-fried chicken (see above, or my glowing review here) and finishing here for dessert.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you tried these new desserts at the Grand Floridian? Any feedback on recent meals at Gasparilla Island Grill? Have you tried the Buttermilk-fried Chicken at Grand Floridian Cafe? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Great report Tom! I agree that two desserts can make a great dinner. The roasted turkey sandwich is outstanding! I tried it for the first time Labor Day weekend and I want to go back just to get it again. I also got two desserts. One for after my sandwich and one for 2am.
Is the key lime eclair still on the menu? Yum! A key lime dessert is always a treat/tradition for this northerner!
We share an opinion on park churros and Costco – I’ve said the same.
Tom and Sarah I personally think you both are 2 of the very coolest people. Both blogging and attitudes are great
I stayed at GF just this past week – probably just as well I didn’t know about these deserts then. However I did indulge in a trifle at the Rose and Crown ( Epcot) which was delicious – especially after 8 months on a strict Keto diet ( I figured for my mini vacation I could break all sorts of rules!!)
My favorite post in a long time! As always Tom, you and Sarah take one for the team with your investigative reporting and I love it! I know food colorings can make some turn away, but your fortitude and perseverance in the face of unnatural ingredients is highly commendable!! 🙂 I for one don’t mind food colorings as it’s not something I eat very often and that cupcake sounds fabulous!! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face on a very blah day filled with homeschool drama, teenager attitude, and lockdown fatigue! Keep them coming! 😀
On an unrelated note, have been trying to reach the reservation line several times to modify my stay at ft Wilderness in December, have waited on hold at a minimum of 20 minutes each time, its like nobody is manning the phones. Never had any issues in the past, have you heard anything like this? Thanks Tom
I have always loved your writing style but this one was hilarious!!!
I typically find your writing style very entertaining but also informative.
I had to laugh though that I was going to comment on your recent Magic Kingdom review (Pumpkin Spiced Waffle Sundae) that yes you CAN have Ice Cream for lunch. I would not do it often but if you eat a full meal and THEN an Ice Cream Sunday is that REALLY better than just eating the Ice Cream as one of your meals?
My mom the dietician used to have an ice cream sundae as lunch 1 or 2 times a year.
So go for it. Desert for dinner. Ice Cream for lunch!
Still waiting for that research on current Disney hold times to solve common Issues with MDE. If only you would really take one for the team :-).
While the Grand Floridian Cafe buttermilk fried chicken is good, it doesn’t beat Olivia’s Southernmost Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
Thanks for the hard-hitting investigative journalism! 🙂 I’m a bit curious about the “churro eclair”. Churros and Eclairs are both made from choux pastry dough, so I’m not sure why this isn’t just an “eclair”! Maybe putting extra churro/eclair bits inside the eclair.