by Beth Keating
September 14, 2023
Growing up in New York, it always seemed that the first day of school coincided with the first cool day of fall as well. Not so here in Florida, where the kids go back when the calendar still says “summer,” and Disney starts putting up the pumpkins and hosting trick-or-treat trails in August. For me, it’s a biological imperative not to begin drinking pumpkin-spiced anything while it is 900 degrees out.
Last week, though, we finally hit meteorological fall. And while the daytime temperatures in Orlando are still pushing the low-mid 90s, the humidity has eased off a bit, and it’s occasionally dipping to the upper 70s at night. I could sort of justify looking at fall desserts. Living in the hope that it might soon be cool enough to wear the spirit jerseys that Disney keeps hawking, we decided to go on a scavenger hunt for the best of the Halloween treats at Disney World.
To make our journey a bit more fun, we opted to board one of the free Sassagoula River Cruise boats to travel our way down the water to our first stop: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, where we popped in to Scat Cat’s Club Café for the “Ghoulish Delight Beignets.” Ahhh, beignets! Apparently, we’d elected to start our day with what we later decided was the best treat of the hunt.
For $7.49, you get three delicious Mickey-shaped beignets, dusted with cookies and cream powdered sugar and purple and white marshmallow crème drizzles. These seasonal beignets are available through October 31. (Snacks are always more exciting when they make them Mickey shaped, am I right?)
These pillow-y sweets are made fresh to order, so you may have to wait a few minutes for your treat, but that will give you time to look around this tiny room, decorated with portraits of famous musicians; lots of instruments, albums and sheet music; and sketches of jazz club scenes. Upbeat Dixieland music sets the tone in the background. If you feel so inclined, there’s also an oversized checkerboard on one of the tables if you want to challenge a friend.
When your beignets appear, they are warm and puffy, a bit messy from the powdered sugar, but oh-so-good. We were very glad there were three because they were quickly gobbled up. (And if these aren’t sweet enough for you – don’t know how that could be - there are containers of dipping sauces you can purchase for a small upcharge.) While the dough wasn’t as airy as some beignets we’ve had in the past, neither were they dense, but merely a perfect texture of yummy goodness. The rest of the day had a lot to live up to.
While we were at French Quarter, we also stopped right next door to see what the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory had in store, and we acquired their “Tombstone Sweet.” It was indeed sweet, a rectangular triple-layer mix of chocolate cake, chocolate-coffee mousse, caramel-milk chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache decorated to look like - yes, a tombstone (that’s going to be a recurring theme this season). Green frosting grass and a chocolate spider completed the look. The Tombstone was tasty, but its refrigerator cold temperature made it feel more like a standard food court offering, and the coffee flavoring was lost among the other chocolates, with just the smallest hint of coffee in the background. Perhaps letting it warm up a bit would elevate the textures if you decide to grab this one for yourself. The Tombstone Sweet is $5.99, and is available through October 31.
Back on board the boat, we headed to Disney Springs, with a short walk along the waterfront to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, where The Artist’s Palette was offering a “Mini Pumpkin.” If you love pumpkin pie, this treat would be right up your alley. One of our diners liked it, the other hated it. A cute, very photogenic goodie, the shape of this pumpkin was reminiscent of an upside down Bundt cake, with a hard orange frosting shell that was a touch misleading. You expected the taste of the coating to be orange, but in fact it had a decidedly fall, nutmeg/cinnamon flavor to the coating. This treat was pumpkin flavored through and through! The pumpkin mousse interior was soft and fluffy, very like a cold pumpkin pie filling, with a chewy chocolate décor stem. You gotta love pumpkin for this treat – it’s very fall forward! It’s $5.99, and available through November 30.
Next up we headed to Magic Kingdom, where it seemed the bulk of the Halloween treats could be found. Unfortunately for us, we ran into a bit of trouble there, because by the time we finished our boat rides, it was mid-afternoon, and many of the treats had sold out for the day. We were hoping to test out the incredibly adorable “Oh, My Gourd Cupcake” ($6.29) at the Main Street Bakery’s Starbucks location, but they were sold out already, so we had to suffer through with just a cold brew instead. (They do have a seasonal Mickey-shaped cinnamon roll with orange frosting and autumn sprinkles for $6.79 if you are looking for something character-centric for breakfast.)
Next up was Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies, where we were hoping to indulge in the sweet corn cone for $5.49, a twist of vanilla soft serve with sweet corn flavored soft serve, topped with a decorative chocolate bow. Alas, that was among the missing as well. Too bad, because we were intrigued by trying corn flavored ice cream.
We were, however, able to find another tombstone-shaped goodie, this time at Golden Oak Outpost on the edge between Frontierland and Adventureland. A bit like a homemade “Pop Tart,” the “Tombstone Tart” ($5.99) was rounded at the top like a grave stone, and filled with a thin, deceptive layer of strawberry-jalapeno jam. At first, the jam layer tasted like your normal strawberry jam, but a few seconds later, there was a delayed kick of the jalapeno on the back of your tongue. It wasn’t overwhelming by any means, just a delightful little bonus that gave the pastry more depth of flavor. It was decorated with a grey buttercream rectangle and sprinkles, with a few chocolate sugar spiders to add cuteness. The crimped edges of the pastry were a little crisp, but the rest of the dough was soft and chewy, and not at all crumbly like a pie crust. All in all, a nice afternoon boost.
Our original plan was to end the day at Disney Springs to purchase some of Amorette’s Patisserie specialty desserts to take home for later. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back to the Springs in time to gather up the last of the treats we’d been searching for on our sugar adventure. We’ll have to go back another day to complete this treat extravaganza. Amorette’s is offering these creations through October 31, and among the ones we’re seeking is the Jack Skellington Éclair filled with pumpkin cream or the Sally Éclair with caramel-chocolate ($7.00 each); or the Oogie Boogie Cream Puff ($8.00) with cookies ‘n cream mousse. There’s also a Mummy Mickey Mouse Dome Cake that sounds delicious and is super charming, with peanut butter-milk chocolate mousse, caramel, peanut crunch, and dark chocolate glaçage. If we feel like splurging, we may bring home the $22.00 (!) Maleficent Petit Cake with vanilla chiffon, caramel, and milk chocolate mousse. At least the petit cake is big enough and rich enough to split with two or three other family members!
Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.