REVIEW: The Desserts of The Mara

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Over at Animal Kingdom Lodge–Jambo House, the quick service restaurant called The Mara offers a great variety of meals for all sorts of tastes, but the assortment of desserts really blew me away. You’ve got your standard mix of cupcakes, and of course you’ve got zebra domes (regular and gluten-free), but beyond that, there are quite a few interesting “animal-themed” desserts. On a recent trip, my family decided to sample three–the Kudu Cookie, the Okapi Brownie, and the Flamingo Cake.

First up, the Kudu Cookie–a butterscotch cashew cookie with vanilla buttercream.

As near as we can figure, the reference to the kudu was because of the antler-shaped piece of chocolate on top. Flavor-wise, remember those Little Debbie cream-filled oatmeal cookies that you probably had as a kid? That’s what this reminded us of, although a step above in terms of freshness and quality. Even though there were ample amounts of cashews throughout the cookie, it tasted very much like an oatmeal cookie with buttercream. From the initial look, it didn’t seem like there’d be a lot of buttercream to it, but as we got near the bottom of the cookie, it had somehow spread apart to be filled with mounds of it.

Overall, it’s something that I wouldn’t go out of my way to have, but if I was there, I wouldn’t mind ordering it.

Next up, the Okapi Brownie.

If you’ve got a person with you who isn’t a fan of hazelnut, the crisp on top is easily removed. If you do remove it, then feel free to hand it over to me, because it is absolutely delicious–light and crispy with that great hazelnut flavor. Aside from that, you’ve got a wonderfully fudgey brownie with chocolate icing on top. Chocoholics, this one is for you.

And finally, the surprise dessert, the plant-based Flamingo Cake.

Truth told, I had no idea what to expect from this. In general, because of my allergy to soy-based meat substitutes, I mentally block out items that have “plant-based” in the description. But since this was a dessert, I figured that it would be worth a chance, and the description sounded wonderful. The cake is a flavorful, yet mild, spice cake. What confused me from the description was looking for the coconut ganache–because this cake has no coconut flavor to it. Chalk it up to the gal who doesn’t do plant-based food not getting it until it was explained to her. The ganache itself is coconut-based (instead of using a non-plant-based alternative), and since it is mixed with cocoa, it is a mild chocolate flavor. When the item was rung up, the cashier called it “the vegan cake”, but if you are vegan, I’d want to verify that it is vegan and not vegetarian with the chef. At a minimum, the chocolate curls on top tasted like full-on milk chocolate (and so vegetarian friendly but not vegan, however easily removed). The cake itself is extremely moist, and the simplicity of this cake is really what makes it stand out compared with other Disney-style desserts.

On a side note, Disney has really stepped up the quality of plant-based options lately, and I’m very glad to see that even though I’m a full-on omnivore myself. That said, if all desserts were as tasty as this one, I wouldn’t care what they were made of–don’t let “plant-based” scare you, this dessert is a wonderful one, incredibly filling, and didn’t make me feel quite as overwhelmed as something like a Disney cupcake can do.

If none of these desserts holds appeal for you, have no fear–The Mara has a huge assortment. Here’s pictures of some of the other amazing options available.

Which of these desserts do you think holds the most appeal for you? Are there any that should be taste-tested on a future visit? 

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited nine-year-old daughter.

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