It’s 3:20 p.m. on a Thursday, and by the looks of things school has definitely not started up again. Kids breeze past, eagerly demanding sample cups from a t-shirted employee. They race down 30-foot long counters of bliss, eyes wide, cups half full. Large windows of sunlight, bare white walls, and blasting Top 40 make this feel like the land of endless summer.
Welcome to Toppings, Pacific Palisades, a SoCal staple with so many toppings that budgeting can be a surprising challenge.
“I wanted it to look like a nice restaurant, not a yogurt shop,” says the owner Jordin Mendelshon. He’s a former ad executive who, in order to cut through in the crowded froyo space, designed a concept more akin to “retail.” And there are certainly chic Costco vibes in here.
On this day, customers can sprinkle 126 toppings across 21 different flavors of frozen yogurt. Entering the room makes you feel like you have God-like power. There are over 3.7 million combinations you can make. I saw Tyra Banks here once.
“Stop doing that right now!” a mother commands as her son fishes for another scoop of root beer-flavored gummies. “It’s disgusting and will weigh too much.” He stops. He returns a minute later. Across the aisle, another mom says, “that’s good,” as she watches her son go for candy corn. A 20-something man reaches for mango, and then retreats, shaking his head like he just saw his life flash before his eyes.
One underlying question is shared by all: Which topping will tip the scale too far?
I weighed a bunch of them to figure out. The results are a bit obvious but can help you to stay in “working range.” There’s nothing worse than being surprised by an $8.00 charge you thought would be under $5.00, only because you added a half bar of Hershey’s Cookies and Cream.
I weighed “scoops” of 21 common toppings. The measurements aren’t perfect by any means—but froyo, like life, is a balancing act.
- Cherries: 2.2 oz/scoop
- Boba: 2.0 oz/scoop
- Cookie Dough: 1.8 oz/scoop
- Strawberries: 1.6 oz/scoop
- Reese’s: 1.6 oz/scoop
- Gummy Bears: 1.6 oz/scoop
- Jelly Beans: 1.6 oz/scoop
- Yogurt Chips: 1.4 oz/scoop
- Candy Corn: 1.4 oz/scoop
- Skittles: 1.4 oz/scoop
- Swedish Fish: 1.4 oz/scoop
- Peanuts: 1.2 oz/scoop
- Cheesecake: 1 oz/scoop
- Oreo Shavings: 1 oz/scoop
- Graham Cracker: 1 oz/scoop
- Walnuts: 1 oz/scoop
- Chocolate Cake: 0.8 oz/scoop
- Almonds: 0.8 oz/scoop
- Smashed Peanuts: 0.8 oz/scoop
- Coconut: 0.6 oz/scoop
- Fruit Loops: 0.6 oz/scoop
- Marshmallows: 0.4 oz/scoop
The Light Winners
Through this experiment I was reminded that cereal is basically just cotton candy—whipped, sugary air. Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms marshmallows, and Frosted Flakes all fall under 0.6 oz./scoop.
The Library of Congress says coconuts (like olives) are drupes—not a traditional fruit. Maybe that’s why their shaved meat doesn’t weigh as much as those of other fruits.
When I told my sister about this experiment, she was quick to admonish cakes. Turns out, they can be a bit airy, chalking up at only 0.8 oz./scoop. Take that, sister!
If you want to save, look to the chopped peanuts (0.8 oz./ scoop) before a Reese’s (1.6 oz. /scoop). And if you’re really cutting corners, avoid full peanuts, which add 0.4 oz./scoop compared to the chopped variety.
One of the most popular toppings is also one of the heaviest at 1.8 oz./ scoop. Makes sense—those little nuggets have to expand into cookies!
Most everyone agrees strawberries are bad for the froyo budget (which they are), but rarely balk at cherries, which are 0.6 oz./scoop heavier.
Boba holds almost no nutritional value, which is a tough sell for something that also weighs 2 oz./scoop.
Alas, the squishy little guys pack a big punch at 1.6 oz./scoop.
Healthy Honorable Mentions
Their thin cut lightens the scale without sacrificing flavor. If you want to tighten the budget, be like Obama (rumored lover of almonds) and go for some almonds.
Crushed Graham Cracker
There are 4-7 grams of sugar in a graham cracker serving, compared to 14 grams in a single Oreo. Make your surface area worth it.
Consider pairing your crushed graham cracker with some blueberries and make a light, froyo blueberry pie.
Inspired Toppings to Suggest to Your Froyo Shop
Mendelshon’s favorite concoction is Apple Pie over vanilla yogurt. And yes, that’s just two desserts combined.
A tribute to The Tonight Dough ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s.
Every Chocolate Bar Imaginable
Know the difference between Mars and Milky Way? Who cares! Get them both. (In the U.S., Mars has almond and Milky Way has caramel).
Untoasted, of course!
Peanut Butter Pretzels
Consider it an extra snack for your snack.
Or course, the cardinal rule of frozen yogurt is not to make too big of a deal out of it, so take these recommendations with a grain of salt(ed pretzel). When I asked Mendelshon if he weighs each and every ingredient to keep inventory, he replied simply, “As they run out, we buy more. Easy.”
It’s just froyo.
Lastly, to the girl who I saw sneak a circus animal cookie as you walked out, and then made a “shh!” gesture at me: We’re all proud of you.
Related Video: A Short History of Frozen Desserts in America
Header image courtesy of Nectar Frozen Yogurt Lounge/Facebook.