Weekend Cooking: A Lament to Twinkies
**A note from me regarding Hurricane Sandy can be found at the bottom of this post.**
In light of the bad news that came out of Irving, Texas from the Hostess Company yesterday, I reworked my Weekend Cooking post to honor the darling of American snack cakes, the Twinkie. While I’m not a Hostess fan–I’m more of a Tastykake girl–I recognize that Hostess has a rabid fan base, many of whom are probably clearing Twinkies, Ho-Hos, and Donettes from the shelves of their local grocers as I type. Actually, I know this to be a fact: four stores in my area were completely sold out when I went on a Twinkies run this morning.
The Twinkie was invented in 1930 by the late James. A Dewar, then the Chicago-area regional manager of Continental Baking Company, the parent corporation behind the Hostess Trademark. At the time, Continental made ‘Little Short Cake Fingers’ only during the six-week strawberry season, and Dewar realized that the aluminum pans in which the cakes were baked sat idle the rest of the year. He came up with the idea of injecting the little cakes with a creamy filling to make them a year-round product. While on a business trip to St. Louis…he saw a sign for Twinkle Toe Shoes, and the name Twinkies evolved. –Todd Wilbur, author of A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes, pg. 73
Did you catch that line about the ‘six-week strawberry season’? I can’t believe that fresh fruit was ever used as filling in a mass-produced snack cake.
Jokes aside, almost 18,500 Hostess employees now find themselves unemployed. It would be remiss to blithely post a recipe without acknowledging the company’s employees. I’ve read online that parts of the Hostess Corporation may be auctioned off and hope that employees will find work with the new company(ies). A company that, for the last eight decades, produced such iconic (albeit nutritionally ‘challenged’) products as Twinkies and Wonder Bread shouldn’t just go the way of the 8-track player.
In the interim, those who are hankering for their favorite spongy, creme-filled snack cake can make a relatively decent facsimile in their own kitchens. This recipe comes from a cookbook I swiped from my sister: A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur. Covering everything from See’s Lollipops to The Cheesecake Factory’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, the book is chock full of insider information and secret ingredients.
Let’s get to it. Here’s what you’ll need to make Twinkies at home:
To make the Twinkies in their traditional shape, a bit of handiwork on your part is required. You’ll need aluminum foil, a cylindrical spice or sprinkle container, and the patience of a saint.
I tried several methods of fashioning my molds. Author Todd Wilbur is delightfully vague on this step. “Fold a piece of aluminum foil in half twice. Wrap folded foil around spice bottle to create a mold.” He fails to mention how to fold the corners–I realize now I should have rounded them a bit more. I ended up doing a modified ‘gift wrap corner’ on the edges.
You’ll need two bowls for the first step. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until they are stiff-about 4 minutes. In another bowl, add 2/3 cup of water to the pound cake mix. When fully mixed, fold the whites into the batter and incorporate with a spatula. Don’t over mix or you’ll flatten the whites and your Twinkies will turn into lead sinkers.
I poured the batter into the molds–the recipe says it will yield 10 Twinkies but since we’re only two people, I made fewer.
I baked the Twinkies at 325°F for 43 minutes–13 minutes longer than the recipe called for–and they came out a lovely golden color. The directions say to use a toothpick to make three holes in the bottom for filling, but I improvised and used a straw.
While the Twinkies were baking, I whipped up the icing–marshmallow creme, Crisco, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and water. Instead of getting my cake decorating supplies, I used a Ziploc bag to pipe the icing into the Twinkies. Remember to add a few pieces of tape to the bottom corner to reinforce the ‘piping tip’.
The verdict? During Twinkie withdrawal, these may be just what the doctor ordered! My trusty taste tester, Anthony, declared them better than the real thing–he said they didn’t taste quite as ‘chemical’.
My attempt had some Twinkie characteristics but didn’t quite hit the mark; with a few tweaks, they might be better. If I ever make these again, I’m going to use a smaller container as my mold template or less batter in each mold–these were just too big. The cake was more dense than a real Twinkie. Maybe Angel food cake would be better than pound cake?
After taking photos, I sliced a third of cake (lengthwise) from my Twinkies and filled them. They were more palatable with less cake.
from Todd Wilbur’s A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes
- nonstick spray
- 4 egg whites
- 1 16-oz box golden pound cake mix
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 teaspoons very hot water
- Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups marshmallow creme (one 7-oz jar)
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Fold a piece of aluminum foil in half twice. Wrap the folded foil around the spice bottle to create a mold. Leave the top of the mold open for pouring in the batter. make ten of these molds and arrange them on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan. Grease the inside of each mold with a light coating of nonstick spray.
- Disregard the directions on the box of cake mix. Instead, beat the egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl combine cake mix with water and beat until thoroughly blended (about 2 minutes). Fold egg whites into cake batter and slowly combine until completely mixed.
- Pour the batter into molds, filling each one about 3/4 inch. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown.
- For the filling, combine the salt and hot water in a small bowl and stir until dissolved. Let this mixture cool.
- Combine the marshmallow creme, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix well with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy.
- Add the salt solution to the filling mixture and combine.
- When the cakes are done and cooled, use a toothpick* to make three small holes in the bottom of each one. Move the toothpick around inside of each cake to create space for the filling.
- Using a cake decorator, pastry bag, or Ziploc, inject each cake with filling throughout all three holes.
On a personal note: Thank you so much to everyone who sent emails, texts, cards, thoughts, and left comments here in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We are safe and our property sustained only minor damage. Our power was restored after 9 days–with the help of utility workers from across the country–only to have a snowstorm blow through a day later, taking down more trees, plunging people back into the dark and cold. My neighborhood was under an evacuation order during the second storm, but we were fortunate again. Sadly, many people in our town and neighboring communities–especially Mantoloking–were not so lucky. I’m working on a post of the aftermath and hope to have it posted in the next few days. Thanks again for your concern and kindness. xo