HOSTESS TWINKIE

When Hostess closed its doors in November 2012, many thought they would never again see the spongy, crème-filled snack cake they grew up with. But on July 15, 2013, the Twinkie was resurrected by a group of investors known for reviving old brands, and the iconic treat was back on store shelves in boxes that said, “The sweetest comeback in the history of ever.” I am actually writing this recipe on Twinkie comeback day.

The Hostess Twinkie is one of the first recipes I hacked back in the late ’80s. In my original recipe the sponge cake was made by combining a box of pound cake mix with beaten egg whites to lighten it up. It was an easy solution, but perhaps not the best way to replicate the light, spongy texture and the distinct flavor of the original cake. When I went back into the lab this time around to improve my twenty-year-old recipe, I decided that the cake must be made from scratch. But I wanted the recipe to stay simple, so I came up with a way to make delicious sponge cake without separating the eggs. You’re going to have to beat the eggs for a while so a stand mixer helps here, but you can still make the recipe just fine with a handheld mixer.

I also found that the only way to make cloned Twinkies that look like real Twinkies is to find a canoe cake pan—otherwise known as a “Twinkie pan”—that makes cakes that are the same size as Twinkies. After the Twinkie disappeared in 2012, these pans became easier to find both online and in brick-and-mortar cooking stores. If you don’t have a canoe cake pan, you can make Twinkie cake pans from scratch using aluminum foil and a spice bottle. I’ve laid out those steps in Tidbits for you, along with an optional way to make the recipe using real butter instead of butter flavoring.

CAKE
4 large eggs
1⅔ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
10 ounces (2 cups) cake flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt

FILLING
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon water
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow crème
½ cup shortening
2 ounces (½ cup) powdered sugar


Cooking method

1-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2-Beat the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. It is best to use a stand mixer—if you have one—with a paddle attachment, but a handheld mixer will also work.

3-Add the milk, oil, vanilla, and butter flavoring and mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined.

4-Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth, with no lumps. Cover the batter and let it sit for 30 minutes, then mix it up again on low speed for 20 seconds.

5-Grease canoe cake pans (Twinkie pans) with shortening, butter, or nonstick cooking spray. Fill each cup a third to halfway full with batter, then bake the cakes for 20 to 24 minutes or until the tops begin to turn light brown.

6-Cool the cakes for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Use a teaspoon to gently lift them out of the pan. Fill the cakes when they have completely cooled.

7-To make the filling, combine the salt with the vanilla and water in a small bowl and stir until much of the salt dissolves.

8-Combine the marshmallow crème, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla/salt in a large bowl and mix well with an electric mixer—using the whisk attachment—on high speed until fluffy.

9-Load the filling into a pastry bag or pastry gun with a medium round tip. Inject the filling into the bottom (flat side) of each cake in three places. Swirl the tip around a bit as you press it into the cake to make a cavity for the filling. Store the cakes in a sealed container at room temperature for several days or freeze to keep them for a couple of months.

10-OPTIONAL: If you can’t find a canoe cake pan or don’t feel like buying one, you can also make clone Twinkie cake pans using a little technique I came up with years ago calling for aluminum foil and a standard spice bottle. These will make cakes that are bigger than real Twinkies, but they will still have the basic shape.
Rip off a 1-foot-long piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half, then fold it in half again. Wrap this around a spice bottle, being sure to leave the top open so you can take the spice bottle out and later pour the batter in. Make ten of these and place them in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, with the openings facing up. Spray the insides with nonstick cooking spray, fill each halfway with batter, and bake following the instructions in the recipe.
If you’d like to make a version of these cakes with real butter instead of using the imitation stuff, just eliminate the imitation butter flavoring, add ¼ cup of melted butter to the batter when adding in the oil, and reduce the oil to ¼ cup.

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