REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Among the world of berries, raspberries are a hard sell. They’re bitter, rot fast, and are filled with teeny pulp bits that get stuck in your teeth, but they also have a distinct sweet, flowery profile that I crave at the inconvenient hour of now, when they’re overpriced, out-of-season, and tasteless.

Which is why I bit into the surface of my Hostess Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cup Cake without hesitation, cracking through the sheen of the fudgy top layer. That upper crust carries the responsibility of the “Dark Chocolate” title, and, while I wouldn’t deem it a full-blown 70 percent cacao by any stretch of the imagination, there is a certain nutty, semisweet chocolate echo at the front that I appreciate before I reach the full sugar surge underneath.

And it’s a clutter of sugary fluff under that surface, the glurping, gloopy icing poofing out like a misfit marshmallow. That frosting floof carries the texture of Cool Whip and a raspberry perfume that could rival a Bath and Body Works. Indeed, it has an artificial raspberry kick at the forefront with a high-fructose-sugary backdrop. It’s like Pillsbury frosting got put in the Super Collider with Raspberry Jelly Bellies. Pretty intense in that special, non-natural way.

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The chocolate cake is of a familiar Hostess Cupcake variety: a little oily, a little spongy, a little ho-hum on flavor, all held within a distinctive squishy texture that may or may not remind me of a Shamwow. It tastes quite simply of packaged pound cake with a little cocoa, and, while I may hope for something a little more chocolate-forward, I respect that the cake embraces what it is: a vehicle that can be enhanced by the addition of ice cream.

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In 1971, Hostess introduced Captain Cupcake, the rotund, spyglass-wielding naval officer who ate a few too many Hostess Chocolate cupcakes before turning into one. What would Captain Cupcake say about these new Hostess Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes?

I can’t say. This is mainly because Captain Cupcake is an anthropomorphic baked good with a position in the Navy, and I would regret speaking for such a high-ranking officer. For me, however, these cupcakes were neither a bonafide hit nor a heartbreaking miss.

The floofy raspberry filling was pleasant enough, the chocolate cake was moist, and the icing top held a pleasant semisweet fudginess. At the same time, the cake was a little tasteless, the preservatives were a little over abundant (is hydrogenated beef tallow really an essential ingredient?), and the false raspberry lingered a little long, but, hey, it’s tough to alter the austerity of false raspberry.

Overall, I declare this a decent cupcake for the forthcoming Valentine’s celebration. What’s better is that you’ll wait in no lines to get it, withdraw no loan to afford it, and can eat it at any hour you desire. All it takes is ripping open a plastic wrapper and maybe some ice cream. This can happen. This can happen now.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cupcake – 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.5 oz/8 cupcakes
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tender cake. Fudgy icing top. Floofy filling like Cool Whip. 8 swirls of icing. Mario Kart. Captain Cupcake.
Cons: Hydrogenated beef tallow. Filling tastes a smidge like children’s toothpaste. Texture like a Super Shammy. Smells from Bath and Body Works, The unexplained disappearance of Captain Cupcake.

REVIEW: Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn

Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn

Every time I see a bag of Angie’s kettle corn with the words “BOOM CHICKA POP” in gigantic type, 70’s porn music pops into my head. Why? Because “bow chicka wow wow” is like the emoji for porn movie music.

But I did not buy Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn because of the porn music bumpin’ in my head. I bought it because there hasn’t been an Angie’s Holidrizzle flavor that’s disappointed me, and I thought this flavor would continue that streak.

And you’ve probably figured out that by ending the previous paragraph with that sentence, I’ve pretty much told you I did not care for this hot cocoa and marshmallow-flavored kettle corn.

Opening the bag brings out a pleasant Cracker Jack—like aroma, but one opened bag and two minutes later I asked myself, “Where did Angie’s go wrong?”

The front of the bag says, “contains nothing but ingredients you’ll love.” Cane sugar…love. Popcorn…love. Sunflower oil…like. Palm kernel oil…like. Nonfat dry milk…like. Cocoa powder…love. Sea salt…love. Natural flavors…not sure what they are. Soy lecithin…I could go either way.

So I love most of its ingredients, but I don’t love its flavor. It just doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t come close to tasting anything like hot cocoa and marshmallows. At times, there’s a flavor that reminds me of toffee. But at other times, there’s a flavor that I would describe as sweet plastic. Maybe the kettle corn’s flavor is an abstract interpretation of hot cocoa and marshmallows, and the sweet plasticiness represents the marshmallow and its pliability.

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Where does this sweet plastic flavor come from? My guess is that I should be blaming the chocolate drizzle, which fortunately wasn’t liberally drizzled over the kettle corn. But once the chocolate drizzle melts away, it tastes like standard kettle corn.

Angie’s Holidrizzle Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn isn’t gross enough to make me throw away four-fifths of the bag, go back to Target to demand my money back, or use it as coal in a Christmas stocking to punish the naughty. After all, I did end up finishing the bag, albeit slowly. But out of all the new hot cocoa-flavored products I’ve tried this year, this has got to be my least favorite.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 cups – 140 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Angie’s Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Kettle Corn
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 4.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Not totally gross. Least favorite hot cocoa-flavored product I’ve tried this season. Contains ingredients that I love.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like hot cocoa and marshmallows. At times it has a sweet plastic flavor. Having 70’s porn music pop up in my head every time I see a bag of Angie’s popcorn.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos

Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos

How the Grinch Stole Hostess

The Grinch plotted again how to ruin the holidays.
Though it was only November and they were still far away!
He planned to steal all the cheer from every household and home.
Not a holiday was safe: no Christmas, Kwanzaa, or “shalom.”

He slunk down each chimney, having his treacherous fun.
Only once did a fire scorch his furry green buns.
But in the last house, whilst piling gifts in his sack,
He smelled something sweet that took him aback.

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Sneering at what the foolish kids had left out for Santa Claus,
He grabbed the strange brown cylinders with his foul, dirty paws.
“These aren’t cookies,” he said. “They’re Peppermint Ho Hos from Hostess!”
“When it came to minty pink cream, these are said to have the most-est!”

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“These snacks are so cheery,” said The Grinch. “I’ll gobble them down!”
“Without their merry Devil’s food cake, all the people will frown!”
But the Grinch gasped at the serving: “380 calories? Who eats three?”
“Meh, I deserve it. Being evil makes a Grinch hungry!”

His yellow teeth broke the chocolate coating; it shattered into bits.
“A wonderful mess,” he spewed. “The maid will throw fits!”
But he found the Ho Ho’s exterior to be much too waxy and bland.
“I’d get more chocolate flavor from a brown RoseArt crayon!”

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The sponge cake beneath was also merely so-so.
It was airy and quite chewy, with only traces of cocoa.
The Grinch wondered how it could be so un-sweet with 14 grams of sugar.
Some Hostess cakes were moist; this was as dry as his plucked boogers!

But then he reached the cream, and his opinion did sway.
“This novel pink goo could make anyone’s day!”
“It’s more thick than a Twinkie’s; that whipped crap’s just exhausting.”
“This is pleasantly gritty, rich and dense like buttercream frosting!”

As for mint flavor, it was there: but not burning or biting.
Balanced by vanilla, it was refreshing and exciting!
Yet, he’d be hard pressed to call it distinctly peppermint cuisine.
With his crusty eyes closed, it tasted just like spearmint or wintergreen.

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He scarfed down another Ho Ho whole, whilst trashing the family’s wreath.
“The soft choco-mint together’s like a Thin Mint…made for those without teeth!”
The Grinch thought they’d make great party favors: a fine novelty treat.
The cream was memorable, but the purchase wouldn’t be a repeat.

The Grinch cackled and left, ready to watch all the fuss.
“Little Cindy will learn new words when she hears Daddy cuss!”
The next morning he peered down from his horrible hill,
But saw nothing but cheer, A Christmas Story marathons, and goodwill!

“Christmas came without Ho Hos,” he murmured. “It came without Cupcakes!”
“It came without Little Debbie, Entenmann’s, or Drake’s!”
“Maybe holidays,” he thought slowly, “don’t come from processed food.”
“Maybe holidays are about who you’re with, not just what is chewed.”

So the Grinch went back into town, and returned what he stole.
Perhaps this year Santa wouldn’t gift him a metric s*** ton of coal.
Legends say the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day!
Though that was probably the 6 grams of fat per Ho Ho, his doctor would say.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 cakes – 380 calories, 17 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 43 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 pack
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Inventive and thick cream. Squishy, tubular Thin Mint understudies. Avoiding the obvious “Ho Ho Hos” joke. Learning life lessons through snack cake fan fiction. The delightful irony of “Christmas Devil’s food cake.”
Cons: The Ho Hos’ so-so cocoa. Coating shatters faster than a leg lamp. Santa-sized serving sizes. An inevitable law-Seuss from Dr. Seuss’ attorneys.

REVIEW: Hostess Suzy Q’s

Hostess Suzy Q's

To quote the great John Fogerty, “Oh Suzy Q, I love you.”

I’m not here to talk about a Creedence Clearwater Revival. I’m here to talk about a famous snack cake revival. Suzy Q’s are back.

Remember when Hostess went under and individually wrapped Twinkies held more value than gold for a few weeks?

That feels like decades ago. When they initially released their product line again, Suzy Q’s were benched, and I guess some people were upset about this. Why they were bummed, I’ll never know.

Invented in 1961 and named after the daughter of a higher-up at the Continental Baking Company, Suzy Q’s preceded far superior cakes like Ding Dongs and Ho Hos by six years.

I’ve always been a fan of various snack cakes with no real bias towards any brand. I feel like I’ve had most if not all of what Hostess has offered over the years, but can’t remember ever eating Suzy Q’s. They always seemed like an early attempt at the Devil’s food cake with crème concept that no one bought anymore because Hostess was able to improve on the recipe.

Let’s be real, Hostess doesn’t exactly have a diverse product line. Half of their current product lineup are chocolate cakes with crème. And while one might be a cupcake, another in roll-up form, and another shaped like a hockey puck, it’s not enough of a change to warrant favoritism. Each are delicious in their own right. So why aren’t Suzy Q’s?

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These things are super boring. The texture of the cake is horrendous. This is not a good sponge cake. This is a sponge labeled as a cake. The chocolate flavor is underwhelming and I’m not sure they’d work even if slathered in the plastic layer of chocolate Ding Dongs have.

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The crème filling is basically what you’d expect, but that coupled with the bland sponge somehow made it taste worse than normal. I imagine the crème recipe doesn’t change much between the various products it fills, but it didn’t even taste as sugary and delicious as I’m used to.

I honestly can’t imagine a person alive who would prefer this over their other cakes. Taste is subjective, but come on.

Suzy Q’s have to be the worst snack cake Hostess makes. Have to be. There’s just no reason to ever get them when there are so many similar yet better options made by the same company and its competitors. Drake’s Devil Dogs are king, in my not so humble opinion.

I couldn’t find a box of Suzy Q’s in my local supermarket, and I gotta say I’m happy I didn’t because it would be sitting in the back of my cabinet for months.

To be fair to Hostess, they are under a new corporate umbrella now and the recipe for Suzy Q’s may have very well changed. BUT if this is the form they’ve come in since their inception, I can’t imagine them ever being good. Sorry Suzy, but you are the black sheep of the family. I don’t love you.

To misquote the film Dumb and Dumber, “That John Fogerty’s full of crap, man.”

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes – 310 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Hostess Suzy Q’s
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 3.03 oz.
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: The crème is still solid. Good to have Hostess back in our lives. CCR.
Cons: Bland cake. Weak chocolate flavor. Referring to this as a “Snack Classic.” Worst revival ever.

REVIEW: Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts

Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts

Hold the phone, lower the pitchforks, and pause the Science Channel Documentary on Unicycle Wheel Hubs because, potentially freeing us from the burden of choosing between pancakes and doughnuts ever again, Hostess has stocked the shelves with new Donettes, all gussied up with maple frosting.

This promise bodes well in a person whose fingers twiddle at the mere thought of a powdered Donette poofing the cusp of one’s upper lip. While we are few, I know there are other, like-minded packaged doughnut enthusiasts out there. These Donettes? They offer a bright new hope for both Donette aficionados and indecisive breakfast eaters alike, so put away the doughnut pan and that bottle of Aunt Jemima. There is no need for syrup where we’re going.

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Mini doughnuts can be like small dogs: bold, yippy, potentially overrated, and/or cute. You never know what you’re going to get. In this way, they are always surprising. Here, we’ve got a crumbly cake of a doughnut. It’s moderately soft and, while not exactly fresh (hey, it’s been in a sack for a few weeks), it’s also not too dry, greasy, or messy to be offensive.

The glaze is all around and cracks through with a good combination of gritty and smooth. When combined with the neutral cake beneath, the taste comes through with vanilla, artificial maple flavor, straight sugar, and…science!

Sometimes, science has positive outcomes, like when you build a space satellite or invent a gym sock that always smells pleasant. Other times, science has negative outcomes, like when you create a shrink ray and your neighbor’s baseball crashes through a window and you accidentally shrink your offspring (lookin’ at you, Wayne Szalinski).

Here, science did okay. While all the preservatives saved the Donettes from mold and sustained its certain cakey quality, there’s still a bit of a metallic afterglow in the cake that keeps me from giving these an A-plus endorsement. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like you’re eating the crushed metallic remains of the Terminator or anything, but the slight chemical aftertaste keeps the flavor from being the full-throttle, running-from-rampage, Terminator 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger-type of a Donette it could be.

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As packaged donuts go, these succeed fairly well. They’re not too sweet, messy, or dry and have a delicious sugared glaze that crackles into maple-like sugar as you bite in. They’re also not perfect. Indeed, you may find yourself pushed away by the slight chemical aftertaste, the fact that they’re not doused in Grade-B maple syrup, or the non-fresh nature of Donettes as a whole.

On the other hand, if you enjoy packaged doughnuts, have a predilection toward maple syrup flavors, and struggle with Pancake-Doughnut Indecisiveness (a serious social issue), you may never have to make a decision about breakfast again, and that’s a platform I can get behind. Less stress. More mini doughnuts.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 mini donuts – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 10.5 oz package
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Not too dry. Crackly, maple-forward glaze. Thoughtful balance of sweet glaze and neutral cake. Wayne Szalinski. Infinitely pleasant-smelling gym socks. Science Channel Documentaries on Unicycle Hubs.
Cons: Still kinda dry. Cake doesn’t taste like much. Yippy small dogs. Accidentally shrinking one’s offspring.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes

Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes

There are no pumpkin spice jokes left to be made, are there? Yes, it’s everywhere. Yes, people have found some preposterous things to infuse with it. But who cares? It’s popular because it’s a delicious signifier of autumn’s arrival. You may have already come across 57,346,922 pumpkin spice junk food items this season, but let’s enter this review with an open mind free of cynicism!

When I read that Hostess had introduced Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes this year, I was pretty jazzed. Much like the back-to-school/Halloween/Thanksgiving season in general, Hostess snacks inspire a sense of comfort and nostalgia in me. (Plus I’d recently experienced a renewed interest in Hostess products last year after their shameless, but effective, product placement with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Darn you, bizarre marketing tie-ins.)

After failing to locate them at nearby grocery stores, I eventually discovered the cupcakes in the seasonal section at Target. When I finally got them home and tried them out, I found that my expectations remained generally undashed.

To begin, I don’t want to say that their smell is overpowering, but it’s certainly bold, and it permeates the room from the moment you open the box (even though each cake is sealed in an airtight wrapper!). I’m talking Glade-levels of scent here, which, if you truly enjoy the aroma of clove and nutmeg, then yay!

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Visually, the cakes were slightly disappointing. The lot I got was sort of pathetically misshapen, tinier than one might anticipate, and they featured a meager number of sprinkles on each cake. The fondant-style icing was also kind of brittle, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with factory-produced pastries.

Before fully biting in, I sampled each separate component (icing, cake, sprinkle, filling) so I that I could taste their flavors individually before experiencing how they worked together. Turns out that fastidiousness was all in vain; as indicated by their scent, these things are pumpkin spice cherry bombs with a flavor so, um, robust that it’s impossible to discern the various tastes because the pumpkin spice overrides them all.

What’s more, these cupcakes are rich. Like, really rich. I couldn’t even finish two of them, and I’m somebody who has no problem polishing off a pint of ice cream in mere minutes. Don’t think of the “one cake” serving size listed in the nutrition facts as a suggestion – consider it a prescription dosage to be observed for your personal welfare.

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Still, the cakes aren’t bad, just dangerously potent. And there’s plenty of positive things to say about them: They’re surprisingly, almost logic-defyingly moist, and the creme filling has that trademark Hostess velvety whip feel to it which complements the pumpkin spice flavor quite well. Also, the crunchy sprinkles, crisp icing, and pillowy cake work well together to create an enjoyable combination of textures. So long as you don’t overindulge, these cakes are actually quite good.

To the diehard pumpkin spice junk food fanatics, these bad boys should be very close to, if not right up, your alley. There’s no nuanced flavor here – just pure, uncorrupted autumnal essence. I may have struggled with them, but the truth is that they’re nothing more and nothing less than what I’d imagined when I read the words “pumpkin,” “spice,” and “Hostess” together in one product description. Enjoy in moderation – and with moderate expectations – and they’re unlikely to disappoint.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 160 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 8 cakes
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Consistent Hostess quality. One box should last you a while. Limited edition seasonal foods are just plain old fun.
Cons: Likely too sweet and pumpkin spice-y for some. Easy to overindulge. Smells like a Yankee Candle.