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.

Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Ho Hos 2

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.

Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes 3

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.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts

Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts

“I just don’t know what’s wrong with me, Doc.”

She stared at me through horn-rimmed glasses. I’d seen the look before on psychologists, and knew I’d better continue.

“I just have no enthusiasm anymore. Worse yet, I’m completely ravenous. Nothing seems to satiate me.”

“Interesting. What have you been eating?”

“Eh, I guess the question is what haven’t I been eating. It’s fall, you know, and pumpkin spice is my jam. Actually it’s more like by butter, because I’ve never heard of pumpkin jam. But anyways…just this morning I stopped and picked up a bag on Hostess Donettes Pumpkin Spice Donuts.”

She blinked rapidly. “And tell me, how did those make you feel?”

I thought about it for a moment. I’d been anxious to pick them up; each glazed orange cake donut calling my name. I’d loved Donettes as a kid, and now that Hostess had built a pumpkin spice version, life seemed complete. Yet here I was, mere hours after mindlessly eating the entire bag, feeling so…incomplete.

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“Horrible,” I blurted out, the memories suddenly coming to the forefront of my mind. Then every lackluster pumpkin spice product I’d ever eaten entered my stream of conscious, overflowing in a river of confectioner’s sugar glaze and a mere trace (trace, mind you) of cinnamon. I’d been holding the memories back, repressing the thoughts of pumpkin spice rolls that tasted instead of Twinkies and pumpkin spice M&M’s that tasted of, well, M&M’s.

“That’s what I thought,” she said. “I’ve seen the case many times, with increasing frequency. What you seem to have is MPSFS”

“Misspsfs? Say what?”

“MPSFS. Mediocre Pumpkin Spice Fatigue Syndrome. Tell me, were cinnamon, ginger, and allspice listed in the ingredients of these donuts? How about pumpkin puree?”

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I thought back to the ingredient list, remembering I had seen cinnamon and pumpkin. But then I remembered where they were listed. The dreaded “less than 2%” section, with pumpkin puree coming in dead last, even behind “Blue 2 Lake.” I kid you not, you can’t make this stuff up.

I hung my head in disappointment, more memories materializing. Each donut had the presence of cinnamon, but nothing more. Something between just the aroma and a slight taste of something slightly spicy, the cinnamon flavor had been fake and one-note, like a Red Hot candy without the heat. No other spices rounded it out, and despite the orange hue, pumpkin had never registered on my taste buds. (Thankfully, neither had Blue Lake 2.) A decent packaged donut, cloying glaze and all, but nothing more.

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I looked back up at the doc, my eyes beginning to water up in shame. How could I have been so duped? And by Hostess, no less!

She must have noticed my shame, saying, “There’s a cure, you know. But you’ll have to give up cheap imitations of pumpkin spice—including the Donettes.”

That was fine by me. After the Donettes, I was ready to leave anything pumpkin spice behind, even the memories of great pumpkin spice products. I got up to leave, ready to embrace whatever it is people embrace when they decide to forsake an entire season’s worth of flavors. That’s when she stopped me.

“You’ll find something someday that will remind you of why you love pumpkin spice. Don’t let a few bad apples, um, pumpkins, ruin what pumpkin spice should be.”

With that I smiled, knowing lackluster Donettes couldn’t be the last word on pumpkin spice.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 mini donuts – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein..)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts
Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 10.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Light crumb and cakey interior. Crispy, sweet glaze. Possible dual use as an air freshener.
Cons: Overly artificial “fall spice” flavor. Cloyingly sweet. Too dry to be a really good cake donut, but not airy like a yeast donut. A lifetime of repressed pumpkin spice disappointment.