REVIEW: Hostess Limited Time Only Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes

Hostess Limited Time Only Sea Salt Caramel Cup Cakes

Is this what Captain Cupcake died for?

For the unaware or forgetful, Captain Cupcake was just one of Hostess’ many attempts from the ’70s and ’80s to follow up on Twinkie the Kid’s popularity and anthropomorphize all of their sweet treats. A mustachioed “cap-cake,” the good captain defended his fellow cream-filled treats from all manner of cartoon peril.

But now…he’s dead. Yes, while “the Kid” lives on, Captain Cupcake has faded into obscurity, along with Happy Ho Ho, Fruit Pie the Magician, and others. And without him to protect the proud chocolate legacy of the Hostess Cupcake, the treats have met with the worst peril of all: buzzwords.

We should have seen it coming when Hostess released Strawberry Cupcakes back in 2011. But no, we shrugged it off as “just a phase.” But then came Red Velvet Cupcakes earlier this year, and suddenly we knew that the “flavor of the month” bandwagon had snatched our darling Cupcakes for good. That’s why it was no surprise to see these new Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes hit shelves: the squiggled snack we once munched with integrity had become…one of them. We’re sorry, Captain Cupcake. We’ve failed you.

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But as Mark Twain, the inspiration for the short-lived “Hostess Twainkie,” once wrote: “don’t judge a cake by its wrapper.” (Note: none of that actually happened.) So I’ll go in unbiased. Removing the diminutive cake (are they getting smaller, or am I just getting older?) from its plastic prison, the strong scent of processed cake and caramel hits harder than an industrial salt truck. You know your grandma’s bowl of dusty Werther’s caramel candy that hasn’t been touched since Eisenhower’s presidency? These cakes smell like those did back in their glory days.

The box describes them as “caramel iced yellow cake with sea salt topping and caramel cream filling.” To examine all these new features, I split my cake like a frog in 5th-grade biology class (appetizing, no?). The first half was to be used for rigid, scientific analysis. The other…for unceremoniously stuffing in my cake-hole.

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The yellow cake is like a more dense Twinkie: sticky, sweet, and a little buttery, but plain enough to provide a neutral playing field for the cake’s other features. Eaten alone, the light mahogany icing is a bit too cloying, the slight flavor—which was more butterscotch than caramel—was marred by the overbearing punch of saccharine. The small, salty granules sprinkled throughout also carry very little taste on their own; their impact was so little that I wondered whether they were purely decorative.

Instead, it is the cream that is the hero here. Colored like normal cream that someone scribbled on with a Burnt Sienna Crayola crayon, it mixes that quintessential “Hostess cream” whipped vanilla flavor with an earthy, rich caramel one to make something unique.

But this cake really is a sum of its parts. Optimistically stuffing the other half in my mouth, what came next was nothing short of Shakespearean. With the sponge cake acting as the stage, the sweet frosting and savory saltiness (eating many grains makes the salt flavor actually noticeable) battled for supremacy, until the peacekeeping caramel creme unified them to produce a balanced snack cake experience that was complex and true to the salted caramel name.

I take back all I said before. Captain Cupcake isn’t rolling over in his grave; he’s saluting! And, oh, what’s that? I think I can hear the Captain’s voice echoing from the great beyond:

“Just…stop them…before they make…Sriracha Cupcakes.”

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cupcake – 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes
Purchased Price: $2.96
Size: 12.7 oz. box (8 cakes)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Balanced and salty-sweet when eaten together. Inventive cream. Well-choreographed snack cake theatre. Youthful Werther’s candy.
Cons: Overbearing icing. Underwhelming granules. Perceived snack cake shrinkage. Dissection metaphors. Mourning Captain Cupcake.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Red Velvet CupCakes

Hostess Limited Edition Red Velvet Cup Cakes

Now that both Christmas and New Year’s Eve have passed, it’s time to start planning for the next holiday: Valentine’s Day. This February 14, I got me a hot date with a box of Hostess Red Velvet CupCakes and back-to-back viewings of Road House. Perks of the single life.

Nah, I’m just kidding. I have a girlfriend, and she ain’t too crazy about Swayze. She’ll probably force me to watch The Notebook. At least I’ll have these red velvet cupcakes to keep me company while I suffer through lumberjack Ryan Gosling sucking Rachel McAdams’ face in the rain.

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The limited edition Red Velvet CupCakes are a spin on Hostess’ signature chocolate cupcakes — those ubiquitous, cream-filled treats decorated with a white swirl. The cakes are made of a red velvet base, topped with frosting, and filled with a cream center, all in an appropriate Valentine’s Day color scheme.

It only took a single bite for the disappointment to set in.

With regard to flavor, these red velvet cupcakes feel like a weak imitation of their chocolate counterparts. The sugary cream filling tastes identical, but the red velvet base and frosting offer only the slightest hint of chocolate. As a whole, the red velvet cupcake seems to highlight the flavor of the cream filling. Whereas the chocolate in the original cupcake masked many of the Hostess cake’s imperfections, the lighter red velvet cupcake emphasizes these flaws. The result is one unfulfilling snack: a dense, greasy cupcake with a one-dimensional sweetness.

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These cupcakes are boring and uninspired, and I honestly expected more from such a prominent brand. I’m well aware that red velvet cake is simply chocolate cake dyed red, but Hostess had the potential to be a bit more creative. Why not try a cream cheese frosting? Instead, we’ve been given a generic sugar frosting.

Hostess’ Red Velvet CupCakes bring nothing to the table aside from restrained flavors and a color swap — both pointless modifications to the staple chocolate cupcake. (Not literal staples. It’s never a good idea to mix office supplies and desserts. I discovered this the hard way, after my infamous Paperclip Tiramisu sent five people to the hospital for stomach surgery.)

They’re not unbearable. I just see no reason to buy these in favor of Hostess’ chocolate cupcakes, which are clearly the superior snack cakes.

This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to forego these cupcakes and spend your money elsewhere. May I recommend a DVD copy of Road House?

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 170 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Red Velvet CupCakes
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 8 cakes/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Taste like imitation Hostess chocolate cupcakes.
Cons: Lighter flavor highlights the flaws of Hostess’ cakes. Uninspired color change. Generic frosting, not cream cheese flavored. Paperclip Tiramisu.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Cherry Chocodile Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Cherry Flavored Chocodile Twinkies

Dear Hostess,

I would like to commend your recent decision to revive Chocodiles, those chocolate-coated, cream-filled sponge cakes. Their reappearance was honestly the most surprising comeback of something dead since Hologram Tupac did a little dance at Coachella. Kids these days, am I right?

But alas, all is not right with the world. Though our precious chocolate-covered Twinkies have returned, the beloved mascot of Chocodile snack cakes, Chauncey Chocodile, remains missing. Many years ago, you chose to remove his image from both Chocodiles boxes and the Hostess website, and he hasn’t been seen since. Without a goofy, spectacles-wearing, anthropomorphic crocodile encouraging the American youth to consume sugary treats, we are lost.

Where is Chauncey? Is he locked away in some Hostess factory basement, surviving on a diet of Zingers and stale fruit pies? Is his disappearance a result of witness protection, having seen countless victims fall to the gun-slinging Twinkie the Kid? Rumors have spread that Chauncey’s been spotted smuggling Ho Hos into North Korea alongside Captain Cupcake and King Ding Dong, but I have my doubts — everybody knows Kim Jong Un prefers Little Debbie products.

Hoping to discover a clue related to his disappearance, I recently purchased a package of Limited Edition Cherry Chocodile Twinkies. To my disappointment, I found no hostage letters inside. The box only held nine chocolate-covered sponge cakes filled with cherry-flavored cream.

Though my quest for answers will not be smothered by snack foods made with hydrogenated oil and xanthan gum, I decided to eat the cakes anyway.

Chauncey’s catchphrase was “it takes a while to eat a Chocodile,” but I’m afraid I have to disagree. Each cake is a meager 1.45 ounces, whereas the original Chocodiles were 2 ounces. Even so, I can’t decry the portion size. The snack cakes are so sugary sweet that 1.45 ounces is plenty.

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I expected the cherry flavor to be exaggerated, with a cough syrup-like sharpness, but it was surprisingly subtle. Each bite contained an ample amount of the cherry filling, which offers a creaminess reminding me of cherry-flavored buttercream. The fruity filling feels natural alongside the chocolate and sponge cake flavors of a traditional Chocodile.

Cherry and chocolate is one flavor pairing that just works, and Cherry Chocodiles are no exception to the rule. Chauncey would be impressed.

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My only complaint is that the chocolate feels low quality. As a previous review mentioned, the Chocodile chocolate glaze is somewhat waxy. After consuming just a single Chocodile, I felt the chocolate clinging to the back of my throat in a disagreeable fashion. Hostess, once you take care of this Chauncey Chocodile issue, you should probably get to work on improving your chocolate.

Ah, crap. I’ve digressed a bit. Anyway, back to my main point.

I beseech you, Hostess. Prove to the public you have nothing to hide and disclose the whereabouts of Chauncey Chocodile. It’s time for his visage to once again adorn the boxes of Chocodiles lining the aisles of my local gas station convenience store.

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

PS – I expect to see a hologram Chauncey take the stage with Dre and Snoop at the next Coachella. Just sayin’.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 160 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Cherry Chocodile Twinkies
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Ample filling in each bite. Subtle, creamy cherry flavor. Cherry and chocolate pairing works. Hologram Tupac.
Cons: Waxy chocolate clings to back of throat. The unexplained disappearance of a Hostess mascot.

REVIEW: Hostess Chocodile Twinkies

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies

I am an animal.

An animal with all the habits, flaws, and self-imposed delusions that accompany being a carbon-constructed mammal with opposable thumbs, and thus I found myself appreciating all these animal traits as I put those opposable thumbs in my special lunchtime skill: ripping open the cellophane wrapper of a snack cake.

I’ve eaten enough Ding-Dongs, Yodels, and other snack-cakes-with-onomatopoeic-names to fill the pages of a small comic book series. Needless to say, I was celebratory in discovering that Hostess’s former West Coast exclusive, the Chocodile, had been reintroduced and expanded its horizons, migrating to shelves around all around this fine country. If you, like me, find yourself clawing for the Zingers and Sno-balls, shaking the vending machine for that last pack of Zebra Cakes, that one Oatmeal Crème Pie, come, fellow snacker, and we shall delve into plastic-wrapped horizons.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Chocodile in its natural habitat

I can think of 12 good reasons why a miniature oblong cake is better than a cupcake. One is that you are now equipped with a contextually sensible way to use “oblong” in a sentence. Another is that the cake specimen has equal frosting distribution. In a cupcake, there’s often a glob of frosting, pillowing at the top. Even worse, sometimes, you even have to play favorites: do I want the cupcake with the sprinkles or the one with the fancy frosting ribbon on top? Then, you have to fight for the one you want before someone else gets it (“Get away! That’s my frosting ribbon!”).

Here, not so much. Every cake is the same. Not only do you get a glaze of chocolatey something enveloping your cake in an even layer, but you also get crème filling all the way through. There’s no overwhelming decision-making. No “perfect ratio.” No, “Should I go for the middle first, or save the middle bite for last while sacrificing my fingers as they’re trying to work around the edges so I can save the pile of frosting?” None of that. It’s equally massive poofs of frosting. All day. All the time.

Needless to say, I’m excited. Just crackling open that thin plastic wrapper is enough to take me back to the days of elementary school cafeterias and Chuck E. Cheese Birthday cakes.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Chocodile doppelganger

And the first few bites were pretty good, but as I continued, the magic descended at madcap speed. It was the chocolate that started it all. Tasting of burnt cocoa and stubby crayons, that shiny mahogany glaze seems as though it might be better suited melted down and repurposed as a wax celebrity at Madame Tussaud’s. There was perhaps a hint of cocoa in there, but, on the whole, it had all the excitement of candle drippings, old raisins, and Sad.

The saving grace came in the crème filling. Like the classic Twinkie, this crème is poofy and tastes of Betty Crocker frosting that’s been pummeled into a Marshmallow Fluff machine. Or Marshmallow Fluff that’s been pummeled into a Betty Crocker frosting machine. Either way, there’s definitely sugar in celebratory abundance. While made of questionable ingredients, I could scoop this with my paw and eat it like a Pooh bear.

But not even those sweet hydrogenated poofs can save the cake. While I enjoy traditional Twinkies for their spongy, slightly oily character and fake vanilla-y flavor, this thing was like eating a loofa. A dry, unflavored loofa. The crème gave it the sugar it needed to upgrade its taste to that of a stale, dry doughnette, but, overall, that Loofa Cake combined with a raisin-wood-wax coating? No bueno.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Quick Batman, get some milk for that loofa cake!

I wish I could glorify these Chocodiles. I love weird finger cakes. Snarfing a double-snack-pack is my special lunchtime skill. I may have ordered a case of expired Twinkies 8 months after Hostess shut down (Moldy Twinkies, people. Moldy. Twinkies.). So I’d really like to give these a sparkling grade. But I just can’t. Sure, the crème was good, but…loofa cake. Waxy coating. To say it lived up to its Hostess brethren would be a lie. Lies are no good for you. No good for me. However, let me take note that these are not inedible, and, in fact, are far better than other experiences I could imagine in my life, such as perpetual B.O. or death by toilet paper.

So if you like loofa cake, stale doughnettes, and things that are marginally better than death by 2-ply, go for it. Otherwise, I’d approach with a wary step.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Chocodile Twinkies
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Met Foods
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Even frosting distribution. Good crème-to-cake ratio. Poofy, sugary crème. Wrapper is excellent way to exercise your opposable thumbs. Better than death by toilet paper.
Cons: Loofa Cake. Waxy-woodsy coating. The fight for the frosting ribbon. Madame Tussaud’s. Wrestling matches with vending machines. Elementary school cafeterias.

NEWS: Hostess’ Frosted Devil’s Food Cake Donettes Could Be The Yin To Their White Powdered Donettes Yang

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It looks like Hostess is trying to be a temptress with their new Frosted Devil’s Food Cake Donettes.

Personally, I’ve never understood the appeal of devil’s food cake. Perhaps this is because I’ve never been able to tell the difference between it and regular chocolate cake. My guess is that my tongue is so pure and innocent that it rejects the flavor of any devil’s food cake. Or maybe my tongue has been in too many places where it shouldn’t have been which has caused it to lose its ability to distinguish nuances between flavors.

The Hostess Frosted Devil’s Food Cake Donettes are simply mini devil’s food cake donuts dipped in a chocolate-flavored coating. They join the white powdered and chocolate coated mini donuts in the Donettes line.

The Hostess Frosted Devil’s Food Cake Donettes are available now and come in four sizes: 10.5-ounce Dunkie Bags, 11.25-ounce Dunkie Bags, 12.2-ounce Sweet Sixteen Dunkie Bags, and 3-ounce single serve sleeves.