I must admit, I’ve always felt like a bit of a traitor eating Twinkies. See, I grew up in the central Jersey/Philly region, and that’s Tastykake turf. If you’ve never heard of Tastykake, that just means you live outside the tri-state area — in the old days, the company refused to use preservatives, so their products could only be transported a certain distance before their shelf lives expired. (This is also why I never bought Tastykakes from vending machines, because seriously, who knows how long that shit’s been in there?) But as a kid, you don’t care about supporting local businesses or fighting the power — you care about eating the stuff you see on TV, especially if it’s shilled by Twinkie the Kid. So I ate plenty of Twinkies growing up, both of the regular (mmm) and light (pure, unadulterated taste abortion) varieties. But in all those years, I never had one that strayed from the vanilla creme standard. That’s about to change, as Hostess has released two new limited edition varieties of Twinkie, chocolate creme and strawberry creme. As part of my ongoing quest to never eat a fruit that isn’t apple, we’ll be taking a look at the former.
In contrast to Tastykakes, Twinkies are nothing but preservatives. If you stripped all the preservatives out of a Twinkie, you’d be left with a 1-inch ball of sponge cake. It would not surprise me to learn that these “limited edition” Twinkies were originally created to commemorate America€™s bicentennial; they just ended up with a lot sitting around the warehouse afterward, of which you and I are now the lucky recipients. Not that I care, mind you — no organic food purist I — but I thought it was worth mentioning. Really though, people eat Twinkies for nutritional value the same way they go to Hooters for great food at affordable prices. Let’s just tear into one of these things and see what’s what.
I don’t know if I got a bad batch or if I need to change the prescription on my rose-colored glasses, but the first bite of Twinkie was a huge let-down, and it didn’t improve much from there. Actually, I suspect it has nothing to do with nostalgia or improper packaging and everything to do with the filling. Let’s face it, you can get shitty sponge cake anywhere; what people buy Twinkies for is the creme filling. And as it turns out, there’s a good reason why Hostess uses the vanilla stuff. I had been laboring under the delusion that chocolate makes everything better, but consuming just one chocolate creme Twinkie showed me just how wrong I was. It’s my sad duty to report that while chocolate may make MOST things taste better, Twinkies are a tragic exception. It might just be the flavor combination — I like chocolate creme, I like sponge cake, but put them together and the flavors don’t mesh nearly as well as you’d expect. If a regular Twinkie is more than the sum of its parts, the chocolate creme Twinkie has to be considered far less.
That wasn’t my only beef… joking aside, these Twinkies might indeed have been produced during the Ford administration for how the sponge cake tasted. I remember Twinkies from my youth being soft and moist, but these were tougher — not totally stale, but on their way — and kind of dry. In fact, I’m pretty sure that even if these had had vanilla creme inside them, I still would’ve paused after the first bite to wonder if they’ve changed the way they make Twinkies in the last decade. If so, I urge Hostess to follow Pepsi’s lead — I want my Twinkies Throwback.
It’s a sad day for any of us when the cherished bits of our childhood are retooled to be more edgy or to have more mass appeal, only to end up sucking harder than letting your wife control the TV. (We meet again, One Tree Hill.) We’ve seen it happen with the Transformers and G.I. Joe, with Star Wars, with New Coke. Fortunately chocolate creme Twinkies are only limited edition, and Hostess has no plans to phase out the regular variety. That’s good news, and if I were you, I’d stick with the classic. Points for trying something different, but if you’re going to be ingesting that amount of sugar and carbs, you want it to be worth your while.
(Nutrition Facts — 1 cake — 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 220 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)
Item: Limited Edition Hostess Chocolate Creme Twinkies
Size: 8 cakes
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Tripping nostalgic. Being able to keep food on the shelf for longer than a week. Twinkie the Kid. Trying something new.
Cons: Bicentennial Twinkies. Finding out chocolate doesn’t make everything better. Dry sponge cake. The Transformers movies. “Something new” tasting gross. Brown filling in a Twinkie just looks… wrong.