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.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Banana Split Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Banana Split Twinkies

As the great poetic lyricist Gwen Stefani once soulfully crooned: “This s*** is bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S.”

And if any one song lyric best encapsulates the essence of these new Hostess Banana Split Twinkies, it’s that one. Because even though their appearance is remarkably fecal, beneath that waxy brown exterior is a surprisingly delightful banana treat. In fact, perhaps “Bananaphone” by the legendary symphonist Raffi is a more fitting track, because once you try these, you’ll want to get on the phone and tell your friends.

Sporting a blinding yellow box, a product photo that hypnotically radiates a white aura, and a guest appearance by those seemingly omnipresent Minions (we get it: they like bananas), Hostess is firing on all sensory cylinders in order to make you buy this product.

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The box describes the Twinkies as “frosted cake with artificially flavored strawberry topping and banana creme filling.” The idea of Banana Creme Twinkies and Chocodiles having a sugary love-child is enough to draw me in, but the unique strawberry kicker makes these even more interesting. To paraphrase DiCaprio: “Hostess, you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.”

Since these are Banana Split Twinkies, there was no better way for me to eat one than to cleave it in twain vertically and observe its many layers like a spongy version of one of those Star Wars cross-section books.

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Beneath the chocolate crust of Planet Twinkie lies a thin jam layer with a few sporadically spaced, strangely square strawberry land mines. After these is a sponge cake mantle which guards the tempting pale yellow creme core. Ready your best Brendan Fraser impression, kids; we’re journeying to the center of the Twinkie.

The fragile chocolate coating’s flavor is far from distinct: heavy on the generic, cloying sugar taste and light on any real cocoa richness. Yet, I find myself okay with this because the chocolate simply isn’t meant to be the star of the show. The same goes for the rare strawberry clusters, which provide little more than a slight fruity burst and an interesting textural contrast. The golden cake section is doughy and dense, yet tame; like the vanilla ice cream it is meant to imitate, it exists only to provide a springboard for the creme center to perform its tasty alley-oop.

Because, as with many of Hostess’ new products, the creme makes the cake. Despite the artificial flavorings, it’s impressive how authentic the banana taste was. If I were to score the realism of the creme on my patented “Bananometer” (try spelling that, Gwen), which ranges from “Banana Laffy Taffy” to “uhh, that’s an actual banana,” it would land closer to the latter.

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Eaten all together, I can earnestly say this cake does taste like a banana split. Like a good glass of wine with cheese or an Exodia deck in Yu-Gi-Oh, the parts work together to unlock each other’s true potential. With the banana flavor rightfully dominating, the strawberry nodules explode and support it with an appreciated bit of tartness, while the chocolate and sponge cake compliment the fruity sweetness with a buttery one. If you’re in the mood for a banana split, but not the work that comes with it, just pop one of these in the freezer, and you won’t be disappointed.

Somewhere, deep within a Hostess laboratory, is a team of flavor scientists who labored endlessly to perfect this flavor balance, and I give them praise. Bravo to you, certified “Bananologists.”

(My apologies again to Ms. Stefani.)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Banana Split Twinkies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a banana split. Balanced hierarchy of flavors. Satisfactory Bananometer results. Illegitimate snack cake children. Raffi.
Cons: Sporadic strawberry usage. Probably won’t win over banana haters. “Crappy” first impressions. Market over-saturation of Minions. Banana Laffy Taffy.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich

Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich

Implementing the mechanics of a sandwich to hold ice cream in your grubby hands and shoving it into your body at the rate of an intravenous drip is something like harnessing sugary fusion.

This makes the ice cream sandwich something of a king in the category of “desserts inspired by other foods.” Personally, it ranks above the Choco Taco, the Pizookie, Twizzlers (dessert spaghetti), and the churro (dessert hot dog). Carl’s Jr. has trotted out the Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich for a try and it proves to be a pleasant if not slightly sticky experience.

What’s interesting is that straight up ice cream is sort of a rarity in fast food. There are shakes and soft serve and Frostys and Blizzards (oh my), but as far as a straight up scoop, I’m hard pressed to think of that many options. Carl’s Jr. had that Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich I never tried. Baskin-Robbins and Carvel are only for freaks on first dates that need a place to walk to and families with unbearable children. This ice cream sandwich itches that scratch of a dense, slightly-chewy scoop of frozen goodness.

The Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich is smaller than you might think. Two Hostess Ding Dongs—actual size Ding Dongs, which are tiny—flank a relatively thick scoop of vanilla ice cream. The entire affair could probably squeeze inside a tennis ball. Then Serena Williams could serve them right into my mouth at 100 mph! Mmm, vanilla, chocolate and… sprinkles? Nope, those are broken teeth.

Ding Dongs, for those previously unacquainted, are chocolate cake pucks enveloped in a thin layer of chocolate. They do a gracious job of housing the ice cream, though the chocolate is a bit sticky. Maybe that’s something that’s insurmountable. We could have had unsticky chocolate by now but haters protested pink slime and the stuff that goes in yoga mats. Those were my favorite foods. Wednesday night is pot roast night and Thursday night was yoga mat and pink slime night. The hardened chocolate on the Ding Dong also offers a slight textural diversity to the sandwich, which is delightfully squishy on the whole.

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The ice cream is fairly regular. It’s inoffensive and tastes a little bit like a typical supermarket variety. The vanilla flavor is minor and dissipates quickly—this is not Carl’s Jr. staging an ice cream revolution. The dense ice cream pairs well with the (also pretty dense) chocolate cake, yet both together are so sweet that, about halfway through, there is a bit of sugar fatigue. However, I believe this happens with most ice cream things anyway, and speaks to the benefit of the smaller size of the product. There also isn’t much interplay between the flavors—the Ding Dongs are just there to get the ice cream in yo’ mouf.

The construction is a bit awkward, as the Ding Dongs are smaller than the scoop of ice cream. It took a bit of maneuvering to finish the sandwich without getting ice cream everywhere, especially when applying a small amount of pressure while eating it causes the ice cream to spill out a bit. It’s not a too bad of an inconvenience, though, and it’s worth it, like taking a girl taller than you to prom.

The Ding Dong ice cream sandwich is a nice changeup from the soupy shakes and air-filled soft serve cones on the fast food market. It’s not that different from any other ice cream sandwich that you might find in the frozen food aisle, but even a mediocre king is still a king.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 290 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 grams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Actual ice cream fix. Pleasant all-around experience.
Cons: Ice cream is fairly regular. Ding Dongs seems supplementary, not integral to product. Still sticky.

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.