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Home Plate: Twinkies and Ring Dings straight from your oven

Ring-dings and twinkies.

Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

Ring-dings and twinkies. Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

The news that Hostess is going under fills me with the strangest mix of nostalgia and schadenfreude. What middle-aged American doesn’t have fond childhood memories of those cellophane-wrapped treats? At the same time, what food-lover doesn’t cringe at the knowledge that those treats are more a product of the chemist’s lab than the baker’s oven?

Truth is, Twinkies and Ding Dongs taste better in memory than in actuality. That said, both items are classics in concept: sponge cake with whipped cream and devil’s food cake with whipped cream and chocolate glaze. What’s not to like?

So rather than mourn the demise of Hostess, why not make your own superior versions of their treats?

Here are two recipes to start with.

And should you find all the mold-making and cake-round cutting too time-consuming (it is), use the recipes to make 2 larger cake rounds, instead, and simply slather on the cream filling with a spatula.

In winter, a sauce made from frozen raspberries would be a great accompaniment to the sponge cake with cream; in summer, serve it with fresh berries.

Faux Twinkies

For the molds:

heavy-duty, 18-inch-wide tinfoil

a spice bottle or toilet paper roll

4 tablespoons melted butter, plus flour for sprinkling, or nonstick baking spray

For the sponge cake:

6 eggs, at room temperature

grated rind of 1 orange or lemon

1∕4 teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons vanilla

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1∕2 cup cornstarch

For the cream filling:

1½ cups Marshmallow Fluff

1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream

Make the molds by tearing off a sheet of foil about 24 inches long. Fold it in thirds so that it is three layers thick and eight inches long. Use a ruler to mark the foil in five equal parts 8 inches long and a little more than 3½ inches wide and then cut out the marked strips.

Repeat this step twice more so that you have 15 3-layer strips.

Working with one 3-layer strip at a time, curve the foil the long way around the spice bottle or toilet paper roll, folding over the ends to create a Twinkie-shaped mold. Repeat with all 15 strips.

Brush the interior of each mold well with melted butter, turning it bottom side up when brushed so the butter doesn’t pool in the bottom of the mold. When all the molds have been buttered, sprinkle the molds with flour to lightly coat the butter, shaking the molds to distribute the flour evenly. Alternatively, you may spray the molds with nonstick baking spray (though the butter does add some flavor to the cakes and is preferable).

Arrange the molds on a baking sheet, packing them lightly together so they remain upright, and set aside in a cool place while you make the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the batter, combine the eggs, grated rind, salt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip with the whisk attachment until frothy. Gradually add the sugar, then turn the mixer to high and whip until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour and cornstarch. When the eggs have tripled in volume, sprinkle about 1∕3 of the flour mixture over them, folding it into the eggs gently but quickly with a whisk, about 5 or 6 strokes. Fold in 1∕3 more of the flour mixture in the same manner, trying not to deflate the eggs, and then finish by folding in the last 1∕3 of the flour mixture.

The easiest way to fill the molds is to put as much batter as will fit into a pastry bag or a heavy duty plastic bag with one corner cut out, and pipe it into them, filling the molds about 3∕4 full, and refilling the bag with batter as needed. You may also spoon the batter into the molds. Place them on a sheet tray so the filled molds support one another.

Bake the cakes for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the tray once so they brown evenly. They are done when they are golden brown, they spring back a bit when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into a cake comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool for a minute, then turn them over onto a parchment-lined cooling rack, leaving the cakes in their molds. Allowing them to cool in their inverted molds will help the cakes keep their shape.

While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. Put the Marshmallow Fluff in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip for a minute or so to break it up. Add the cold cream and stir slowly to incorporate it with the Fluff. Gradually turn up the speed of the mixer until the cream begins to whip and stiffen. Continue whipping until the mixture becomes homogenous and as thick as a fairly stiff whipped cream.

To fill the cakes, place the cream in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round or star tip. Pierce the end of one of the cakes with the tip and squeeze the cream into it until it begins to come back out of the cake. Do the same thing several times along the underside of the cake and at the opposite end, trying to get the cake to take in as much cream as possible. Repeat with all the cakes. You may have some cream left, which you can use for something else or serve on the side.

If not serving immediately, place the cakes in a container with a lid that seals tightly and refrigerate for a day or two.

Makes 15.

Raspberry-Coconut Variation

15 filled Faux Twinkies

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

juice from 1 lemon or half an orange, strained

2 cups coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened)

Combine the jam and juice in either a small bowl (if microwaving) or a small saucepan (if heating on stove top). Melt the mixture by microwaving it for 20 to 30 seconds, or in the saucepan over low heat.

Working with one cake at a time, use a pastry brush to coat it with the melted jam mixture, and then immediately roll it in coconut flakes. Repeat with the remaining cakes.

The white curlicue decoration shown on these cakes actually adorns Hostess Cupcakes, not Ding Dongs (better known as Ring Dings to those of us who grew up in the Northeast), which have no decoration, but lots more chocolate frosting. I like both the curlicue and lots of chocolate frosting, hence the mashup.

But if you are a traditionalist, feel free to use the batter to make cupcakes rather than a sheet-cake, and fill them through the bottom of the cupcake with a pastry bag, using the method described in the Faux Twinkies recipe.

Faux Ring Dings

For the cakes:

butter and cocoa powder for coating the baking sheet, or nonstick baking spray

1 cup hot coffee

1∕2 cup good quality cocoa powder (preferably dutch process), sifted

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon baking soda

1∕2 teaspoon baking powder

1∕2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cups flour, sifted

Cream Filling (see Faux Twinkie recipe, above)

For the chocolate glaze:

1½ sticks unsalted butter

9 ounces good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 9 ounces good quality chocolate chips (Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chips work well)

1½ tablespoons corn syrup

For the curlicue:

Royal Icing (see below) or a small amount of melted white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a half sheet (13 inches by 18 inches), line it with parchment paper, then butter the parchment and sprinkle it with cocoa powder, shaking the pan so it is evenly coated.

Alternatively, you may spray the pan with nonstick baking spray, line it with parchment and spray the parchment as well. Set the pan aside.

Whisk together the coffee and cocoa in a small bowl and set aside (this allows the cocoa powder to “bloom,” bringing out its full flavor).

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle until softened.

Add the sugar and continue beating for a few minutes until the mixture has lightened up.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely combined before adding the second egg. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Add the flour to the butter mixture in thirds, mixing well after each addition. When the mixture is homogenous, add about 1∕3 of the coffee-cocoa mixture, and mix on a slow speed until most of it has mixed in, then add the remainder of the liquid and mix slowly until the batter is homogenous.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake the pan a little until the batter is evenly distributed.

Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, turning once so the cake bakes evenly. The cake is done when it springs back a bit when touched in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the glaze.

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave for about 1 minute.

Stir the mixture to melt the pieces of chocolate; you may need to microwave again briefly.

When the chocolate and butter have been combined into a homogenous mixture, add the corn syrup and stir well. Set aside to cool a little.

Meanwhile, use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut 24 circles of cake out of the half sheet (freeze the remaining cake scraps in a tightly sealed plastic bag for a later use – they are wonderful on ice cream or can be used as the base of a trifle).

Pipe an even layer of cream filling over 12 of the cake rounds using a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (or spread it on with a small knife), then top the cream filling with a second round of cake.

You will have more than enough cream, which can be reserved for another use or served on the side.

Coat the top and sides of the cream-filled cakes with the chocolate glaze. When the glaze is set, add a curlicue to the top of each cake, if desired, using Royal Icing (mix about 1∕2 cup sifted confectioners sugar with about a teaspoon of milk and a teaspoon of corn syrup, adding a little more sugar or liquid if necessary until you get a fairly thick, homogenous mixture). You may also use a little melted white chocolate. In either case, pipe the curlicue using a cornet (a triangle of parchment, wrapped into a horn shape).

If not serving immediately, place the cakes in a container with a lid that seals tightly and refrigerate for a day or two.

Makes 12.

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