It was 1999 when President Clinton placed a Twinkie into the American time capsule. The time capsule, designed in the shape of a waving American flag, would be opened again in 2100.
Twinkies made the national this-is-why-America-is-so-wonderful list. Who thought Twinkies were better than Hostess cupcakes?
Yet, from the first time the vanilla-cream centered Twinkies were unveiled during WWII, we have been a nation obsessed (they were originally introduced with banana cream filling in 1930, but a banana shortage forced the Twinkie team to get creative). In 2006, Ten Speed Press made us feel like we were back in a fifties kitchen when they published a recipe book filled with Twinkie-centric recipes, ranging from the strange (Pigs in a Twinkie—sounds adorable, but hell if I’m trying that) to the possibly delicious (Twinkie dessert lasagna).
Pig in a Twinkie, anyone? (I double-dog dare someone to eat this.)
Twinkies are so ingrained in the American food scene that when bankruptcy threatened to bring the Twinkie into extinction in 2012 (remember the panic?), boxes of the yellow sponge cakes were selling on eBay for upwards of $100 (they’re a steal now, selling for $13.29). One year later, the investment firm Metropoulos & Co. along with Apollo Global Management, dished out $410 million to save the nostalgic snacks.
1934 to 2014: Things have changed about America’s favorite snack cake. When James Dewar, mastermind behind the Twinkie, first put it on the shelves, it was made with real butter, eggs and milk. Whole ingredients! Real deliciousness! Alas, the trend couldn’t survive—boxes would only last two days on the shelves. The Twinkies of today can’t, despite urban legends, survive a nuclear attack. Or 101 years in a time capsule. Even with this cellophane wrapping, they lose their freshness after 25 days.
And then, in 2010, there came the Twinkie Diet. Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State, subsisted on Twinkies every three hours (along with Doritos and Little Debbie Snacks, for variety) for ten weeks…and dropped 27 lbs in the process. The Twinkie Diet. Otherwise known as Severe Calorie Restriction Likely to Make You Shun All Sweets Things After This Diet.
According to some Twinkie aficionados, the post-bankruptcy Twinkies are not so nostalgic. The sponge cake is no longer spongy, they report. And the cream no longer heavenly and sweet. I’ll stick to my Hostess cupcakes.
If you’re feeling iffy about the boxed version, or want to make your own version of Pigs in a Twinkie, you can find killer recipes here. Let’s see what bakers will come up with next.