Tasteful Inventions: Tweaking Twinkies

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tweaking Twinkies

Happy Birthday Twinkies

During a time in American history when sharing and "making do" were a way of life it's difficult for the present generation to fully understand the true impact of the "Great Depression." Yet, even during the depression many foods were invented or introduced. Take Twinkies for example. Twinkies were the brain child of James Dewar who baked up the idea on April 6, 1930. One can only imagine what it must have been like to live during a time when raisins were a nickel, double dip ice cream cones were a nickel and a two pack of Twinkies was 5 cents but few had a wooden nickel.

The inspiration for those spongy golden cream filled cakes fell upon James Dewar when he noticed that the pans used to make shortcakes at the Continental Bakeries (where he was plant manager) were only used during strawberry season. These were times of only the bare necessities when bread lines and soup kitchens distributed food for the masses. Dewar figured he needed to be more productive and put all items to good use. What could he do with those pans? The notion of a two-to-a pack snack for a nickel fell into place once he realized he could inject the little cakes with a cream filling and make them a year round product. The first "Little Shortcake Fingers" to roll off the Continental Bakeries assembly line contained a banana cream filling, but the banana cream filling was later replaced with vanilla cream because during WWII, there was a shortage of bananas in the US. Originally, James Dewar gave his new product the name "Little Shortcake Fingers," some say, they were later called "Twinkie Fingers" after Dewar saw a billboard advertisement toting "Home of Twinkle Toe Shoes" while on a trip to St. Louis. Later, James Dewar shortened the name to Twinkies. Presently, Hostess may be "producing" banana creme Twinkies. (I don't know for sure as I haven't had a Twinkie in ages:) Here's an excerpt from Slashfood.
Fans of limited-edition banana-creme Twinkies rejoice! Hostess resumed selling the lightly banana-flavored treats last week and plans to keep them around.

Howdy Twinkie

It's Howdy Doody time! Nearly all classic processed food offers some sort of comfort. Why? I don't suppose anyone really knows. In her book Top Sellers USA, Molly Wade McGrath has this to say about the decadent popularity of Twinkies.
The cakes were popular and became more so in the fifties when Hostess co-sponsored the popular Howdy Doody show. While Clarabell the clown distributed the cakes to the children, Buffalo Bob sang praise for the benefit of at home viewers. Twinkie the Kid the cowboy snack cake character, pitched Twinkies to the next generation of youngsters and still can be found handing out free samples at parades, fairs, sports events, and other festive functions.
With hundreds of thousands of children in the television viewing audience glued to their TV sets at 5:30 p.m. weekdays, each show opened with Buffalo Bob asking — "Hey, kids, what time is it?" The children in the studio audience "peanut gallery" responded in unison, "It’s Howdy Doody time!" Buffalo Bob Smith did commercials for Wonder Bread, Campbell Soup, Hostess Twinkies and other sponsors that were new to television; which taught marketers the strength of marketing to children. Twinkie the Kid the yellow, anthropomorphized Twinkie appearing as a wrangler who carries a lasso and wears boots, gloves, a kerchief, and a ten-gallon hat was introduced around 1971. He remains the mascot for Twinkies. Twinkie the Kid has appeared on product packaging, in commercials, and as collectible related merchandise.

Super Twink!

Do you have a Twinkie in your lunch pail? The sales of those little short cake fingers still continue to soar. They have also squeezed their way into the history of pop culture for years to come. From Superman (who celebrated his 50th birthday with a Twinkie cake) to Archie Bunker who "never went out without a Twinkie in his lunch pail" Twinkies rule!
In the 1970s, comic strips featured Batman, Wonder Woman, and other super heroes using Hostess cakes and pies to fight villians...The popular treats were featured in several big hit films, including Ghostbusters, Grease, Sleepless in Seattle and Die Hard. Who can forget Sergeant Al Powell in Die Hard buying an armload of Twinkies, telling the store clerk they were for his pregnant wife? PDF source

Twinkie Recipes

There's much ado about the food properties of a Twinkie. To most Twinkie die-hard fans, the ingredients don't really matter. They just taste sooooo goood. Between 1949 and 1959, chemists came up with more than 400 additives to help foods survive increasingly complex mass production techniques. During the early 60's, the ingredients used to make Twinkies were changed. No longer was an actual dairy cream filling used. Instead, the filling became dairy free (longer shelf life I suppose). I have tried to gather a few recipes for those who would prefer to indulge in what may be a healthy alternative and I have also included the Hostess website for ideas for using Twinkies in recipes. As an added bonus, there's a wonderful tale of the history of Twinkies at the Cakespy blog titled Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star: The Story of a Lunchbox Icon which is most interesting and also rewarding especially for anyone looking for a Vegan or homemade Twinkie choice. Enjoy!


  1. Top Sellers USA by Molly Wade McGrath (1983) pgs. 155-156
  2. Logo image for Twinkie the Kid, harvested from wikipedia property of the Hostess and Interstate Bakeries Corporations.
  3. "T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. is a series of experiments conducted during finals week, at Rice University. The tests were designed to determine the properties of that incredible food, the Twinkie". (kid safe:)
1. The Twinkie: Ingredients Revealed (Warning: you may not want to read this:)
2. 1930's Food @ The Food Timeline
3. Foodways in Rural America during the Great Depression
4. The Mysterious Cupcake