Introduction: Homemade Twinkie Challenge

We tried four distinct homemade Twinkie recipes to see which would reign supreme in a blind taste test.  Which Twinkie recipe will be your favorite?  Which recipe won the favor of the masses in a blind taste test?  Read on to find out what was decided in the Instructables Test Kitchen Homemade Twinkie Challenge!

 

A Note:
This Instructable is organized in a slightly unusual way.  In order to maximize our time together and minimize needless repetition, I’ve provided you with technique first, and recipes second.  Learn the techniques you need, and you can apply them to any and all of the recipes you see below.


yes, there are five twinkie cakes and I have only provided four recipes.  the fifth was a variation on the second, only doubling the flour content.  not a good idea.

Step 1: Getting to Know the Enemy

First we dissected a commercial Twinkie so we would know what we were up against.  Sure, you may think you know a Twinkie inside and out - aaaaand you'd probably be right. 

But I wanted to do it anyway.  Wouldn't you?  For the sake of science?

So we got a scientist.  And a knife.  And this is what happened.

Step 2: Making the Twinkie Molds


The trick for making a Twinkie mold is quite simple, and easy to get the hang of.  Don't waste your  money on fancy Twinkie making kits (which I understand do exist).  And if you're making Twinkies for the legions, I recommend making the half-sized molds that I used.  In fact, just do it that way.   You don't need to be eating that much Twinkie!  Then you can have two.

Cut a bunch of 9" sheets of aluminum foil (enough to suit the recipe you're using).
Fold each piece of aluminum foil in half twice. 
Wrap the folded foil around a small spice bottle to create a mold. 
Leave the top of the mold open for pouring in the batter. 
Repeat.

Arrange on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan. 


Step 3: The Baking and the Filling

This part is pretty much the same in every recipe, so instead of repeating myself, I'll tell you everything you need to know right here.

If a million people ask why I didn't include the baking temps and times, and the filling techniques in each step, I rely on you, dear audience, to bring this step back into their focus.  Thank you.

Baking:

Preheat the oven to 325oF (160C)

Spray the molds with non-stick cook spray.


Divide batter evenly among the baking pan wells and bake until cakes spring back when touched, a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and cakes are golden brown, about 20 to 22 minutes.

 Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes; then loosen from the sides by running a knife along the edge of the pan. Invert onto a rack, remove cakes, and cool completely.
Once cakes are cool, flip each over, and with a straw or a skewer the end of a spoon make two incisions running the length of the cake (three for full sized Twinkies).

Filling:

Scoop filling into a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip (or snip the corner off of a small plastic bag).

Place the tip into each incision, and press cream into the incisions until full. When cakes are completely full, turn them back over and serve.

Store any leftovers (as if) in an airtight container.

Step 4: The Copycat

Cakey!  The filling. . . not so great.
The first recipe I wanted to try is the classic "Top Secrets" by Todd Wilbur recipe.  It involves using a cake mix and Crisco and all that nasty stuff to make it taste like the real thing.  I'm not sure if I'm allowed to reprint that recipe, so I'll post the one I found on about.com and let them take the heat for it!


Makes 20-24 small or 12 large Twinkies

Cake:

  • 16-ounce box golden pound cake mix
  • 4 egg whites, beaten until stiff
  • 2/3 cup water

Beat cake mix, whipped egg whites, and water on medium speed until completely blended, about 2 minutes. Carefully fill the foil tubes, leaving 3/4-inch headspace. Bake until golden and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 drops lemon extract

Cream shortening and butter together in a medium bowl. With mixer running on medium speed, add powdered sugar and granulated sugar, a little at a time, until smooth. Add evaporated milk, vanilla, and lemon extract. Continue mixing until fluffy.

Step 5: Go Organic

Spongy like angel food cake

Organic Twinkies seemed like the next logical step.  I saw a video on YouTube which demo'ed the Chow’s recipe in an organic ideation, but it had some of its info wrong! 

It’s a tricky filling, but rest assured, it's really not as hard as it sounds.  I got it right on the first shot, and I’m positive you will too.
 
Makes 12-16 small or 8 large Twinkies.

 
Cake:

  • 3 large organic eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup organic all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg yolks on medium speed, adding sugar a little at a time, until mixture is thick and light in color, about 5 minutes.

In a separate large bowl, whisk egg whites until medium peaks form.

Fold whites into yolk mixture until well incorporated.

Sift flour and baking powder into batter, and fold just until incorporated.

Mix in vanilla extract.

Filling:

  • 4 ounces organic mascarpone or cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved (or 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract)
  • 3 large organic egg whites
  • 2/3 cup organic granulated sugar

Combine cheese and vanilla bean and seeds (or vanilla extract, if using) in a bowl and mix until cheese is soft and ingredients are evenly combined; reserve.

Simmer 1 inch of water in a medium pot. Combine egg whites and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Make a double boiler by placing the bowl with the egg mixture over the pot of simmering water. (Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.) Whisk egg mixture continuously until it reaches 110°F, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place mixture in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed until it has doubled in volume, about 5 to 7 minutes. (The egg mixture should be glossy and hold a soft peak.) Add cheese mixture and beat just until smooth.

Cover mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 6: Gluten-Free

Tastes like whole wheat.  Awesome filling!
The next recipe to try was a gluten-free version.  I made this one up because I have a negative reaction to gluten.  Kind of a gross one.  And I know some of you out there do too!  So I thought I’d take a stab at a gluten-free version.  It’s also easy to make organic!

 

Cake:

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free baking mix (includes rising agent)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Alternately beat in the flour mixture and the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Finally, stir in the lemon extract and vanilla.

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat together the shortening and margarine with a hand held beater or stand mixer. Add the powdered sugar and beat until completely light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.

Step 7: Organic Vegan Twinkies? Really?

Weird color.  Best tasting cake!  Filling tastes a bit off. . .

And finally, it was time to try Vegan Organic Twinkies. Frankly, I was hesitant to try these abominations of nature, as were the rest of my crew.  And just wait until you see the litany of ingredients!  It’s nothing to sneeze at.  I’ve never even looked for arrowroot! (it was in the spice section) 

Nonetheless, the recipe I found was highly acclaimed.  And thus, in the name of science and progress, I soldiered on.

Makes 32 small or 16 large Twinkies

 

Cake:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 6 tablespoons light organic cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup expeller pressed canola oil
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Grade A, dark amber
  • ¾ cup vanilla soymilk or rice milk
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, white flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the strainer. Tap the strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.

Whisk the oil, maple syrup, soymilk, vanilla, and vinegar in a separate bowl until well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth.

Filling:

  • 7 ounces firm tofu, drained (simmer in water for 5 minutes)
  • 4 teaspoons expeller pressed canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Grade A amber
  • 3 tablespoons raw light agave syrup
  • 6 tablespoons light organic cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon very finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure coconut extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 ounces of vegan white chocolate melted
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot dissolved in 6 tablespoons soy creamer

 
You will need a food processor. Remember this tip: Tofu based creams must be pureed until absolutely smooth and creamy. If properly made, there will be absolutely no taste of tofu.

Crumble the tofu into a food processor and process for 1 minute.

Add the oil and process 1 minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the arrowroot, and process 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth and creamy.

Stop the processor a few times and clean the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Taste and add more sugar for a sweeter whip.

Stir the dissolved arrowroot to release any starch that has settled to the bottom.

Pour into a small saucepan and cook, whisking frequently over medium heat until the mixture reaches a full boil.

It will be very thick and gummy. Immediately remove the saucepan from the stove.

Add to the cream and pulse to incorporate.

Process until the cream is smooth.

Spoon the cream into a container.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer to allow the flavors to blend.


Step 8: The Results

On the day of the tasting, I wanted to get everyone’s honest opinion, so no one knew which cake or which filling was which.  In an attempt to discover the greatest cake + filling combo, I allowed each taster to sample them individually and in combination, and rate them as such.  The results were surprising.

Here is a picture of the surveys each member filled out.   Most of the results explore how each taster enjoyed each of the elements separately, but they were also encouraged to express their favorite pairings.

The results were tallied and are represented in the bar graphs below.

The Favorite Cake Award goes to:     Copycat Twinkie Cake Recipe


The Favorite Filling Award goes to:    Gluten-Free Filling Recipe

And the Favorite Combination Overall  (drum roll please. . . .):   

Organic Vegan Twinkie cake with the Gluten-Free Twinkie filling!!!!! 

Although, to be honest, the Organic Vegan Twinkie with its own filling came in a veeeerrrry close second.   Which is why, I’ve decided, it deserves its own unique Instructable (coming soon).

 

Thank you for playing, and stay tuned for our next round of Instructables Test Kitchen!



Comments

author
nickodemus (author)2010-05-18

Nice work! And have you tried testing in comparison to a real Twinkie? I'd like to see how they rank up among the ones you made.

author
GummiBear (author)nickodemus2012-11-17

Pretty soon, that will be really hard.... to find a twinkie i mean.

author
Galahir950 (author)2010-06-07

Which recipe had the least amount of fat?

author
GummiBear (author)Galahir9502012-11-17

Probably the vegan, gluten free ones.

author
norad (author)2010-05-19

Tallahassee will be happy to make is own twinkie

author
ll.13 (author)norad2010-06-13

...With thanks to this challange the world will not run out of twinkies.

author
destructopop (author)ll.132012-11-15

Now that Hostess is shutting down, it is our sworn duty as Instructables users to master this 'ible and share it with everyone in the WORLD.

author

LOL That is what brought me to this page, no more Twinkies!

author
jtaronson (author)2010-11-19

Those Twinkie making kits are actually reasonably priced from what I understand, I'm all for custom making molds and all but sometimes it pays to buy something (if the product is worth it), and there's even a recipe and other tools in with the kit that can be repurposed!

author
flio191 (author)2010-06-17

wait wait, you have a knife made by kyocera? isn't that a phone company xD

author
J@50n (author)flio1912010-06-23

what does that have to do with anything haha?

author
Kaiven (author)2010-05-19

 Scooch makes some of the best food 'ibles and edibles!

author
scoochmaroo (author)Kaiven2010-05-19

AWWWWWWW
*blush*

author
mikeasaurus (author)2010-05-18

twinkie-party looks like fun, the fingerprints on your survey sheets tell another (less healthy) tale. But who counts calories when you're talking twinkie?

I know twinkie's are classic, but any more non-perishable cellophane-wrapped goodies hiding up your sleeve? King Dons, Ho-Ho's, snoballs?

author
randofo (author)2010-05-18

Best Twinkie challenge that I've ever been too. Ever.

author
randofo (author)randofo2010-05-18

The memory of it was so great that I used the wrong 'to'... too.

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Bio: Former Living & Food editor here at Instructables, now running Sousvidely.com! Follow me @sousvidely
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