The Great Hostess Taste Test, Part I



  • Twinkies
When the news broke late last week that due to a labor dispute Hostess would be shutting down its operations and no longer creating its line of delicious snack cakes, the U S of A portion of the Western hemisphere went into shock. What kind of unlivable world would it be without Twinkies, Fruit Pies, Cup Cakes, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's, and Sno Balls? Were the Mayans right all along?

The Hostess headlines sent the masses into a panic, leading to a run on snack cakes at convenience stores. Wall Street speculators and plucky entrepreneurs took notice, and what followed was the creation of an unregulated black market, a smorgasbord free-for-all. Don't eat that Twinkie, you mad man! Might as well be eating a Honus Wagner!

It was a dark time that saw the unholy combination of arbitrage, credit default swaps, insider trading, hedge funds, and short sells: All of those bad things you read about and don't understand. They happened again. And this time the powers that be were messing with our precious.

Where's the bailout on this one, Washington? The people had spoken: Hostess was too big to fail. Someone may have heard, because Hostess and the unions are meeting with a mediator to try to settle their dispute. (And thus, the Twinkie bubble burst, leaving only carnage and tears in its wake.)

We at the Memphis Flyer, ever mindful of our civic duties, found upon our heads the helm of public trust, falling to us the great and terrible responsibility to mark this moment in American history.

How to do so in a sober and appropriate fashion? Taste test, nerds!

Honus Wagner
  • Is that Honus Wagner or Twinkie the Kid?
Thus we scoured the shelves and cupboards of our great city to locate the most delectable and ideal of Hostess snack cakes to sample, judge, and report on. In one regard, we admit we failed miserably: Nary a Twinkie, Ho Ho, or Ding Dong was to be found. The market had spoken, and the people had conducted their own taste test. Those Hostess products were all given 10s.

We did, however, come across six prime goodies for our experiment: Orange Cup Cakes, White Powder Donettes, Honey Bun, Sno Balls, Suzy Q's, and Chocolate Zingers. And, minus Twinkies, at least we had a control group, a golden mean with which to compare our results.

The judges assembled: Greg Akers, Anna Cox, Michael Finger, Louis Goggans, Hannah Sayle, Chris Shaw, and Bruce VanWyngarden

Snack cakes were judged on a 1-10 scale in the categories of presentation, color appeal, texture/tactile, taste, collectability, and overall. Collectability was defined as "hoard-worthiness and value on the black market." In other words, how highly would you rate the item if your life depended upon it in a post-apocalyptic world.

Without further ado, part one of the Great Hostess Taste Test.

Cup Cakes (Orange)

Hostess Description: "Frosted Orange Flavored Cake with Creamy Filling"
Notable Ingredients: Contains beef fat (nuff said).
Nutrition: 370 Calories. Contains 30% of your daily Saturated Fat and 20% of daily Calcium.
Judges' Averages and Selected Comments:
Presentation: 8.29
"Nice packaging but looks hard to open :( "
"orangey goodness"
"The packaging takes away from the vibrant cake color"
"eye-catching unnaturally orange color, made even better by orange plastic tray"
"nice packaging, doesn't impact integrity of Cup Cake"

Color Appeal: 9.57
"not too inviting"
very orange! UT orange!"
"is, in fact, bright orange"
"orangey Vol preciousness"
"This will be the first time I eat something this orange"
"Hypnotizing + Beautiful = YUM!"
"Exquisite. The pinnacle of snack-cake achievement"

Texture/Tactile: 7.14
"They feel extremely moist"
"decently cake-like"
"creamy, fake orangey"
"spongy and just slightly sticky"
"stiff on top, willing below"

Taste: 6.71
"fake orange flavor — meh. but good filling"
"likable, fake orange like Dooley"
"spit it out"
"tastes like Eve's forbidden fruit"

Collectability: 9.33
"I'd hoard these more than Twinkies"
"This is the one. Orange exponentially increases value. Cannot be reproduced."

Overall: 7.36
"The Cup Cake just wasn't my cup of tea. Period."
"Surprisingly tasty"
"novelty, indestructible. yet still repulsive."
"cupcakes are always good, especially when they are day-glo"
"My favorite crap-snack of all time. What's the point of living without Hostess Cup Cakes?!! I tried two bites, it was so scrumptious!"
"As good as it gets."


Hostess Description: "Mini Donuts"
Notable Ingredients: Contains tapioca dextrin and guar gum
Nutrition: 340 Calories. Contains 40% of your daily Saturated Fat and 2% of daily Iron.
Judges' Averages and Selected Comments:

Presentation: 8.14
"Looks extremely 'powdery'"
"looks semi-appetizing"
"like a bandolier of donut bullets"
"a timeless truckstop classic"
"You know in advance these will be tasty! Extra credit for package that shows [illustration of] tasty interior."
"simple, mildly elegant"

Color Appeal: 6.00
"powdery goodness"
"whiter than Mitt Romney's children"
"same color since the Great Depression?"
"powdery white!"

Texture/Tactile: 4.29
"soft and light"
"like eating a mothball"
"gummy and always leaves a powder on your fingers and face"
"rubber powder aftermath/aftermouth"

Taste: 3.86
"sweet but dry"
"packing filler"
"like eating a mothball"
"mystery cake, but mighty fine"
"Powder tastes like fine granules. Cake has no taste."

Collectability: 2.83
"A 'snack classic' for sure — but others make them, so probably won't vanish entirely."
"Let this die to history. Confusion in the marketplace."
"Available from other brands, so not unique enough to take on Antiques Road Show."

Overall: 4.36
"The Donettes look good but they taste 'o.k.'"
"gross, dry, unenjoyable"
"this is when I began to feel sick"
"One sample packet only held six Donettes. The real taste test would be a whole bag."
"Sort of nice and pretty to look at, but really disappointing taste and texture. Should stick to musical career as Donut & the Donettes."

  • Mmmmmmmm?
Honey Bun (Jumbo)

Hostess Description: Breakfast Classic
Notable Ingredients: Contains barley malt, ferrous sulfate, and sorbitan monostearate
Nutrition: 550 calories. Contains 85% (!!) of daily Saturated Fat and 20% daily Thiamine
Judges' Averages and Selected Comments:

Presentation: 3.00
"It looks delicious — good for breakfast or a snack"
"looks steamy inside"
"I think someone sat on this?"
"Nasty — looks like those packages of fake vomit."
"Putrid. Not attractive. Product sticks to packaging."

Color Appeal: 2.71
"resembles bread crust"
"What color is that???"
"This thing is gray."
"utterly unappetizing vomity-brown"
"Snooki Tan is not appealing"

Texture/Tactile: 6.00
"Juicy and moist"
"not as stale as I predicted!"
"Why was it greasy?"
"rubbery and sticky"
"Kinda pushes back against your teeth"

Taste: 7.86
"tastes great"
"It slid down before I really tasted it."
"Tastes much better than it looks, though that's not saying much."
"Good things can come in turdy packages."

Collectability: 3.50
"difficult to imagine in a trophy case"
"Yum, but not pretty."
"Put in the museum of bad ideas."
"Worth saving. Filling and rewarding, just close your eyes and think of England."

Overall: 6.36
"Presentation and color is mediocre, but the taste is great."
"A dark horse competitor! I assumed the worst from the appearance, but the taste and texture was spot on!"
"It's a breakfast classic even though it looks humid in the package."
"Why? Why!"
"Nothing special in any way. Even the packaging leaves a sticky, messy mess."
"Acceptable breakfast food if you're on the run from the law."

Read next: The Great Hostess Taste Test, Part II. In which the team of adventurers finds out what's in a Sno Ball, considers the Suzy Q's wily ways, and gets zapped by Zingers. Plus, there's video! Be afraid.

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