I'm here to report that the death of the Twinkie has been greatly exaggerated.
You can decide if that's comforting news.
It is true that Hostess Brands, which created the elongated spongecakes infused with creme filling in 1930, has begun liquidation. That leaves several million sugar-crazed Americans losing sleep over where to get their next Twinkie fix (excluding the guy who paid $500 for a box on eBay).
As potential buyers swoop in to possibly breath new life into the nostalgia-inducing, preservative-loaded snack, one financial analyst said last week that a new owner would have to innovate, modernize and -- get ready -- incorporate healthier ingredients.
Or the owner could just get in line at a few Minnesota bakeries. They've found a need and filled it.
A week ago, A Baker's Wife quickly ran out of its first batch of a healthier Twinkie. The south Minneapolis bakery is making its muted-yellow cakes from scratch and filling them with butter creme, all for a buck. Word from counter servers is that customers were coming through the door saying, "I understand you have Twinkies now!" Yes, but better.
"They don't have that fakey, chemical taste," said Sabrina James, a server at Buster's on 28th, around the corner from the bakery, who finally tried one after hearing about them for a week.
"We really can't keep up with the demand," said Ginny Forti, owner of Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing. Forti's bakery specializes in culinary delights such as potica, cardamom biscuits and biscotti. But customers are wild about her company's "Banana Flips," now being sold at Jerry's Foods in Edina and shipped across the country.
Forti's flips, like the original Twinkies, are filled with banana cream. Unlike Twinkies, they're additive- and preservative-free, which means you should eat them quickly. But they weigh 6 ounces each, so good luck. "They're quite large," Forti said. "If anyone can eat a whole one," she said, "they deserve a medal."
A brief word here about shelf life. It's not kind to speak ill of the dead, so I'm going to bust the persistent rumor that the packaged Twinkies we ate in 2012 were produced during the Reagan administration. Fact-checking website snopes.com recently assured one worried consumer that the snack cakes did not contain embalming fluid. Nor is it true that they were never food at all, but rather "some strange type of artificial, manufactured item shaped and flavored to resemble a cake-like offering."
The Twinkie truth, according to snopes: 27-day shelf life, 160 calories and, at the peak of popularity, 500 million consumed annually.
No wonder Robin Johnson is considering jumping on the Twinkie bandwagon again. The owner of Sweet Retreat in Edina used real Twinkies to create edible minions when the movie "Despicable Me" came out. "We did a ton of those," she said.
With Despicable Me 2 coming out in 2013, might she consider building a better batter? "We're going to have to think of something," she said.
Lynne Hackman, pastry manager at Minneapolis' Franklin Street Bakery, did her twist on the Twinkie three years ago, dipping a white sponge cake in chocolate. For some reason, it didn't take off. But now? "We might consider doing it again," she said.
Not everybody wants to emulate Twinkies. Rita Schleicher, general manager of Salty Tart in Minneapolis, is absolutely not planning to offer any such thing. "I would recommend that we all step up our excellence programs in pastry," she said. This certainly is going to be my New Year's resolution now.
Nope was also the answer at Butter Bakery Cafe and Rustica, both in Minneapolis.
Yum and Patisserie 46, also in Minneapolis, prefer to take their sweet time. "We've been tossing it around," said Patisserie 46 owner John Kraus. "Perhaps a Madeleine sponge cake with mascarpone custard filling?"
Kraus, who grew up on pastry cakes in Kentucky, won't leap, though, "until I figure out how to make the perfect shape."
Childhood memories are sweet, aren't they? Don't mess with them.
Kara Younkin Viswanathan understands that. Her Bars Bakery in St. Paul makes its own version of the Pop Tart. "I'm interested in trying it," she said of Twinkies.
"We brought it up jokingly, but there's an avenue for that kind of thing."