About 30 years ago, now-retired staff writer Al Sicherman decided to make a homemade version of Twinkies, believing (correctly) that they would be better than the original.
Spurred into action now by all the fuss about the possible disappearance of Twinkies, he dug out his ahead-of the-curve version. The fresh sponge cake makes the filled Twinkies very, very light, and real whipped cream tastes lots better than whatever is (or was) in the commercial version.
Note: A pastry bag is necessary for the look of the traditional Twinkie, although another option is offered below. Don't use aerosol-can whipped cream, as it deflates quickly. From Al Sicherman.
• Lots of aluminum foil
• Solid shortening or margarine, for greasing
• 3 eggs
• 1 c. sugar
• 1/4 c. boiling water
• 1 c. sifted cake flour
• 11/2 tsp. baking powder
• 11/2 tsp. vanilla, divided
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 11/2 c. heavy cream (you might not use it all)
• 2 tsp. powdered sugar
Prepare 9 Twinkie molds as follows (it sounds difficult, but it isn't):
For each mold, tear about a 9-inch piece of 12-inch-wide aluminum foil. Fold it in half first one way and then the other. You wind up with a piece of foil about 41/2 inches by 6 inches.
Grease one side with solid shortening or margarine. Bend up the longer sides, to form the folded foil into a U-shaped trough (6 inches long, about 11/2 inches across the rounded bottom and maybe 11/2 inches high). Lift in 1 end of the bottom about an inch, then turn the ends closed behind it. Repeat with the other end, forming something like a little bathtub (see photos below).
Mash the bottoms of the ends of the bathtub smooth, then fasten the tops of each of the ends (the head and the foot of the bathtub rim) closed by firmly folding the overlapped edge down a little. Making 9 of these won't take you 10 minutes.
The Twinkie recipe makes about 18, so you'll use the molds twice. Rather than trying to regrease the crumb-laden molds after the first use, flatten them out, grease what had been the outside, and use that as the inside for the second batch.
OK? Molds in place? Then let's go ahead and make Twinkies!
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in a large mixing bowl and the whites in a small one. Beat the yolks until they are very light. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the boiling water.
Resift the sifted cake flour with the baking powder, and gradually add that combination to the yolk mixture, beating until the mixture is well blended. Beat in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Set aside.
Wash the beaters carefully -- there must be no egg yolk on them. Add the salt to the egg whites and beat them until they are stiff but still glossy. Stir a spatula-ful of the egg whites into the yolk-flour mixture to lighten it, then lightly fold in the remainder of the whites, incorporating them well but gently.
Pour about 2 heaped tablespoons of the batter into a Twinkie mold. The batter will flow, perhaps slowly, into the corners. When it has evened out it should be about 1/2 inch deep (it rises during baking), but a bit too much is better than too little.
To bake, arrange 4 or 5 filled Twinkie molds snugly in a loaf pan and bake about 15 to 20 minutes, 1 or 2 minutes after they test done with a toothpick. The top probably will not look very brown.
Allow the Twinkies to cool for a few minutes. Using a sharp knife and flexing the molds, gently free the sides of the Twinkies and invert them over a cooling rack. If they don't drop out easily, gently peel the foil away from the Twinkies (not vice-versa).
To fill the Twinkies: Before the Twinkies have fully cooled, use a toothpick as follows to make the holes that will hold the whipped cream. (Or see "Cheating option," below.)
Pierce the flat bottom of each Twinkie (the side that was up while it was baking) 3 times -- in the middle and halfway toward each end. Wiggle the toothpick around in a circular fashion to enlarge the cavity, but keep the entrance hole as small as you can. Don't go in so far that the toothpick could come out the other side. Cool completely.
Pour the heavy cream into a small bowl, stir in the powdered sugar and the last 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and beat until the cream is very stiff. (You might wind up having some of it left, but there are worse things than having leftover whipped cream.)
Fit a pastry bag with your smallest nozzle (or see Cheating option, below), and fill the bag with the whipped cream. Inserting the nozzle fairly deeply, force the cream into each of the holes in the Twinkies until it just begins to come back out.
Refrigerate, covered, any Twinkies somehow not eaten immediately, and consume soon. Allow refrigerated Twinkies to warm for 30 minutes or so before serving.
Cheating option: Slice the cooled Twinkies in half horizontally, and use a teaspoon to gently scoop out space for whipped cream from both top and bottom halves. Fill and reassemble.