Get out the candles — Twinkies are 91 years old today, and they're showing no signs of slowing down.
Hostess still produces the staple of lunchboxes, late-night cravings and nostalgia-fueled snacking at a rate of more than a million a day.
The snack cakes were invented in Illinois by baker James Dewar, who was looking to make better use of the shortcake pans that sat idle outside of strawberry season. Dewar's original version was filled with banana crème, but was switched to vanilla when bananas were in short supply during World War II. The original cost? Five cents for two snack cakes.
But the makers of Twinkies — the name was inspired by a billboard advertising "Twinkle Toe" shoes — haven't been resting on their cream-filled laurels. Hostess introduces limited-edition flavors from time to time — think banana, cotton candy and lemonade — and has expanded its Twinkies stable to include mixed berry and chocolate. Twinkies cereal was introduced last year, and of course deep-friend Twinkies have become a mainstay at fairs across the country.
There's even a Twinkies Cookbook, first published in 2006, that compiled recipes from passionate fans. (The recipe for Twinkies pancakes is worth trying.)
The snack cake's popularity was solidified in late 2012, when Hostess announced it was filing for bankruptcy. Despite initial reassurances from the company that the snack cakes weren't going anywhere, they sold out across the country as fans and collectors snapped them up, just in case. (Production did stop for a few months as the company eventually changed hands.)
"Time to test the shelf life of Twinkies once and for all," joked one Twitter user. A Pennsylvania fan did just that, and unearthed his box of 2012 Twinkies from his basement in October. A story on Food & Wine's website follows Colin Purrington's box of Twinkies from his social media feed to a West Virginia science lab. Spoiler alert: Don't eat eight-year-old snack cakes.
Worries of a Twinkies shortage also prompted home cooks to try their hand at baking their own. The late Al Sicherman, a longtime Star Tribune columnist, was way ahead of the curve, having perfected his recipe for Twinkies in the 1980s. The Star Tribune resurfaced his recipe as talks of a Twinkies-free world intensified, and he'd be tickled to know it found new life as the perfect pandemic activity.
Locally, The Buttered Tin has been making its Lowertown Twinkeys ($2.50) for years. "Few customers can leave without the Tin's version of the Hostess classic," the Star Tribune wrote in 2014. "These little yellow torpedoes don't taste like the Twinkies you remember. And they're not supposed to. The golden vanilla cake is moist (and not too sweet), and the freshly whipped cream tastes like it was, well, freshly whipped."
And, of course, the original Hostess Twinkies are available pretty much everywhere. At roughly $1 for two snack cakes (or a box of 10 for $3), nostalgia can still be affordable.