Classic Snacks Made from Scratch
You know I’m a stickler for specific ingredients: buttermilk powder, citric acid, and dark cocoa powder all appear throughout the book. But for this recipe, I’m going to mix things up and suggest a specific pan. For truly authentic Twinkie shapes, a canoe pan will give your cakes the signature rounded edges. If you’re less concerned with a real Twinkie shape, the recipe also works in cupcake pans or mini loaf pans. Me? I use my hot dog bun pan, which makes spot-on split-top buns for homemade lobster rolls . . . but that’s another recipe for another book.
YIELD: 16 cakes
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: canoe pan (or standard 12-cup muffin tin, 4 mini loaf pans, square
metal baking pans, or split-top hot dog bun pan), food processor, electric hand mixer and/or stand mixer, candy/oil thermometer, pastry bag (or zip-top bag) with large round piping tip
5 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) granulated sugar
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MAKE THE CAKES:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spritz the pan(s) or pan wells with baking spray. Separate the egg whites and yolks into separate large bowls.
Pour the sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 to 20 seconds, until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks on medium speed for about 20 to 30 seconds, until they start to froth, thicken, and lighten in color. Slowly add the ground sugar mixture and the vanilla, and continue to beat until the eggs are very thick and pale—almost off-white and creamy in color. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the flour. Set aside.
Using an electric hand mixer on high speed or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. Stir about a quarter of the whipped egg whites into the batter to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites in 2 or 3 batches, working slowly to incorporate them without destroying their fluffiness.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan; if using a canoe pan or muffin tin, fill each well two-thirds full. Save any remaining batter for a second batch. Bake until the cakes are puffy and golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Timing may vary, so watch carefully, but will be 8 to 10 minutes for canoe shapes, 13 to 15 minutes for cupcakes or mini loaf pans, and 18 to 20 minutes for 8-inch square metal baking pans or hot dog pans.
Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack; they will shrink and pull away from the pan sides. Then line the wire rack with waxed paper and spritz the paper lightly with baking spray. Invert the pan to turn the cakes out onto the rack. Cool completely before cutting into Twinkie shapes (if using a loaf or hot dog pan) and filling.
MAKE THE FILLING:
Stir the sugar, corn syrup, and water together in a small, high-sided saucepan over medium low heat just until the sugar is fully dissolved and the liquid no longer feels granular. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the liquid to a boil without stirring. Continue to heat until the sugar syrup reaches 235˚F to 240˚F (soft-ball stage).
Meanwhile, using the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed just until soft peaks form. Just before the sugar syrup reaches soft-ball stage, restart the mixer on low speed. When the syrup is at temperature, carefully drizzle it into the egg whites.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip for 5 to 7 minutes, until the filling is thick, shiny, and white, forming stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and stir for another 15 seconds to incorporate.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKES:
Fill a pastry or gallon-size zip-top bag with the filling.
Use a sharp paring knife to cut small holes in the cake bottoms (a single hole for cupcakes, 3 or 4 for canoes or cut loaf pieces). Insert the pastry tip into each hole and squeeze gently to fill. The cakes will swell slightly as the holes fill up.
Store the filled cakes in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week; as with most sponge cakes, they really do taste better after resting overnight than if eaten fresh.
MAYBE THIS EXPLAINS THE SHAPE
Though most of us associate Twinkies with the creamy vanilla fluff in each cake, your grandparents and great-grandparents might remember things a little differently. Banana was the original Twinkie filling flavor, but when the fruits were rationed during World War II (hey, they’re not native to the U.S., why spend so much fuel shipping them here?), Hostess switched to vanilla—a flavor much easier to procure.