There’s something to be said for the overly sweet, sometimes plasticky and usually pretty dry taste and texture of your favorite pre-packaged pastry.
Twinkies a culinary delight? No, but you were pretty devastated when you heard they wouldn’t be in grocery stores anymore, weren’t you?
My favorite was always the Little Debbie’s oatmeal cream pies — why does the cream always leave a weird film in your mouth? — and Mrs. Baird’s apple and cherry hand pies, which are no where near as good as homemade pies.
They taste like crap compared to most things you can concoct in your own kitchen, but eating them brings back warm memories of being a child when sweet was sweet and you were just happy to have a treat from the corner store.
I often prefer to make my own homemade version of classic pre-packaged foods one gets from the grocery store — my pimento cheese spread just wasn’t quite right, my puddings never set and I’m still in search of the perfect recipe for ranch dressing.
My interest was piqued when I came across the cookbook, “Classic Snacks Made From Scratch,” by Casey Barber.
It has all of your favorite store-bought treats — sweet and salty — but without all the plastic wrap and ingredients you can’t pronounce. The book features recipes for goldfish crackers, jalapeno poppers, nacho cheese Doritos and even frozen treats like Klondike Bars and Pudding Pops.
I was in the mood to make something sweet and something definitely iconic. Yes, I could have made the classic Hostess chocolate cupcakes with the identifying swirl of white icing on the top. (Heck, a gorgeous picture of Barber’s version of these cupcakes is the primary photograph on the cover of her book).
But I decided to go orange instead and made the orange-flavored Hostess cupcakes — complete with icing swirl. Well, sort of.
I realized things weren’t going quite as expected the minute I dumped all my ingredients into a double boiler for the frosting. As I mixed the sugar, light corn syrup, orange extract and milk together, it became clear this frosting was, in fact, more of a glaze, and it wasn’t orange. I looked over at my white chocolate chips on standby. Yep, not orange either. I grabbed my food coloring and went to town with the yellow and red.
Now we’re cooking.
Once you’ve made the cupcakes, you’re supposed to scoop out a hole in the center through the top and fill it with some of the cream filling. Then you turn those bad boys over and dip them in the orange frosting/glaze and let the excess drip off.
This was the second moment I realized these things would look nothing like a Hostess cupcake. Since the frosting is actually a glaze, it’s see-through, meaning you can see the white blob of filling at the top. The warmer glaze even caused the filling to melt a little bit and come dripping out of the cupcake as I held it upside down.
In short, these things aren’t that pretty.
Once I realized they wouldn’t look anything like I expected, I gave up on the extra step of making the icing for the swirl on the top, but went ahead and included the directions below for those of you who want to try.
In the end, I’m not pleased with the appearance of the cupcakes ... at all. In fact, I didn’t even want to have them photographed.
But, dang, if they’re not the most delicious cupcakes I’ve ever made. Moist and super orangey, these things are definitely not your typical pre-packaged sweet treat. And that’s a plus.
If you love the taste of orange and are keen to try these cupcakes, I’d suggest perhaps filling them from the side using a pastry bag. But if you don’t care what they look like, by all means, follow the directions below.
Hostess orange cupcakes
For the cupcake
13/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
For the filling
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the orange frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup milk
3 ounces white chocolate, or a little less than a half a cup
Yellow and red food coloring
For the white doodle icing (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a standard 12-muffin tin with baker’s spray or cooking spray.
For the cupcakes, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar and butter together on medium-low speed in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until the mixture is light and fluffy looking.
Add each egg and yolk one at a time, allowing the them to be completely incorporated before adding the next while the mixer is on low.
Add the orange and vanilla extracts and mix thoroughly.
Add one-third of the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Add in half of the orange juice and stir until incorporated. Add in the second-third of the flour, stir, the second half of the juice, stir and finally, the remainder of the flour and stir until incorporated.
Evenly distribute the batter among with the 12 cups of the muffin tin and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until when a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean.
While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the filling by bringing a pot half full of water to a simmer over medium heat. Place the egg whites and sugar in a Pyrex or metal bowl over the top of the pot of boiling water to create a double boiler. Constantly whisk the mixture until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just warm to the touch.
Transfer egg whites and sugar to the stand mixer and beat on low with the whisk attachment until opaque and glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the cream of tartar and vanilla extract and continue to beat for another 2 to 3 minutes or until soft peaks form when you pull the whisk out of the filling.
To fill the cupcakes, cut a round hole into the top of the cakes, leaving about half an inch around the edges. Discard — or eat — the cake you remove.
Spoon the filling into the hole, smoothing it so it’s flush with the top of the cupcake.
To prepare the glaze, mix the corn syrup, powdered sugar, milk and orange extra in a Pyrex bowl placed over the pot of boiling water. Mix together until the mixture is just warm to the touch. Pour in the white chocolate chips and stir until they are completely melted. Add red and yellow food dye until the mixture reaches the orange color you desire.
Remove bowl from the double boiler and let cool for about 5 minutes, stirring often so it doesn’t harden or form a film.
Dip the top of each cupcake into the glaze, holding them upside down so the excess drips off. Let glaze harden before eating.
If you want to adding the signature Hostess swirl to the top, whisk the powdered sugar, milk and corn syrup together in a small bowl. Fill a pastry bag with a small round piping tip with the glaze and pipe circles down the center of the cupcake — come on, you know what it’s supposed to look like. If you don’t have a pastry bag, fill a zip-top bag with the glaze and cut a small corner out of it to pipe the icing through.
— Adapted from “Classic Snacks Made From Scratch” by Casey Barber.
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