Things You Probably Didn't Know About Twinkies

America's most loved edible icon, Twinkies, has been around for generations and turns up in every place from brown paper lunch bags to weddings, celebrations, murder trials, and movies. With its shelf life surrounded by urban legends and ingredients, this sponge cake grabs a lot more attention than just making the headlines. This Tastessence article takes a look at the lesser known facts about this sumptuous cake snack!
Tastessence Staff
Bizarre Defense!
During the famous 1979 San Francisco murder case, the lawyers of the prime suspect, Dan White, presented evidence that their client was depressed and on a Twinkie diet which led to his "diminished capacity" while committing the murders. This resulted in White being found guilty of manslaughter and not first-degree murder. The paparazzi termed it as "Twinkie Defense".

Comfort food has always been a weakness no matter how healthy a life one wants to live, and this cream-filled sponge cake allows for a little sinful indulgence. The spongy yellow delight is 4 inches long and an inch and a half wide with delicious vanilla-flavored cream. The overall taste is slightly buttery and sugar-crispy which is why it has developed into a national obsession.

Said to have a long shelf life, some people are crazy enough to think that it will even survive a nuclear attack! Let's indulge a little more and find out what makes it so bite-worthy!

History About Twinkies

During the period from 1920 to 1930, Continental Bakeries sold baked snacks under the brand name, Hostess. Most of these snacks depended on seasonal fruits as they had fruit flavored fillings. During the non-seasonal period, these snacks were not available in the market. To make better use of the equipment and to increase productivity, the Vice President of the company, James Dewar, came up with the idea of making a simple sponge cake with flavored cream filling.

While on his way to discuss this idea with his marketing team, he saw a billboard advertising Twinkle-Toe Shoes, and thus, the brown banana cream flavored savory treat, Twinkies, was born.

Twinkies was an instant hit, and it disappeared from the store shelves as the demand surged. During the World War I, the shortage of bananas led to a change in the cake filling, from banana flavor to vanilla flavor. The vanilla flavored filling gained immediate popularity, and the company stuck to this innovation.

As the ingredients included perishable items like milk, butter, and eggs, its shelf life was only of two days. To make it more marketable and increase its shelf life, the company made changes to the recipe.

November 19, 2012 saw Hostess shutting down Twinkies due to bankruptcy. Twinkies returned to the U.S. stores when Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co paid USD 140 million to take over Twinkies and other Hostess brands.

Ingredients and Nutritional Value
  • Apart from the main ingredients, wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, and shortening, it contains emulsifying compounds monoglycerides and diglycerides which replaced eggs in the recipe. This was done to give the cake batter an enhanced flavor, texture, and shelf life. Only a small amount of egg is used to lighten the cake.

  • Polysorbate 60 is used to keep the cream in its creamy state without the actual use of fats. Hydrogenated shortening replaced butter, giving the cake a better taste and prolonged shelf life.

  • Cellulose gum is used to keep the filling smooth and creamy.

  • This snack rates zero on the nutritional value, and a single Twinkie has 135 calories, it contains 42.5 grams of fat, including 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 19 grams of sugars, and zero dietary fiber.

  • With the alteration from dairy-induced ingredients to chemical ingredients, the shelf life of Twinkies increased from 2 days to 45 days.

Bizarre and Interesting Facts
  • Hostess tried to market a strawberry cream filled Twinkie way back in the 1980s, but this venture failed miserably.

  • Hostess reintroduced the banana filled Twinkie, in 2006, as a promotional gimmick, just before the movie King Kong was released on DVD.

  • Hostess produces approximately more than 1000 Twinkies per minute that is roughly about 500 million per year.

  • In the movie, Zombieland, actor Woody Harrelson, actually had Twinkies made out of cornmeal during the making of the film.

  • Takeru Kobayashi, a competitive eater, currently holds the Guinness Book of World Record for eating 14 Twinkies in 1 minute. He ate them by dipping them in water first and eating 2 at a time.

  • Nutritionist, Mark Haub, once, decided to go on a "Twinkie Diet" to lose weight. He managed to lose 27 pounds in just 2 months.

  • "Twinkie defense" is the term used as a claim by criminal defendants to state that the defendant's actions were supposedly affected by factors like sugar diet at the time of crime.

  • 1986 saw "Twinkiegate", the most popular of all political scandals where George Belair, a Minneapolis City Council candidate, was charged for serving coffee, Kool-Aid, Twinkies and other assortments to gain the votes of senior citizens. This led to the Minnesota Campaign Act or the Twinkies Law coming into force. George Belair eventually lost the election, and later, the charges against him were dismissed.

  • The curiosity bug in Roger Bennatti, a teacher at the George Stevens Academy, led him to hang a pack of Twinkies at the edge of the blackboard, just to know about the shelf life of this sponge cake, that too, for 30 long years. He later stated, "It's rather brittle, but if you dusted it off, it's probably still edible".

  • Statistics of 2005 revealed, Americans roughly spent USD 47 million on its consumption. With a record of maximum number of sales, Chicago has received the title of "Twinkie Capital of the World".

  • It is said that, President Bill Clinton, terming it as "an object of enduring American symbolism" introduced Twinkie in the U.S Millennium Time Capsule in 1999.

  • Prior to his death, in 1985, James Dewar stated that "Twinkies was the best darn-tootin' idea he ever had." He further stated that it was the key to his long life.

These golden cream-filled sponge cakes sure have been a part of American sweet tooth addiction, especially, when healthy food fads have diverted the attention of consumers. This is one comfort food that never loses the game.