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Friday, February 11, 2011

"Hostess Cupcakes" - For Adults

I've been enjoying the PBS series Pioneers of Television. The other evening their episode was on local kids' television. That long gone era of local TV hosts was a great time for us older folks. Kids today really don't have any programming specifically for them which is sort of sad. Everything seems geared not only for adults in the afternoons but also the lowest common denominator among adults.

When I was a kid growing up in South Carolina our top local kids' show was Mr. Knozit on WIS-TV out of Columbia. Mr. Knozit was actually Joe Pinner, the local weatherman. Each day he hosted a studio audience of kids and showed cartoons and brought in special guests. The series debuted in 1963 and outlasted many local kids' shows until 2000.

In the early 70's I was priveleged to be on Mr. Knozit. I don't recall the exact year, but for my birthday I was to have my party in Columbia on the Mr. Knozit show. We packed up a caravan of cars with my friends and school chums and set off for the studios of WIS-TV near the state capitol. It was quite an experience, complete with a real party afterward at Howard Johnson. I was a little taken aback though, because during the taping of the show "Mr. Knozit" asked me what my favorite gift was. I hadn't received my gifts yet - that was happening later at the party. So I replied that I hadn't gotten any gifts yet.

"Well, just make something up."

"But, I haven't gotten my gifts, that would be telling a fib."

"It's OK, because this is going to be shown after your party."

"I don't know what I'm getting."

"Just make something up, like "a truck' or 'a fire engine'."

Confused, I finally consented to lie on air and mumbled "truck" when he asked me. Honestly, I wish I had a video of that appearance to see how accurate my memory of that event is.

A couple years later, I would make the rounds of local kids' TV when I won the annual "Clown Contest" hosted by Mr. Knozit at a local mall. The contest was an annual event coinciding with the circus coming to the area. Kids would dress up like clowns and the winner would get to join the circus on opening night!

I, of course, had extra help. My brother who was a part time entertainer in local clubs and his friends took over my costuming and makeup. I went in as a 10-year-old boy and came out a woman clown with a huge rear end, huge feathered hat, and rhinestone eyebrows. Let me tell you something, spirit gum on your eyebrows hurts like crazy - especially when you're 10! I also wore a hand dyed wig made of about 5 or 6 pounds of old timey mops. It was quite the outfit, let me tell you! (Somewhere there are photos... Sis?)

Anyway, I ended up winning the contest and made the rounds of local kids' TV shows. For a few weeks I was quite the little celebrity - features in our local paper complete with photo spread, TV appearances, and finally - the Circus!

At the circus I was treated to a backstage tour where I met the real clowns who were actually pretty impressed with my team of make-up artists and costumers. I also got to meet Michu who was billed as the smallest man in the world. He was quite exotic to me since he was so tiny and also from Hungary. Later on he would play "Alf" on TV.

Such good times, and a big part of all of it were those childhood food treats. From the ice cream and food at the Howard Johnson's to those little pre-packaged treats we ate in front of the TV while watching our favorite afternoon show, it's amazing what we ate. Twinkies, according to urban legend, can survive a nuclear holocaust and be right there waiting for whatever mutant life forms come along next. Of course, their manufacturer, Hostess, had a full compliment of snack cakes and treats for the kiddies. One of the all time favorites is the Hostess Cupcake. This little chocolate cupcake featured a vanilla creme center made of some unidentifiable sugary substance topped with a super sweet chocolate coating and decorated with white icing squiggles. Cute and, when you're a kid craving sugar, pretty darn good.

For us adults, however, the sugary sweetness of the Hostess Cupcake tends to leave us a little flat. Having spent a lifetime developing our palettes, we crave something with more flavor depth. So, why not update?

There are lots of "copycat" recipes out there for this childhood favorite. Most of them seem to be focused on recreating it exactly as it is in the grocery store. Honestly, I don't quite get the point. If that's your goal, then just go buy them, it's a lot easier.

Updating the taste for adults is much more satisfying. Creating a more complex cupcake with layers of chocolate flavor filled with a vanilla creme that mimics the texture of the original but with more flavor and less sugar rush takes these from after school snack to after dinner treat!

The only adjustment I might make to these in future is to use more of a ganache inspired frosting that provides a little more glossy finish than what was called for in this recipe from Cook's Country. While I did like the taste of the frosting, I think one that can be poured over the cupcake for a smoother finish would be nice.

Recipe: "Hostess Cupcakes" for Adults


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 4 tablespoon (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , softened
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups marshmallow créme
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°.
  2. Grease and flour 12-cup muffin tin. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Whisk water, cocoa, chocolate chips, and espresso in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until incorporated.
  3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool cupcakes in tin 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.
  4. Combine water and gelatin in large bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt until combined. Let mixture cool until just warm to touch, about 5 minutes, then whisk in marshmallow creme until smooth; refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer 1/3 cup marshmallow mixture to pastry bag fitted with small plain tip; reserve remaining mixture for filling cupcakes.
  6. Microwave chocolate and butter in small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
  7. Cut cone from top of each cupcake and fill cupcakes with 1 tablespoon filling each. Replace tops, frost with 2 teaspoons cooled glaze, and let sit 10 minutes.
  8. Using pastry bag, pipe curlicues across glazed cupcakes. Serve. (Cupcakes can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)
Cooking time (duration): 65 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 12 cupcakes
Meal type: snack
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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