By Kevin Williams
One of the darkest chapters of my dietary life occurred in the eighth grade. Unbeknownst to my parents, who in good faith gave me lunch money each day to, well, buy lunch...I did buy lunch, but lunch was very often a package of Hostess Ding Dongs and a carton of chocolate milk. Ugh. Probably about the worst thing in the world for an eighth-grader to eat. No wonder I had the afternoon science class crash each day.
As an adult, I hardly ever eat hostess cakes anymore. And it's probably been 30 merciful years since I've had a Ding Dong. I still battle weight, but if I'm going to gain weight, I'm generally going to do it eating homemade, less processed foods. But, man, this writing is making me want to go out and end my 30 year streak.
Geez, I wouldn't want my kids to eat any of these and, so far, they haven't.....
At least in the USA, the top "snack cake" purveyors are Hostess and Little Debbie and those snacks are infused with childhood nostalgia. Later in my childhood, Entenmann's came along (well, they've been around since 1898, but they really started expanding in earnest in the 70s and 80s) and they offered a seemingly more homemade, upscale experience. TastyKake seems to be a regional thing, relegated to the eastern US and I've only seen them appear recently in my area, so they lack the same nostalgia as the others. For me, the nostalgia belongs to Hostess and Little Debbie.
So, here are my Top 5 favorite Hostess Snack Cakes. What are yours?
DING DONGS - At least when I was a kid, each cake would be wrapped in a shiny, foil-like wrapper and, oh, those cakes..shiny, chocolate, cream-filled bliss. In some places, Canada, I think, the cakes are called "King Dons." And I seem to have memories of my brother and I calling them King Dons growing up, but we lived in so many different places, it's hard to keep track.
HO-HOS: My only issue with the Ho-Ho is that they are so small. If I am going to expend the caloric effort to eat something like this, I want to enjoy it. A ho-ho is basically a Ding-Dong that is in the shape of a cylinder, as opposed to a cake....so, yeah, I'll take the cake. It's bigger.
ZERBA CAKES: These are a more sentimental favorite. Becuase by the ninth grade I turned to healthier fare: white milk at lunch and I thought the Zebra Cakes were somehow "healthier." I'm not sure about that in hindsight.
BANANA TWINS: You know, who wouldn't like these spongy, banana filled cakes?
HOLIDAY-THEMED CAKES: My Grandma would often buy a box of Little Debbie, Christmas-tree shaped cakes at Christmas or bunny-shaped cakes at Easter.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Suzy-Q...while, for me, a snack cake can really never been too large, the Suzy-Q sort of defies that theory. If memory serves me correct, it was just this large cream-filled "sandwich" that was just huge. Too much for me, and that is saying something. Zingers also get an honorable mention. I used to eat these in college all the time, I miss them. I need a Zinger. Also, making the list of honorable mentions would be Nutty Bars and Star Crunches.
You know what didn't make the list: Twinkie. We did eat Twinkies when we were a kid and they were good, but.....I don't know...they just don't occupy the same sentimental space.