- Food & Drink
“And the exciting part is that they have no ingredients that a human can pronounce, so it doesn’t leave you with that heavy ‘food’ feeling in your stomach.”
Xander Harris, Inca Mummy Girl, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Last week’s Band of Bakers meeting was themed around American baking in a belated nod to the 4th of July and I decided to make my own Twinkies. If they can be baked en masse in Kansas, then a small batch of vanilla cream-filled fingers shouldn’t be beyond me.
Researching the recipe, the usual problem with American baking recipes cropped up: they almost always ask you to use a box of cake mix. If find this infuriating. Not as infuriating as pancake batter mix, but definitely steam-out-of-my-ears cross-making. Cake mix is clearly just a way of making you pay more for flour and sugar.
Why wouldn’t you just buy flour and sugar and weigh it yourself? Are people really so nervous of scales? Obviously Americans are, because they use cups rather than scales, but dipping a cup into a bag of flour isn’t that tricky a manoeuvre to manage.
So I ignored all those recipes and finally I found this recipe, which uses actual ingredients. I ran it through the universal baking translator, swapped in some British ingredients and got baking. I used mini loaf tins, which didn’t give the cakes quite the right domed look but it was close enough. My plan was to bake them the day before and inject the vanilla cream the next day.
This was a mistake.
These sponges are like muffins – on the day they’re baked they’re like clouds; the day after they’re rubbery wheat pucks. Holding a putative Twinkie sponge in my hand, it felt heavier than lead.
I decided to carry on with my bouncy rubber cakes, mainly because there was only an hour to go before the meeting started and I had no flour, butter or sugar left in the house (at this point, I could kind of see why you might keep a box of emergency Betty Crocker on standby). The vanilla cream filling is made from Trex, marshmallow fluff and icing sugar. Beating them together results in a Newtonian fluid that’s both a liquid and a solid at the same time.
I spooned it into my baker’s syringe, inserted the needle into the bottom of my 1st Twinkie and squeezed. The vanilla cream instantly turned into concrete and refused to budge. No matter how hard I pushed, nothing would move it. A tube of day-old Polyfilla would’ve been more mobile.
I dug the vanilla cream out of the syringe and scraped it into a piping bag, hoping a larger nozzle would encourage the cream to become a bit more free flowing. Suddenly it was liquid again. In fact, it was so liquid there was no controlling it. A tsunami of sugar shot out of the piping bag. It oozed around the edges of the nozzle and dripped out of the top. It poured into the cakes, so they bulged and cracked, dripping sticky pools over every surface. It was cake bukkake and I’d forgotten to put down the plastic sheeting.
The cakes, tight with 24 hours waiting, had no give. The air pockets were rigid and unyielding, so any cream that made it into them slid back out rather than nestling into the spongy nooks and crannies. Had I filled the cakes while they were still warmish, it probably would’ve settled but stuffing them cold meant the cake and cream refused to mix.
In desperation I jammed the piping bag into every side of the sponges, hoping to leave at least a trace of vanilla cream around the edges. Then I packed them into a box, took them to the pub and stuffed myself with chilli cheese dog pies, cheesecake brownies and peanut butter flavoured tarts while everyone was very kind about my efforts.
I’ve given the metric measurement for the recipe I used below and a couple of notes to help you with the baking. And I wish you the best of British should you attempt it.
FOR THE SPONGE
110g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g self raising flour
250ml whole milk
FOR THE FILLING
175g marshmallow fluff
40g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
10ml hot water
A good pinch of salt
1 Follow the instructions in this recipe, greasing 8 mini loaf tins with 10g of the butter and baking the sponges at gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C for 20–25 minutes or until golden and light.
2 Let the cakes cool on a wire rack while you make the filling, then pipe or inject the filling while the cakes are still warmish. Eat them on the day they are made, unless you need a collection of sticky, semi-edible paperweights.