Farewell to the Ding Dong

I haven’t eaten a Zinger, Ho-Ho or Twinkie in years, but I just returned from the grocery store where I bought a box of each, as archetypal American snack cake maker Hostess is shutting its doors as of this Tuesday. What a downer to end the week! Oh sure, some large packaged goods maker will probably come along and pick up the brands at some point. But then maybe they won’t. And riddle me this: can the kitsch bakers who’ve made good off of upscale Twinkie and Ding Dong knock-offs survive for long without the real thing? When no one will get the joke anymore? I think not. There will be a large ripple effect from today’s announcement, my friends. Very large indeed.

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37 Responses to Farewell to the Ding Dong

  1. Chana says:

    Yes, this news made me very sad, even though I also can’t remember the last time I ate a Hostess cake. (Of course that’s why they’re closing — we don’t buy the stuff any more.) But upscale Twinkies sort of miss the point, no? Anyway, you should freeze some of those cakes, Joe!

    • joepastry says:

      Maybe I will! I hate to think of my little ones growing up without these in their lives…even though they get a lot of homemade bakery being Joe Pastry’s kids. There’s something entertaining, almost funny about these sorts of snack cakes that the purists and food scolds of the world can’t understand. I’d hate for the girls to miss out on that.

      - Joe

  2. Susan says:

    I was never a fan of twinkies as a kid, I preferred Snowballs or the chocolate cupcakes or the fruit pies. However, when I went out on my own, I got the scathingly brilliant idea that if those Hostess sponge cake cups made for strawberry shortcake were unavailable, I could use a twinkie, split open, instead. It already had the whipped cream (such as it is) in it, so I didn’t have to have that on hand, either. That was shortlived, though as I became more health conscious. Won’t miss them…except the occasional Hostess Chocolate cupcake!

    • joepastry says:

      Nice idea! But yeah, we grownups won’t miss them much as a day-to-day reality. But knowing that they were out there was a comfort I think. If you needed the taste of being a kid for some reason, you could get it. Think of all the pop culture references that won’t be there now. The family was watching WALL-E the other day, and there’s a Twinkie in it. That gag will have to be explained to kids in the next couple of years. Sigh.

      - Jow

      • Kitty says:

        Well given that there are mentions of companies being interested in the biggest brands, I don’t see the Twinkie dying per say just yet. SOMEONE will buy the rights to that one.The question will be what they DO with said rights after. :/
        Also DANGNABBIT. I’ve been thinking about different Hostess snacks as of late, more as of a stupid craving. I might not get that now when I can finally go back and visit the States. Hmm.. (I was always partial to DingDongs myself.. I think that was Hostess)
        No real loss though. I CAN try and make my own worst to worst. Right now I want Red hots anyways. :P

        • joepastry says:

          Hey Kitty!

          Funny you should mention Red Hots. Mrs. Pastry lived across the highway from the Ferrara Pan Candy Company factory just to the west of Chicago in Oak Park. To this day when you drive past on the Eisenhower Expressway you can smell whatever they happen to be making…Red Hots, Atomic Fireballs, Lemon Heads, Boston Baked Beans. The nice thing, for a candy freak like her, is that you can still go to the factory store there and buy the stuff practically at wholesale cost. Once you all but walked onto the factory floor and the scooped some into a bag for you. These days they have a proper shop, but you can still buy the candy for, er….peanuts.

          Good luck with the candy hunt…I’m sure you can get some shipped to you!

          - Joe

          • Kitty says:

            I can get the stuff shipped to me, but if I do it through a website its about 4x the cost PLUS shipping… and I love ALLL those candy types, I think I’m glad I never lived near that factory…

          • joepastry says:

            Have you tried the factory itself? Truth be told, Mrs. Pastry’s family has connections to the Ferrara’s…maybe we can pull some strings! ;)

            - Joe

          • Kitty says:

            I tried emailing you btw, did it get caught in the spam filter?

          • joepastry says:

            It made it! ;)

  3. Sarah J says:

    That’s a lot of people out of work. 600 near me in Utah, and another 18,000 elsewhere.

  4. Brian Shaw says:

    Surely this signals the end to civilization as we know it. Oh… woe is us.

  5. Gardencat says:

    These will still be made and sold in Canada so I see a tourism opportunity! Come on up and visit and fill up, if these are your thing. If not, we have lots of other real treats too!

    • joepastry says:

      Who needs real? I’m already showing withdrawal symptoms!

      Thanks for the important bulletin!

      - Joe

    • RobynR says:

      Wonder if the Canadian Hostess products are as different as Oreos (and Coke, and ketchup . . . ) are from their American counterparts.

      • joepastry says:

        I didn’t know those products were different in Canada! Thanks for the daily lesson, Robyn!

        - Joe

        • Jen says:

          Yes, it’s an odd, fascinating aspect of the global food industry that products sold under the same name and the same brand have different ingredients from country to country. Sometimes it’s a regulatory thing, but not always. Oreos don’t surprise me, but I have to say that Coke is a bit of a shock given how much the “unique” taste is emphasized.

          • joepastry says:

            It stands to reason. Having had McDonald’s as a client for years, I know that they change their recipes from country to country. I once sampled their mutton burgers which were destined for the Indian market. They tasted, well, like a McDonald’s product. I was impressed!

            - Joe

          • RobynR says:

            Since there I don’t currently have a stash of Canadian goodies I can’t compare ingredients but I believe the difference, as far as Coke goes anyways, is that Canada uses sugar and the USA uses hfcs. I wouldn’t think it could make a noticeable change in taste but there really is a distinctly different flavour, as well as level of sweetness (Canadian Coke tastes much sweeter).

  6. Linda says:

    The good news is, Joe, the shelf is supposed to be right up there with survival rate of the cockroach. Depending on how long it takes your kids to eat them, the unopened ones should still be good well into thir adulthood…maybe even their senior years!

    I do feel for all the people losing jobs and it is sad to see an icon disappear. I did read down to find the year they opened because I don’t remember them until I was older. Maybe they were there and they didn’t say my name like oatmeal creme pies.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Linda!

      Oh if that were true. It’s an urban myth that Twinkies and other Hostess products live forever. In fact by Hostess company policy they’re not allowed to stay on grocery store shelves for more than 10 days, by which point they have staled noticeably. This is why Hostess bakeries are located all around the U.S., so they can ship fresh product fast to their customers. If they kept as long as people say, they could have one bakery in China and ship them by slow boat. The best way to keep them if you want to extend their shelf life is to freeze them, which is what I’ll be doing. Thanks for the comment!

      - Joe

  7. Darren says:

    Really though, mr. joe, you don’t actually think a twinkie is a good product do you? I mean aside from the mile long ingredient list with things like sodium stearoyl lactylate (who comes up with the idea that you should add something like that into your recipe anyway?), they technically only provide a sweet punch in the mouth. They don’t have much in the way of flavor. Mystery cream with a bare hint of vanilla. I’ve eaten a few boxes of them in my life, but I can’t say I’ll miss them. I think small operators will keep them alive. In fact they might even get a boost in sales if the Twinkie stays gone and they’re the only supplier of mystery cream crack.

    • joepastry says:

      It depends on what you mean by “good”. Are they competitive with a good rehrucken or layer cake? No. But they’re darn fun, and for that they have high value, especially for kids. Being in the food manufacturing world as I am so much of my professional life, I fear no additive, especially one as valuable as SSL. It’s one of the most useful dough improvers out there!

      That’s not to say I wants my kids eating them three meals a day. But a Twinkie or Sno Ball every so often helps make life bearable. Don’t you think?

      Thanks for the great note, Darren!

      - Joe

      • Darren says:

        SSL is a dough improver. What’s a dough improver and how does it work? I think you could do a lot of posts on demystifying additives. Might make us all a little less wary of them.

        • joepastry says:

          Hey Darren!

          Thanks for the reply! In fact I did a week on food additives a couple of years ago. It was fun, but may well need updating. This is the kickoff post, if you like it just go find the date in the calendar and read forward!

          http://www.joepastry.com/2010/in_praise_of_chemicals/

          As for how duogh improvers work, they make gluten stronger, which helps a dough resist tearing when it’s handled and shaped, and gives it more volume when it bakes. SSL does quite a few other things as well…it’s one of those multi-functional players. It’s a terrific emulsifier, and because it helps starch molecules stay gelatinized after bread bakes, it works as an anti-staling agent too. It may not be as versatile as xanthan gum, but it’s close! ;)

          For more on that, go here:

          http://www.joepastry.com/2010/geeks_s_corner_the_miracle_of_xanthan_gu/

          I hope you enjoy these. Thanks again, Darren!

          - Joe

          • Darren says:

            Thanks mr. pastry! I’ll give this a good going over while I’m avoiding work at work.

          • joepastry says:

            Hehe…you do that, Darren! And thanks for all the great commenting!

            - Joe

  8. Ellen says:

    I always thought Hostess products were so pretty, but so tasteless.
    I prefer Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls myself.
    No matter – it’s always a shame when a company goes out of business and so many people lose their jobs.

  9. Heidi says:

    The only Hostess treat I really ever ate was a Sno Ball and that only every 2 or 3 years. The giant Mexican bakery company, Bimbo, already makes Pinguinos which look exactly like Ding Dongs (never tried one), and as they already bought Wonder Bread, I’m betting they’ll step in and buy Hostess. I think Sno Balls would sell well here in Mexico since marshmallows are a huge favorite here.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Heidi! Thanks for the reminder! I remember seeing snack cakes like that in the DF. Maybe they will go into full scale production. Mexican groceries are easy to find in most places in America. If they have Twinkies it’ll be just one more reason to go!

      Thanks!

      - Joe

  10. Carolyn says:

    I do feel for all the people losing their jobs. And, although I was never a big Twinkie fan, my favorite was the Ding Dongs. Haven’t had one in years, but next time I am in the grocery store and see a box, may be tempted to buy and put them in my freezer.
    And, although, the reasoning for their going out of business is because no one is buying their cakes, makes one wonder, with the obesity rate what it is right now, people are buying and eating something to pack on the pounds.
    I am a 62 year old female. I have been overweight in my life, currently I am not. But, given my age, looking back, before all the convenience foods and fast foods available, the obesity rate didn’t come close to what it is now. But, then when I was growing up, there were no fast food places to speak of, no microwaves, no cable television, no internet. What food can ‘t be popped in the microwave and ready in seconds. But, it is because I have made taking care of myself a priority, watching my diet and exercising. And, when it is said that diet is 90% of the of the healthy equation, fortunately or unfortunately, that is so true. I know this is completely off course for this site, but I guess the most important thing is not so much what we are eating, but portion control. ope I didn’t rain on anyone’s parade, just wanted to share my thoughts.

  11. Heather says:

    Hi Joe
    You might like this post (Feeling Peckish) on a blog I follow – seems coincidental to me :)
    http://www.culinarialibris.com/

  12. Tanya says:

    The only one I liked was the Ding Dong. The coating matched with the cake and cream was a great trio of textures. Funny that everyone is out buying them up and stuffing their faces with junk they haven’t eaten in a decade and then they will most likely be on the shelves again in new packaging. Everything, even a Twinkie, seems more desirable when you can’t have it!

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