The Hostess with the Mostess

When cupcake and confection maker, Hostess, went bankrupt a few years back, I watched the news with some mixture of interest and nostalgia.

I hadn’t eaten a Hostess product in probably more than a quarter century, and had paid little interest to their presence on the grocery store shelf all those years. I was never much for Twinkies, which seemed to be getting all the press as the company went under. I liked the apple pies, the little chocolate donuts and, most of all, the Ding Dong. I thought they did chocolate well.

How to make your Ding Dong look fancy so you can serve it to your snooty foodie friends

How to make your Ding Dong look fancy so you can serve it to your snooty foodie friends

The Ding Dong, for the uninitiated, is a little disc of chocolate cake with a cream center, and chocolate coating. Like most Hostess products, it remains fresh and moist even after several months on the shelf.

As the company was going down, I figured perhaps I would have a last Ding Dong for old time sake. But there were none on the shelves, only Twinkies and Donettes. Maybe they’d already discontinued the product, I thought.

Over the year or so following the bankruptcy, I would see news items here and there about this company or that attempting to purchase Hostess. And then someone finally did, and promised Twinkies would be back on the shelves in no time! But what about Ding Dongs??

More time passed, and one day I was strolling through the grocery store bread aisle, and saw a display: “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever!” Hostess was back. There on the shelf were Twinkies — loads of Twinkies — Cupcakes, Donettes, Ho Hos, Fruit Pies… But no Ding Dongs. I began to think I may never taste another Ding Dong! — which, of course, I never would have anyway if the company hadn’t gone bankrupt. This was becoming something of an obsession.

Every time I stopped at the grocery store, I would check. Every time, I would be disappointed. Until one day, when I turned the corner into the bread aisle, and there they were — Ding Dongs! Big boxes of them. Back when I was a kid, they came two per package, each individual cake wrapped in foil. Surely these large boxes were shipping boxes with the two-packs inside, so I ripped into one. And inside I found individually plastic-wrapped cakes, marked: “Not for resale”. I should have read the price tag, which read, “Box of 12 Ding Dongs.” I glanced guiltily around, did my best to mend the box, and slunked on my way.

A few weeks later I was back in the store, and noticed that the 12-Ding Dong box was on sale, half price. I certainly wasn’t going to eat 12 Ding Dongs, but I could try one and then poison my kids and their friends with the rest of them. I bought a box.

At the gas station where I stopped to fill up the tank, I opened the box and took out a single Ding Dong. I tore off the plastic, and there it was, just like I remembered it — dark, waxy, light. I bit in. And it tasted just like I remembered — chocolately, creamy, moist. I was expecting more of a chemical aftertaste, but in all honesty it was better than some of the nostalgic Hostess-like desserts being served up these days by clever self-impressed young chefs from Portland to New York.

Fancy Hostess-inspired dessert from a trendy restaurant in D.C.

Fancy Hostess-inspired dessert from a trendy restaurant in D.C.

The nozzle clicked off, the tank was full. I set the Ding Dong down and screwed the gas cap back in. There was a green light on Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset, so I hopped in the car and speedily zipped out into a lane. I made the light and was happily headed home, when it struck me — where was the Ding Dong??

Had I set it on top of the car, and now it was rolling around in traffic on PCH? I hadn’t left it on the driver’s seat, had I!?? I lifted my hips as much as my seatbelt would permit me, craned my neck… and sure enough, there was the Ding Dong — smashed across my butt.

I reached down and peeled the flattened confection from my derrière, and ate it. It still tasted good. When I got home, I plucked the last bits of chocolate from the car seat and my butt, and ate those too.

That evening, we had five children in addition to our own three dining with us. Our friend Heather had made a beautiful vanilla cake with fresh blueberries for dessert. The kids wanted second helpings, but she wanted to save some for the adults. I had just the solution. I busted out the Ding Dongs. The kids’ eyes bulged and their mouths salivated, as if they were being handed the keys to a mythical kingdom of sweets. And I guess they were — the Kingdom of Hostess, of which they’d only heard but never tasted.

“Don’t get used to it,” I said. “This is not something we’re going to be getting often.”

They relished every bit in the 20 seconds it took them to consume their discs, and then went on happily about their evening play.

As for me, I had satisfied a curiosity which had lurked within me for years. (Well, at least since the bankruptcy.) I had eaten a Ding Dong, had enjoyed it, and wouldn’t need to revisit that particular relic of childhood anytime soon. The only question now: When the day-glo pink Sno Balls made it back to the shelves, would I have the courage to try one??

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greggie
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 01:50:44

    My favorite as a kid was their cupcake. I always marveled at how they got the cream into the center, it wasn’t until college and I learned how to infuse vodka into oranges that it all made sense. Thanks for the nostalgic memory.


  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 02:15:58

    Like you, I haven’t eaten any Hostess products for years and years, but as a kid I loved a good Ho-Ho. I liked Ding Dongs too. Twinkies, though, absolutely disgusted me and to this day I’ve never tried a Sno-ball. The colors always creeped me out. Great story though — spreading the Hostess onto a new generation! I like it.


  3. Andrea
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 02:45:58

    I MUST have a Twinkie and a Ho Ho. I will put that on my list. I love that %#^%## and I haven’t had it for years!!!


  4. Dragnfli
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 03:09:48

    In high school, my lunch was not complete unless I had my Ding Dong. My mom knew this and packed accordingly. I have not had one in decades. Somehow, I think the taste is something best left in memory.


    • scolgin
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 14:33:46

      Weren’t you the lucky one! I had to sneak them past my whole wheat-packing mom. There was a nice nostalgia factor. And as I said, it tasted better than I expected.


  5. beatashimanskaya
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 09:08:06

    that looks good….. i like it….


  6. catsholiday
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 10:01:11

    I don’t have any nostalgic feeling for these being British but do love the haute cuisine creations using them!


    • scolgin
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 14:32:37

      There must be some British equivalent, no? Our friends brought home a dazzling array of weird British sweets from London on a recent trip…


  7. linnetmoss
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 13:24:03

    My favorite was the cupcake, but I loved Ding Dongs too. In some parts of the country they were called “King Dons.” I thought it was because the original name was deemed a bit suggestive, but it turns out that it was a copyright conflict with Ring Dings.


    • scolgin
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 14:31:47

      King Dons is kind of suggestive too. As is Twinkies, come to think of it. We’re getting a lot of votes for the cupcake, which was never my fave although it would do in a snack pinch.


  8. coffeetablecookbook
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 18:38:51

    Ding Dongs are (were?) also my favorite of the hostess treats. Although, as much as I hate to admit it, while in high school on particularly late (were talking 3 in the morning type stuff here) nights, I would love to come home and eat a twinkie dunked in ice cold milk. It’s one of those so bad it’s good things…


    • scolgin
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 23:53:21

      Can’t beat the so bad they’re good things. 🙂 Hey, where you been? Haven’t seen a post in ages.


      • coffeetablecookbook
        Feb 04, 2014 @ 18:37:11

        Ugh, I know! I have totally dropped the ball with posting, still reading up on all my favorites though! I started a new job and was pretty busy/overwhelmed for a while and then for the past three months I’ve been dealing with morning sickness and not eating/cooking a whole lot. My plan is to start up again (soon I hope) 🙂

      • scolgin
        Feb 04, 2014 @ 18:45:44

        Morning sickness! So a “congratulations” would be in order?? 🙂 So I guess when you do get back to posting, it’ll be all about which sorts of foods mash easily. 😉

      • coffeetablecookbook
        Feb 04, 2014 @ 19:20:55

        Thank you! And yes, mishy-mashy foods may be in the future….my mind immediately went to foie gras, haha.

      • scolgin
        Feb 04, 2014 @ 19:24:04

        Could be kinda rich for tiny tummies. But what the heck, give it a try! 🙂 (My son was eating the deep fried sweet shrimp heads at the sushi bar when he was no more than 2…)

  9. jewel
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 21:19:55

    Thought the hubby was going to have withdrawal when Hostess went out. When I discovered the first box of chocolate-covered Hostess product and brought it home to him…I swear a saw a single manly tear glistening down his cheek. 😉 Btw, congratulations on breaking 1500 followers! You rule!


  10. Michelle
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 02:15:59

    Love it. I was a Hostess CupCake girl myself. It’s probably been more than 3 decades since I’ve had one, but I can still remember that overly sweet taste and waxy icing as if it was yesterday. 🙂 I even sort of liked SnoBalls. But Twinkies were always just wrong.


    • scolgin
      Feb 01, 2014 @ 02:48:15

      General consensus forming that Twinkies were kind gnarly, Cupcakes and Ding Dongs good, Ho Hos and Zingers and Sno Balls occupying some sort of nether region.


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