When you think of foods with a long shelf life, Twinkies are often the first to come to mind. These iconic pastries gained a reputation for longevity over their 92-year lifespan.
The myth of the ever-fresh Twinkie is so popular that it frequently pops up in movies and media. But do Twinkies really last longer than other pre-packaged desserts?
Join us as we discover the truth behind the long-standing legend of the Twinkie.
Let’s get going!
What’s the Story Behind Twinkies?
A bakery manager named Jimmy Dewer invented Twinkies in 1930. He chose the distinctive name after noticing a billboard for Twinkle Toe Shoes on his way to a pitch meeting.
Dewer worked for the Continental Baking Company, which eventually became known as Hostess Brands. Over time, these cakes became one of the company’s most beloved products.
When Jimmy Dewer pitched Twinkies in 1930, his original recipe called for a banana-flavored filling. In fact, the first Twinkies did contain banana filling made with real fruit and cream.
But when World War II began, bananas were rationed and became difficult to purchase. Continental Baking began filling the cakes with vanilla cream instead. The recipe remains unchanged ever since.
Twinkies remain wildly popular almost 100 years after their invention. Nearly 1,200 Twinkies are produced every minute, while people consume more than one million every day.
These delicious pastries come in specialty flavors beyond the standard vanilla version. And during the holidays, you can find seasonal flavors too!
Who Was Responsible for the Revival of Twinkie the Kid?
Continental Baking decided to retire Twinkie the Kid, the snack cake’s mascot, in 1988. The beloved mascot was a Twinkie in cowboy clothes, including a hat and bandanna. Many consumers were disappointed, but no one was quite as disappointed as Judd Slivka.
Slivka, who was 13 years old at the time, wrote a letter to Continental Baking to protest the Kid’s retirement. The teen even started a petition to save the mascot and gathered nearly 140 signatures. Slivka threatened to boycott the dessert altogether if Twinkie the Kid disappeared.
The company took Slivka’s letter to heart. Continental Baking revived the mascot in 1990 for the 60th anniversary of the Twinkie. They also invited the teen to a VIP Twinkies birthday party at company headquarters.
What Are Twinkies Actually Made of?
The parent company of this famous snack cake keeps its exact recipe a secret. But thanks to nutrition labels and curious food scientists, the basic components of a Twinkie are easy to find.
Standard ingredients like salt, super-fine sugar, water, corn syrup, and shortening are all involved. Cellulose gum, a thickening agent, is responsible for the dessert’s glossy appearance.
Manufacturers lengthen the shelf life of Twinkies by using artificial butter. This ingredient’s scientific name is diacetyl. It occurs naturally in fermented beverages and rancid fruit juice. Just a drop or two of diacetyl lends a sweet and buttery flavor to many common food items.
Twinkies are baked in industrial custom-sized pans. After cooling completely, the famous cream filling is added through the bottom of each piece.
Produced in massive quantities, one factory can bake as many as 15,000 cakes at a time. One batch of Twinkie batter weighs 2,000 pounds. Finally, the pastries are wrapped, boxed, and ready to sell.
Do Twinkies Come in Different Flavors?
As we mentioned earlier, Twinkies originally contained banana filling. But did you know there was a strawberry filling even before that?
In their earliest days of operation, Continental Baking produced strawberry shortcakes. The only problem was that strawberries aren’t a shelf-stable crop.
The company had a narrow six-week window to make these snacks, which wasn’t very profitable. That’s when Jimmy Dewer’s banana-filling idea came into play.
Twinkie lovers know the standard vanilla flavor isn’t the only one out there. These pastries also come in chocolate and blue raspberry flavors, as well as banana. Sometimes you can even find them with strawberry filling! Seasonal flavors include peppermint and pumpkin spice.
Pro Tip: Want a fresh baked cake instead of a Twinkie? Find out What National Grocery Store Has the Best Bakery?
Procrastinators Love Twinkies!
Twinkies aren’t just one of the best-known desserts of all time. They also make great test subjects for scientists!
In the mid-1990s, Rice University science majors Chris Gouge and Todd Stadler didn’t feel like studying for finals. Instead, they created the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project (Test With Inorganic Noxious Kakes In Extreme Situations). Gouge and Stadler subjected the pastries to several tests.
Experiments included the Rapid Oxidation Test, which consisted of setting a Twinkie on fire. This was more difficult than they expected it to be. They discovered the pastry needed to be soaked in rubbing alcohol for it to burn.
Another experiment called the Gravitational Response Test set out to determine whether gravity affects Twinkies. Fun fact – it does!
The students even gave one cake the Turing Test to measure its capacity for human thought. As you might guess, the result proved Twinkies weren’t capable of thinking like humans.
Do They Really Stay Fresh Forever?
One popular misconception about Twinkies is that they only contain artificial ingredients. Over time, dozens of urban legends about Twinkies resulted from this claim.
The myth gained further popularity when a science teacher left one of the snack cakes on top of his chalkboard for nearly three decades. The Maine-based teacher claimed that although the pastry did age visibly, it was still safe to eat.
In reality, Twinkies contain many real ingredients, and they don’t stay fresh forever. The official shelf life of a Twinkie is about 25 days. Although they might be safe to eat beyond that point, their texture and flavor begin to diminish.
These popular cakes enjoy a relatively long shelf life thanks to their ingredients. The vanilla filling is shortening-based, which lasts much longer than cream-based filling.
There are indeed a few artificial ingredients in the pastries, including stabilizers. This helps to boost the desserts’ shelf life even further.
Pro Tip: Aldi brand Twinkies may not be as good as the original, but these 7 Aldi Brand Foods Are Better Than Name Brands.
Don’t Eat That Year-Old Twinkie
Twinkies might be the most well-known snack cake in the U.S. These delicious golden pastries hold a nostalgic place in the hearts of many.
But don’t buy the hype! Just like any food product, Twinkies do have a shelf life. Make sure to keep your Twinkie stash fresh and your taste buds will thank you.
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