Whenever I am in a gas station, corner deli, or mini-mart, I'm always a little bit temped by the display of snack cakes by the cash register. Or, more specifically, I'm tempted by the Hostess Cupcakes, with their gooey, marshmallow-creamy centers. Betty Crocker's new FUN da-Middles chocolate cupcake mix with vanilla filling bears a striking resemblance to Hostess. But would the taste compare?
In addition to a pretty standard-looking bag of chocolate cake mix, the box contained a foil pouch of "creamy vanilla filling." After preparing the batter, I filled twelve muffin cups 1/3 of the way full. Then I squirted a fat blob of filling into the middle. Finally, I spooned the remaining batter over the tops.
The vanilla filling was thicker than I expected—about the consistency of toothpaste. While that might make it sound less than appetizing, it was actually a good thing. The viscosity made it easy to create neat centers that didn't spread or run to the sides.
After 25 minutes in the oven, my cupcakes emerged warm, pillowy, and smelling of cocoa powder. I split one open and was pleased to see that the filling had softened a bit with the heat and now resembled a molten, gooey, roasted marshmallow. The filling was definitely the highlight of these cupcakes. The cake part tasted like generic chocolate cake mix—a little dull and artificial, but for the most part moist and fluffy and unobjectionable.
So how did they compare to Hostess? Since these cakes came from a warm oven and not a plastic package, I would say that the FUN da-Middles cupcakes were superior to Hostess. However, I couldn't help missing that slick of chocolate faux ganache and the little white curly cue. If you purchase this mix, I highly suggest you also pick up a tub of chocolate frosting a tube of white icing so that you can recreate the entire Hostess experience at home. It would be a great cooking project for kids!
Lucy Baker is a food writer and the author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets. She is currently at work on a second book about homemade food gifts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dachshund.
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