Whether you’re a road-tripper who swears by Twinkies as a behind-the-wheel treat, or a bodega regular devoted to making cream-filled cakes part of your everyday snacking ritual, there’s no doubt that—at some point or another—you’ve developed an abiding affection for at least one snack in the Hostess snack-cakes canon.
While there’s a time and place for each, we’ve revisited the lineup and devised the ultimate ranking of everyone’s favorite spongy, plastic-wrapped cakes, doughnuts, muffins, and more.
10. Blueberry Muffin Mini-Packs
What it is: Hostess upped its breakfast game with snack-sized bags (roughly 5 to a packet) of mini-muffins perfect for eating while on the move. Flavors include blueberry, banana walnut, and chocolate chip. Be forewarned: blueberry is the far-and-away standout.
Why we love it: There’s something that’s charmingly twee about the diminutive size of each muffin, like a poppable ode to blueberry flavor in a soft, slightly cinnamon-laced bite. While the exterior might get a little sticky on the fingers (go easier on the glaze, Hostess), it’s easy to forgive their messiness once the fruity taste bursts through. (Photo: Hostess.com)
9. Crunch Donettes
What it is: An all-day treat firmly wedged into the breakfast category, the crunch donettes are easily the best corner store mini-doughnuts on the market today. They’ll make you forget any sort of negative experience you might associate with the stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth powdered donuts of your childhood.
Why we love it: The fusion of crumb-cake crumbs lining the exterior and hearty, spice-cake interior texture is a match made in pastry heaven—and will make even the most lactose-averse person jones for a big, tall glass of milk for dunking. (The best runner up mini-doughnut is far and away the devil’s food cake. The others are decidedly take-or-leave.)
8. Orange Flavored Cupcake
What it is: One of the most traditional Hostess offerings, the orange cupcake has a cream (or, as Hostess spells it, “creme”) filling surrounded by moist, citrusy cake and a thick coating of tangerine-colored icing (complete with its signature white squiggle).
Why we love it: Yes, it’s remarkably retro. Yes, it’s a weird shade of orange somewhere between a middle-school girl’s “edgy” finger nail polish and the skin of an overly ripe peach. But there’s something about the slightly floral aftertaste and combination of orange and cream that allows the cupcake to transcend into dreamy Creamsicle territory.
7. Vanilla Zingers
What it is: Some might consider the Zinger simply a thinner, frosting-topped version of the Twinkie. But those people haven’t stopped to really consider the Zinger’s true potential. It’s an underdog that relies on its charms (aforementioned thick layer of sugary, strip-like icing and incredibly nuanced cake-to-cream ratio) in order to win over the masses. It’s the Jan Brady of snack cakes forever yelling, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”
Why we love it: While Zingers technically come in three flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry), it’s the subtlety of the vanilla—sweet without overpowering—that pushes it firmly into first place territory. Pro tip: line up the three and take a bite all at once for a snack-cake Neapolitan experience.
6. Cherry Pie
What it is: A hand-held cherry pie, this snack is easily the crown prince of the Hostess pocket-pie offerings. (Also includes an apple version and a lemon variety.)
Why we love it: 1990 hit “Cherry Pie” by Warrant notwithstanding (which plays in my head each time I chomp down), the alarmingly flaky crust and orbs of tart cherry goodness inside each handheld pastry is a pleasure so good, it should come with a parental-guidance warning.
5. Suzy Q’s
What it is: A compact, deeply rich rectangular devil’s-food cake sandwich with a creamy fluff center, Suzy Q’s are like the mass-market return of the whoopie pie. They also come in a strange, Laffy Taffy-ish banana flavor, which is best avoided.
Why we love it: Technically, Suzy Q’s don’t fall under the Hostess umbrella anymore. They’re still in production, though, and will always have a place in our Hostess-loving hearts, having been attached to the brand since 1961. If you’re a fan, don’t sweat it—they’re still in every single bodega in town. (Photo: Amazon.com)
4. Ding Dongs
What it is: Who put ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong? Hostess. Shaped (oddly enough) like a slightly larger, denser hockey puck, Ding Dongs returned to supermarket shelves after a hiatus in 2013. It was a glorious day for snack lovers everywhere, who missed their chocolate-on-chocolate double feature.
Why we love it: Ding Dongs have been known by many names in the U.S. and abroad (King Don, Big Wheels), but their sediment-style layers of flavor and texture are revered across-the-board by cake lovers. There’s something particularly indulgent about finding your way through the icing, to the cake, to the creamy center; it’s like being a culinary archeologist. (Photo: Hostess.com)
What it is: An all-American snack cake dating back to 1947, Snoballs were likely enjoyed by your grandparents as much as we enjoy them now. A half-sphere of chocolate cake infused with cream, coated in a layer of perfectly sticky marshmallow then rolled in coconut, there’s basically nothing a Snoball can’t do to satisfy a sweet-tooth.
Why we love it: There’s no better coconut-flaked, oddly shaped offering in the Hostess lineup. The marshmallow frosting sits like a helmet on top of the chocolate cake layer, forming a kind of rudimentary s’more in reverse.
What it is: The self-described “golden child” of snack cakes, the Twinkie has become a pop-culture touchstone that needs no introduction. A bouncy log of golden cake infused with aerated cream, Twinkies are a bonafide snack-aisle classic.
Why we love it: What some would consider the G.O.A.T. snack cake, the Twinkie oozes creaminess and is the ultimate sugary indulgence. The ample interior layers of fluffy cream are the stuff that childhood dreams are made of, while the cake is surprisingly none-too-sweet as a standalone entity.
What it is: A “roll cake” in a portable size, the HoHo wraps together all the best snack-cake elements (chocolate icing, layers of vanilla cream, and chocolatey cake) into a treat that’s both readily accessible and easily wolfed down in a couple of bites. The HoHo always leaves you coming back for more.
Why we love it: Yeah, we all know the Twinkie, but the HoHo is the true all-star of the Hostess lineup. The mouth feel of HoHos is a downright perfect blend of icing lacquer, soft cake, and a cyclone-like swirl of cream that’s both visually hypnotic in its signature twin pack—and has just the right balance of chocolate versus vanilla flavor. It’s a clear winner that has no difficulty remaining humble, which is a trait we greatly admire.
Honorable Mention: Tiger Tails (RIP)
— Al Peterson (@KvalAl) August 27, 2013
With their oblong raspberry-jelly stripe and tropical-ish coconut taste, Tiger Tails took the concept of the Twinkie and turned it into a flavor that might as well be able to be sipped poolside. While Tiger Tails are now unheard of in the United States and a rare score online, there’s Internet rumor that the cakes are currently the only Hostess product available in Israel. (If someone can confirm and send us a box, we’d be forever indebted.)