As I write this, the snack-cake eating world is in a panic over the demise of Hostess, the company that makes, among other things, Twinkies. There have been runs on the products, and people all over Facebook and Twitter are lamenting their downfall.

(I’ve been more of a Ho-Ho kind of guy, but I left convenience store snack cakes in my rear-view mirror a while ago.)

The likelihood of someone’s buying up the brands and cooking up the “goodness” again is pretty high, as this article by the Associated Press explains.

All this kerfuffle reminded me of an article called “Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Suet-Filled Sponge Cake Crisco Log, Now I Know Just What You Are” in the July 1989 issue of Spy magazine. In the piece, authors Jane and Michael Stern talk about the mystique around Twinkies and the various attempts people have made to recreate them in their homes.

And if you’ve managed to score some of the golden cakes, be sure to run some experiments as shown on the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project site.

In the meantime, just sit back and wait: they will be back.


The Punk Epicure Comments Off
May 222012

A classic martini, created by my lovely wife.

Apr 102012

I reconnected with some dear, old friends of mine a couple weeks ago. These people own an electronics repair shop and I’ve made many referrals to them over the past 15 years, primarily through my Joe’s Radio Page website.

Apparently, they appreciated my referrals because when I called them to ask a question I mentioned who I was and the manager of the shop immediately brightened and told me to get in there because they had something set aside for me since the last time I visited, about 10 years ago.

The gift was a bottle of Calvados, an apple brandy from France. My only previous experience with Calvados was as a component of a French dessert, where it was poured over something good.

Our first experiment with this stuff was a cocktail made with ginger ale. The drink was both sweet and powerful, so it’s not something we’ll want to jump into every day. We’ll try some more recipes, and I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to fit this into this fall’s Apple Butter festivities.

Last year, we decided to start a collection of 2007-vintage wines that we would open on our anniversary each year. We worked with the wonderful people at Wine Discount Center and Binny’s to build our assortment, taking into consideration the wine we like now and those that are likely to age nicely.

This year (on our fifth wedding anniversary) we had our first uncorking, which was a 2007 Ribera del Duero Pesquera Crianza from Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez. The tasting was a success and the wine was delicious.

When we originally tasted the wine last year, we thought it was complex with some balanced fruit notes. Wine Spectator described it as a “crisp, firm red with lingering notes of smoke and clove.” They also thought menthol and herbal flavors overshadowed the black cherry, which we didn’t find to be true.

Our recent tasting notes:

Drank with Lisa’s homemade Italian Meatball soup– started with an olive-fig tapinade (an idea Lisa got from our recent dinner at Retro Bistro) over italian bread, and then moved on to the soup.

Lisa: “It has cool fruit flavors– a little sweetness, but not a lot. Dark fruits, like cherry, medium body.”

Joe: “It’s become more smooth in the year that passed. Not getting any menthol or herb this time around. Dry at the finish.

Our collection includes more Spanish and French wines, so tune in next year to see what we pull from the cellar.

We spent a couple days last week visiting Bec in Charleston.

The trip included the obligatory trips to B-Dubs and Wal-Mart (college student, you know), along with some Cosmic Bowling and a visit to Mattoon’s legendary Burger King.

Good times!

This was the dessert I prepared on Sunday: Chocolate-Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Arctic White Icing, fresh whipped cream with vanilla sugar, and fresh red raspberries. All of this followed my semi-legendary Chicken Parmesan. You can see why I only go crazy making this particular dinner once a year.

Tonight, I came home to see that Lisa made these heart-shaped pizzas, which she served along with a bottle of Cristalino Brut (the wine we served at our wedding).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m re-posting this because it’s the time of year when a little comfort food can be appreciated, plus I whipped up one of these cakes for Lisa and Emma tonight.  Here’s a link to the Hulu page for this episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show–  the scene described below starts at 9:00.

Rob and Laura
In the episode “The Lady and the Babysitter” of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob whines about how Laura made a delicious “milk cake” yet there’s no milk in the Petrie house. He could have been referring to the cake I’m talking about here.
Quick Cocoa Cake
Yes, those are Hershey Bars laid across the top of the cake. Six of ‘em.
My mom made this cake many times when I was a kid. I used to refer to it as the “vinegar cake” because of the one tablespoon of vinegar that’s in the recipe, but don’t let that put you off– it’s all in the name of good baking chemistry.
Now, I admit I’m kind of a snob when it comes to chocolate bars, and Hershey’s is usually lower on the list than other brands. For the purposes of this recipe, though, the Hershey bars have the best shape, thickness, and melting point– plus, we’re talking about comfort food here, so let’s allow a little throwback to childhood, shall we?
The recipe is ridiculously simple and the result is simply amazing.
Quick Cocoa Cake
The cake lends itself to a tall, cool, glass of milk or even a nice cabernet sauvignon. It’s really moist, but you will want something to wash it down.
Quick Cocoa Cake
And now that I have your attention, check out the recipe:


Quick Cocoa Cake
(One layer, 8 inch square)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water
6 Hershey bars– the original recipe called for two, but trust me on this
Sift and mix all the dry ingredients into an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan. Level dry ingredients and make 3 holes or wells in the mixture. Pour oil into one hole, and vinegar and vanilla into the others. Pour cold water over the top. Use a fork to stir the mixture until it’s smooth.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
Unwrap all the Hershey bars, and when you remove the cake from the oven immediately lay the bars evenly over the top of the cake– break the pieces apart if necessary. (You can also make chocolate frosting, but why? :-)
Let the cake sit for about an hour before serving. Yum.
Note: if you decide to refrigerate the cake, be sure to let it warm to room temperature before attempting to cut into it. Those Hershey bars will revert to their original candy-bar-state when chilled, and make cutting the cake a challenge.


(This originally appeared on Crosswalks to Nowhere on November 4, 2008.)

…because you can’t have too much sugar in your viewing diet.

This was my Saturday afternoon project– I was working on these while Lisa was making her White Chicken Chili.  Yeah, we ate pretty well that night.

I’m still working on my cupcake-frosting technique.  I’ll get there one of these days.


One of my office mates mentioned that we should have margaritas in the office for Cinco de Mayo. I’ve worked at places where this was pretty much encouraged, but since we live in more politically correct and liability-aware times there needs to be another way to celebrate in the workplace.

Over the years I’ve had success with making a rum cake at the holidays, and I figured someone had worked out a cake made with tequila. Sure enough, I was right.

The Margarita Cake recipe on the next page can be found on a couple different web sites, but I made a couple of minor modifications. The main change is that I substituted yellow cake mix and 2 tablespoons of orange extract for the orange cake mix– this worked nicely and provides a good baseline for the cake, but I already have ideas for next time. I also used our “go-to” tequila, Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado, which adds a very nice, even tequila flavor.

The cake was a hit– it was gone in record time. Save this recipe for next year– or make it now!

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