In 2006, cupcakes experienced a rebirth of sorts. The delicious dessert treat gained a new prominence among celebrity chefs, television talk- show hosts and lovers of quality sweets everywhere. In America, the most well- known and best- selling brand of packaged cupcakes are Hostess Cupcakes. In their familiar twin- packs, the chocolate, orange and vanilla frosted cupcakes made by Hostess Cakes are true American icons.
Being a chef and food writer, with an innate sense of how flavors work together, I have long purchased and enjoyed eating Hostess Cupcakes. Although by many people’s standards, they fall into the category of ‘junk food’, Hostess Cupcakes are well- textured, attractive and delicious examples of top- quality baked goods. Much the same as purchasing and eating meals at any of the nationwide fast food restaurants, you know what to expect, when you buy them. Hostess Cupcakes may not be gourmet food, but they sure taste better than just about any other brand of packaged cupcakes on the market. Until now.
In the Summer of 2006, I started noticing packages of Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes on the shelves of convenience stores and small food markets in the Hartford, Ct area. Being a cupcake afficianado, I had to take notice of this previously- unheard of brand of cupcakes. Both chocolate and vanilla varieties of the Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes are similar in size and appearance to Hostess Cupcakes and are packaged in similar plastic twin- packs. What really sets the Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes apart from the competition, right away, however, is the suggested retail price. While the twin- pack of Hostess Holiday Cupcakes retails for $1.19, the listed retail price for the Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes is fifty nine cents. Both brands of cupcakes are the same size, they look almost identical and even the packaging is almost exactly the same.
One day recently, I was in a local store and spotted a rack of Hostess Cupcakes, with a rack of Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes right next to it. That was all I needed to see. My tastebuds were excited and my curiosity was piqued. It was time to do a consumer product review of Hostess Cupcakes and Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes. For the sake of this review, I chose vanilla- frosted yellow cupcakes. Several times a year, Hostess markets their vanilla- frosted cupcakes under a variety of seasonal and holiday themes. The variety of Hostess Cupcakes chosen are named “Holiday Cakes” ( with creamy filling). The Aunt Hannah selection is their creme- filled vanilla cupcake. The Hostess package weighs in at 3.3 oz and the Aunt Hannah selection at 3.6 oz. From each package, I removed one cupcake and placed them each on a plate. After pouring a tall glass of water, to cleanse the mouth between tastings, I sat down to truly enjoy performing this consumer product review.
The first cupcake to be sampled was the Hostess variety. As I held it aloft, I noticed the unique weight distribution of the Hostess cupcake. With a flat, wide top and creamy filling in the center, the Hostess Cupcake has a slightly- moist, dense feel to it, unlike any other product. Being a real fan of all things vanilla, I was eagerly anticipating the first bite from the Holiday Cupcake. Upon first bite, I tasted an intense rush of sweetness and an agreeable, yet slightly bland frosting co- existing with a nicely- flavored yellow cake. I took a second bite, this time procuring more of the frosting and a small amount of the creamy filling. While the creamy filling inside the Hostess Cupcake tasted as good as ever, the vanilla frosting sorely lacked vanilla flavor. While not unpleasant, the Hostess Cupcake tasted more like sugar than vanilla.
After taking a few sips of water, in order to objectively taste the Aunt Hannah brand variety, I was ready to sample the lower- priced example of cupcake. What I did not expect, and was completely surprised by, was the dynamic flavor emanating from the Aunt Hannah brand cupcake. The first sensation registered by my tastebuds as I placed the cupcake in my mouth, was a delightful, well- balanced flavor of vanilla frosting and expertly- baked not- too- sweet yellow cake. My initial thought was that it tasted much like wedding cake. This cupcake was good. Very good. More water was consumed, in order to make sure I was getting a truly objective taste of the product. It was a true delight to partake of the Aunt Hannah brand cupcake.
Nutritionally, the Hostess Cupcake contains 160 calories, with 30 calories from fat and the Aunt Hannah Cupcake contains 200 calories, with 70 calories from fat. While the Hostess Cupcake tasted just fine, as good as ever, the Aunt Hannah brand cupcake demonstrated a more well- defined and balanced vanilla flavor, at half the price. Aunt Hannah brand cupcakes are highly recommended. They are manufactured by Flowers Industries, Inc, makers of Mrs. Smith’s Pies, Bunny Bread, Bluebird Snack Cakes and Sunbeam Bread.