Alas, Hostess Choco-Bliss... I knew ye well.
Your rich, moist chocolate cake... your creamy lighter-chocolate filling... your fudge-like topping, with its signature striations...
Sigh... Gone the way of wax lips and bubblegum cigars. Snack cake ancient history. A minor blip in Hostess' corporate memory.
But still longingly remembered by those of us who loved you.
When the blogging crew here at King Arthur - MaryJane, Susan, and me - gathered to divvy up assignments for this Snack Cake Smackdown, I knew my cake of choice had to be chocolate on chocolate on chocolate.
Twinkies? Go for it, MJ. Funny Bones? Meh; Susan, you're all over that chocolate/PB thing.
Much as I love that creamy-fakey white filling in Hostess cupcakes and Drake's Devil Dogs, I was willing to sacrifice it, at least temporarily, for creamy CHOCOLATE filling, a much-less ubiquitous offering. In fact, I'm not sure there's ANY snack cake out there right now with chocolate filling - is there? Tell me if I'm mistaken, please!
So I was forced (enticed?) to go back to the past, into the mists of time... Back to the groovin' 1970s. And the John Travolta, “Staying Alive” disco ’80s.
Back to Hostess Choco-Bliss. (DO NOT fail to click on the preceding link, especially if you were in middle school in the ’80s. If, like me, your primo snack-cake days were in the ’60s and ’70s, go here. Then come RIGHT back to this blog - promise?)
These chocolate cake/chocolate filling/chocolate frosting delights have no current equivalent in Snack Cake Land.
Hostess Zingers probably come closest. They've got that same moist cake, that same corrugated fudge frosting... but WHITE filling. Sigh...
Gee, what a shame. I'll have to re-create Choco-Bliss myself.
Choco-Buzz, here I come!
Before we start, let me once again plug my favorite cocoa powder: Double Dutch Dark Cocoa, our blend of Dutch-process medium and black (super-roast) cocoas. It doesn't LOOK dark; but boy oh boy, the chocolate treats you make with it...
First, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix 1 cup melted butter and 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa.
Add 1 cup hot water. Stir till smooth, and set the mixture aside.
In a separate bowl, mix the following:
Pour the cocoa mixture over the dry ingredients, stirring to blend. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt (low-fat is fine); 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Beat to make a smooth batter.
Lightly grease a 9” x 13” cake pan; or line with parchment, and grease the parchment. I recommend the parchment here, especially if your 9” x 13” pan is prone to sticking; you have to be able to get this cake out of the pan in one non-crumbled piece.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until it tests done. (You'll smell the chocolate aroma, and the cake will begin to pull away from the edge of the pan). Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
When the cake is completely cool, loosen its edges with a table knife or spatula.
Turn it out onto a rack, and peel off the parchment. Slicker ’n a smelt, as they say in Maine.
Let's take a moment to make our first Choco-Buzz/Zinger comparison. Goal #1: Height of cake. Looks like we guessed just right.
Next, the filling. Place the following in a microwave-safe bowl:
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat until the cream is very hot, and the chips have softened.
Remove from the heat, and stir till the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, reheating briefly if necessary.
Stir in the vanilla, and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the following:
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
Beat until fluffy. It'll go through a crumbly stage; keep on beating and it'll come together.
Can you use all butter, no shortening? I know some of you prefer not to use shortening. You can; the filling will be softer and not as stable at room temperature, and will taste somewhat different.
Add half the chocolate mixture.
Beat till smooth. See how this isn't smooth? That's because I thought I could get away with NOT sifting the confectioners' sugar. Bad move; get out your sifter or sieve, and use it.
Add the remaining chocolate mixture...
...and another 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted.
Beat again until the filling is a fluffy, spreadable texture; adjust the consistency with a little more cream, if necessary.
Can you do this all at once? Like, adding all 4 cups of confectioners' sugar to the butter and shortening, beating, then adding all the chocolate? I haven't tried it, and I'm not sure it would work. The initial sugar/butter mixture would never come together, with that amount of sugar.
But you know what? If you want to possibly save yourself some steps and try the “all at once” method, go ahead - no need to ask my permission. And let us know how (if) it works out.
Turn the cooled cake out of the pan, and cut it in half crosswise, to make two 9” x 6 1/2” rectangles.
There's that Zinger again. Looks like once we add the filling and frosting, we'll be exactly the right height.
Using a long serrated knife, slice through the middle of each rectangle to make two halves (a top and a bottom) suitable for filling.
A giant spatula moves the layers around effortlessly.
Here we are, top and bottom, ready for filling.
Spread half the filling (about 14 ounces, 393g) on one layer.
You can spread it to the edges with a spatula...
...or use your wet fingers, which is much more effective. Ah, hands - the best baking tool we have!
Position the top layer of cake atop the filling.
Repeat with the other half of the cake, and the remainder of the filling. We're getting there...
Next, the icing. Combine the following in a microwave-safe bowl:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream
Can you leave out the corn syrup? Well, the icing won't be as shiny/spreadable. If you avoid corn syrup, try substituting honey; just be aware it may add its own faint taste.
Microwave until the cream is very hot, and the chips have softened. Stir to combine, reheating briefly if necessary.
Stir till smooth.
Next, you can go one of two ways. For a dark-chocolate icing, sift 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the chocolate mixture.
Mix till smooth and shiny.
Pour the icing atop the two filled cakes.
For a lighter-chocolate icing, sift 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Add the chocolate mixture.
Pour the icing atop the two filled cakes.
Spread the icing to the edge of the cakes. We're nearing the finish line...
If you're really into cloning, dip a fork in hot water, and run it through the icing to make Choco-Bliss’ signature grooved top. It won't be the perfect, machine-made corrugation you'll find on a Zinger; but it'll be a nice approximation.
Here are the two types of frosting: dark on the left, lighter on the right.
Cut each cake into nine 2” x 3” snack cakes. You'll have a total of 18 cakes.
Zinger vs. homemade Choco-Buzz.
Sorry, Zinger, you're looking a little sad next to Choco-Buzz.
Ready... set... enjoy!
I tell you, there's a lot of steps to making these babies, but they are definitely MMM-MMM good! And if, like me, you're still lamenting the demise of Choco-Bliss – you'll find this an enjoyable project.
Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Choco-Buzz.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Hostess Zingers, package of 3, 4.25 oz. total, $1.39
Bake at home: Choco-Buzz, 5 oz. cake, 56¢