The untold truth of Twinkies

Who doesn't love Twinkies? You've no doubt gorged on one or two as a kid, and perhaps a whole box as an adult, because hey, you're a grown up, you do what you want. It's simply hard to resist their outer spongy cake layer and inner creamy filling — especially when they're deep fried. From gas stations to grocery stores, you can buy this golden snack cake practically anywhere you can buy food. Whether it's their sweet taste or their accessibility, these recognizable treats have become an icon of American junk food that certainly has built its own fan base over the years. But other than their scrumptious taste, how much do you really know about Twinkies? Do you know how this snack cake got its name? Or that Minnesota implemented a law involving it? Get ready, because you're in for a real treat. Here are the fun facts you didn't know about Twinkies.

They originally had a banana filling

The Twinkies that we know and love today are filled with an enticing vanilla cream filling, but that wasn't always the case. When Twinkies were first released in the '30s, their filling was banana flavored. Not only that, but it was made with real bananas and real cream. Unfortunately, that didn't last long. During WWII bananas were rationed, making it difficult for Continental Baking Company — the name of the company before acquisitions lead to the name Hostess Brands — to keep up with supply and demand. That's when the company turned to a vanilla cream filling as their go-to flavor and never looked back.

Since then Twinkies have released several special editions of their cream filling including strawberry creme, chocolate creme, blue raspberry creme, and even the original flavor, banana creme. If you were expecting the banana creme to be a throwback with traditional flavoring methods I'm sorry to disappoint, but the banana creme is now two percent or less banana puree. Fans didn't seem to mind too much though. When they brought back the banana flavored Twinkies in 2007 to help promote the movie King Kong, sales spiked 20 percent. Coincidence? Ask King Kong.

If it weren't for a short strawberry season, Twinkies may never have been born

Before the original banana cream Twinkies were invented, there was a strawberry filling. A strawberry filling for Little Shortcake Fingers to be exact. When Continental Baking Company first began, they had six weeks dedicated to making the strawberry-filled shortcakes. Like many crops though, strawberries were in season for a relatively short period of time. This meant that the company had a lot of expensive equipment dedicated to this particular treat that wasn't being utilized to its full potential — not exactly good for business. 

That's when Continental Baking's plant manager at the time, James Dewar, decided to strategize and came up with the the idea of filling the shortcakes with a banana cream filling. With the new filling, the company could utilize the equipment they had all year long and stand a chance at dealing with the hard economic times of the Depression. While the Little Shortcake Fingers were probably delectable, this move into the banana cream filled cakes was obviously a hit that put Hostess on the map. Now, what to call it?

Its name was inpsired by a shoe billboard

Sometimes inspiration can come from the oddest places, like a shoe billboard. When James Dewar came up with the concept for Twinkies, it was lacking a name. What to call these tasty cream filled treats? Contemplating the new yellow sponge cake product, genius struck Dewar on his way to a marketing meeting when he came across a shoe billboard for "Twinkle Toe Shoes". Taking a cue from the billboard, the snack cakes would get their official name, Twinkies.

What Dewar may not have realized at the time was how recognizable this name would become. The beloved snack cake has won over the hearts of millions — in fact, they have to make a million a day to satisfy the masses. According to Forbes, their facility in Kansas whips up over one million Twinkies a day, and more than 400 million in a year. That's a lot of Twinkie love right there! Even Dewar himself claimed to eat a Twinkie a day.

They actually do have a shelf life

You've undoubtedly been told at some point in your life that Twinkies last forever. Urban legends would have it that come the apocalypse, Twinkies will still be as fresh as the day they were made. Like all rumors, it's simply not true. Twinkies do in fact have a shelf life, and it used to be 26 days. Not exactly the post-apocalyptic situation some may have conjured up. So what happened to  change that short shelf life? Hostess briefly went out of business, and when they (and their Twinkies) returned to shelves in 2013, it was with an extended shelf life of 45 days. While the secret to how they extended the shelf life remains a mystery, Twinkies fans can get almost double the shelf life out of their favorite yellow snack cakes — not that they won't gobble them all up before then.

Even before the new extended shelf life Twinkies were released, 26 days was a relatively long for the Hostess snack cake. When Twinkies were first invented, they had a shelf life of two days. Two days?! Like the original banana cream filling, Twinkies were traditionally made with real ingredients including eggs, milk, and butter. Since it wasn't an artificially processed food, this sponge cake needed to be eaten like the real cake you make at home, otherwise it would expire.

A kid was responsible for the revival of Twinkie the Kid

You may love Twinkies, but not as much as this 13-year-old. According to Mental Floss, teenager Judd Slivka of Livingston, New Jersey was so outraged when Continental Baking decided to phase out their Twinkies mascot, Twinkie the Kid, in 1988, that he started a petition. The mascot which featured a Twinkie body and cowboy attire was an iconic symbol that was beloved by many, especially Slivka.

In an effort to keep Twinkie the Kid alive, Slivka sent a letter to the company that included 135 signatures — many of whom were classmates, family, and his school principal. In the letter, Slivka threatened a boycott if the Kid was not brought back into the limelight. Apparently his strategy worked because the company not only brought back Twinkie the Kid for the 60th anniversary of the Twinkie in 1990, but they even contacted Slivka about the return and invited him to be a special guests at their headquarters for a good old Twinkies birthday bash.

The Twinkies in Zombieland weren't real

Hear the word Zombieland and you probably instantly start thinking about Twinkies. If you're not familiar with the comedic zombie film, Twinkies were the coveted snack of Woody Harrelson's character. His character would stop at nothing in his quest for the spongy, cream filled cakes. The real Woody Harrelson on the other hand doesn't eat Twinkies. In fact, he doesn't even eat sugar or dairy because he's vegan. That presented a problem for playing out the role of his character. Even though his character spends the majority of the movie searching for the Hostess snack, there is a scene when he does have to finally eat a Twinkie. To solve this problem, they made mock Twinkies out of cornmeal. I'm not exactly sure what a mock Twinkie tastes like, but I'm pretty sure it's completely different than the packaged cake you buy at the store. It's probably much healthier too.

The Twinkies Law is a real thing thanks to Minnesota

Political bribery is no joke, even when it comes in the form of Twinkies. According to the New York Post, in 1985 a Minneapolis City Council candidate found himself in trouble with the law when he decided to pass out some Twinkies. The politician named George "Frenchy” Belair thought to win favor with senior citizen voters by enticing them with $34.14 worth of refreshments.

What made this wonderful list of refreshments you may be wondering? Apparently taking a cue from children's treats, he passed out Kool-Aid, cookies, doughnuts, Ho-Ho's, and of course everyone's favorite, Twinkies. Passing out a few Twinkies may not sound like a crime, but that's not what the grand jury thought. He was indicted for bribery, but luckily for him the charges were dropped. The whole ridiculous event lead Minnesota to take action and create a new law in honor of the incident titled "The Twinkies Law." 

The Twinkies defense is based on a myth

Speaking of laws, the "Twinkies defense" is quite possibly the most ludicrous sounding defense used in criminal cases, but regardless it exists. The term was coined during the Dan White trial. White, who was being charged for the murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, was supposedly suffering from mental illness. The defense claimed that a poor diet, which included Twinkies, only intensified his unsteady mental condition and sent him on a murderous rampage.

The truth is, White's defense never made such claims. The media was the culprit for giving birth to the term. What White's defense did claim was that his "diminished capacity" was the cause for the murders. The term junk food was supposedly a brief mention and was considered to be an insignificant part of the defense. Twinkies only got into the mix because a psychiatrist discussed how consuming Twinkies and Coke only worsened White's depression, but by no means used it as an excuse for committing murder. That, however, didn't stop the press. The term stuck and is still recognized today.

They have been subjected to experiments for the sake of science

What do you do when you don't want to study for finals? If you're these two guys, you experiment with Twinkies. Houston's Rice University students Chris Gouge and Todd Stadler put off the tedious task of studying to create the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. project, or rather, Test With Inorganic Noxious Kakes in Extreme Situations. Through this cleverly named project, the two science majors conducted various projects with Twinkies being their main subject of choice.

So what exactly did two bored college students do with a handful of tasty snack cakes? They conduct scientific tests like the Rapid Oxidation Test. In this test, the two researchers observed what happens when the Twinkie in the experimental group is set on fire. After dousing the Twinkie with rubbing alcohol — apparently you can't just burn a Twinkie with a lighter — they took note of how it charred and oozed. In the Gravitational Response Test, they dropped two Twinkies from the dorm room window and came to the conclusion that Twinkies are in fact "affected by gravity." They even tested the intelligence of a Twinkie with the Turing Test.

Ridiculous? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Next time you have to study for a final or find yourself bored to death, try your own Twinkies test. Just be sure the control group, the lone Twinkie sitting on the table, doesn't get eaten in the process.

You can make Twinkies at home

People love Twinkies so much that they even tried to replicate them at home. It may sound like a daunting task, but if you love these yellow snack cakes, you too can have a go at making homemade Twinkies. While they may not taste exactly like the store-bought Twinkies — unless you have a factory and the recipe from Hostess themselves — you can get pretty darn close.

So how does one go about making a batch of Twinkies? For starters, you'll need eggs, butter, yellow cake mix, and vanilla pudding mix for the cake portion. For the filling, you'll need some more butter, confectioners sugar, cream cheese, a whipped topping, and vanilla. Mix all the cake ingredients then bake in Twinkies-shaped pans. While that's baking, mix up the filling. Once the Twinkies are ready, inject them with the vanilla filling. That doesn't sound to hard, now does it?

Twinkies recipes don't stop there. People have gone nuts with different ways to eat Twinkies. There's Twinkies sushi, deep fried Twinkies, bacon fried Twinkies, and there are even Twinkies corndogs. How do you like your Twinkies?