I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for expat moms who need to bake cupcake after cupcake, cookie after cookie, required by their children for school fundraisers, soccer practices, birthday parties etc. Baking in German-speaking Europe is hard!
When I first moved over here and started hanging out with other hockey wives, nearly all of whom were mothers, I would normally start hearing a dull buzz whenever they would start complaining about baking. I would catch random snippets about all the brown sugar they had to pack in their luggage, or all the Betty Crocker stuff they were having their cousin bring over at Christmas. I was 24, in a new relationship, no kids, living it up in Germany; my need for molasses and baking powder was pretty low on the priority list. Cut to five years later and a here I am in a supermarket in Switzerland, printed recipe in hand, staring at an aisle of cake mixes, none of which are the kind I need to make homemade Twinkies for my husband’s birthday. I see lemon cake, spiced cake, chocolate cake, some kind of brown speckled cake . . . what happened to just good old yellow cake?
Through this adventure of trying to recreate a classic North American treat in Switzerland, I discovered just what you expat moms have been going through, and to you I say- “I hear ya!” After doing some YouTubing, I was fairly confident in the method for creating homemade Twinkies: use the standard sponge or yellow cake mix to fill some homemade tinfoil molds, bake, and shoot them full of marshmallow fluff icing. Simple right? Ha.
So right off the bat I now know what you all know, that there is no yellow cake mix here. Thankfully, our dear friend Doctor Oetker, makes kids cupcake sets with vanilla mix. Sure, I had to pay for all the extra pirate cupcake holders, chocolate chips, and “pirate glaze”, whatever that is, but I was just thrilled that my Twinkies weren’t going to be lemon. Finding marshmallow fluff, or even just marshmallows as we know them, well, we can forget that. I ended up with some sugar coated marshmallow candies, intent on melting them down. I was feeling quite resourceful.
After making my molds by folding up tinfoil over a muskatnuss spice bottle, I mixed up my white cake, added some yellow-colored sugar (where’s the food coloring?) and some strangely artificial-smelling butter-vanille flavoring. I turned on my oven and set it to the appropriate temperature and then turned it down a few degrees, as I know what that fan is capable of. I obviously spooned too much batter into each mold since I ended up with mini bread loaves rather than anything very Twinkie-like, but hey, they smelled great. As they cooled I began to attempt to melt the marshmallows, rice-crispy square style. My advice to any of you thinking of trying this baking challenge- skip the marshmallows and stick with your standard icing recipe. The sugar coating on those things does not melt and in the end it is all just more trouble than it is worth.
Once my little cakes were cooled I used a chopstick to poke three holes in the bottom and a hole into each side of them. With my big icing syringe I then shot them up with my sticky icing. I did have to take the thing apart a few times in order to unclog those darn sugar chunks, but other than that it was a surprisingly easy process. When all was said and done, my husband returned home from hockey practice to his plate of Swiss-style birthday Twinkies, totally confused as to what they were, but very happy to eat them all up.
I suppose that the moral of this story is, if you are organized well in advance, as most mom’s I know are, it would certainly be wise to send for supplies from home, or track down your nearest/online British/American food shop. Or you can just do as I did and attempt to adapt. I cannot say for certain that if I had had the “right” materials that my treats would have turned out any better, but I do know that the process would not have been nearly as humorous or educational. So grab that shallow quiche pan and bake yourself an apple pie (you may want to google crust recipes that don’t include Crisco though) or that Bundt tin and make yourself a good old American devil’s food cake (but set aside some time to search for the vinegar). It’s all a part of the acclimatizing fun!