November 16, 2012
A high-end Ho Ho lives on as Hostess and the Twinkie crumble

Ho Ho.jpg

For those of us who grew up on Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos (and lived to tell about it), today's news that Hostess will liquidate its assets comes as a bittersweet blow. It's quite possibly the end of an era for these icons of mass-produced sweet treats.

Beyond that, there is the loss of most of the 18,500 jobs at plants around the country, including one in Sacramento.

Twinkies aren't dead yet - someone could buy the rights and rejuvenate the brand - but they're on the ropes.

For those looking for some consolation or simply want to have something chocolaty and sweet to stomach this jolt of grief, all is not lost. The highly regarded Karen's Bakery Café in Old Folsom has been making a gourmet version of the Ho Ho for years.

I called owner Karen Holmes this morning to ask about her high-end interpretation of this mass-market treat. Turns out, she, too, is mourning the demise of Hostess.

Hostess Ho Ho Ho.jpg

"I think it's a sad thing," Holmes said. "It feels like I'm losing a little piece of my childhood. I mean, we all went to school carrying Ho Hos and Ding Dongs and Twinkies and Cupcakes in our lunch bags. They're so iconic, and the thought of them disappearing is sad."

This is not the time to get all uppity about preservatives and a 6,000-year shelf life. Heck, I grew up on Velveeta "cheese," and I was well into my college years before I realized I could actually cook chicken without reaching for a box of Shake N Bake.

Holmes' take on Ho Hos captures the essence of that famous treat, rekindles our memories of the flavors and textures - and then takes us to new heights because everything in this version is premium quality. No chemically aftertaste to be found. No worries that you've just shortened your life expectancy by 18 months. It's sugar and chocolate and goodness rolled into one. Selland's Market-Cafe does something similar with its wonderful gourmet take on the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

"All of us have those kinds of flavor or taste sensations in our heads, in our palates, fully knowing they're a breach of what we should be doing with our bodies," Holmes said of her youthful indiscretions with Twinkies et al.

The Karen's Bakery Ho Ho came together in parts over the years. The cake, Holmes tells me, is based on a cake she learned from Elizabeth Faulkner when Faulkner was baking at Rubicon in San Francisco. The cake is very tender, made with low-protein Wondra Flour and Valrhona cocoa. When Holmes worked at Paragary's, they were doing a Tiramisu, and the cream for her Ho Ho is that cream, with flavor notes that include Myer's Rum. You take the cake and cream, roll it into a roulade, then smother it with bittersweet chocolate ganache. And for a little touch of class, there's some gold leaf and a raspberry on top.

All this for $4.25. It won't bring back the Twinkie or all those jobs, but it just might make the bad news a little more palatable on this dark and dreary Friday.

Karen's Bakery Café is at 705 Gold Lake Drive in Folsom. The phone number is (916) 985-2665.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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