[Review] Hostess Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes

1919 was a hell of a year, wasn’t it? Prohibition went into effect in the U.S. The Green Bay Packers were established. And most importantly, the first Hostess Cupcake was sold.

Nearly 100 years later, the Hostess Cupcake is still a mainstay in kids’ lunchboxes (and let’s face it, my lunchbox) to this day. Its unmistakable look, adorned with squiggled frosting across the top, has made it an icon in the snack cake aisle. It has taken different forms over the years, from Orange, to Red Velvet, and now, Sea Salt Caramel. Full disclosure: these actually first came out last year, but I didn’t try them at the time, and Snack Cellar didn’t exist then either. So, if you ask me, this all brand spankin’ new! Let’s get to it.

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Hostess Sea Salt Cupcakes are either “new” or “limited edition,” depending on which box you happen to find at your local grocery store. I found a “new” box, but apparently there are some “limited edition” boxes running right now, too. So it’s hard to say for sure whether Hostess is keeping these on shelves much longer. I’m not sure they know either.

As I opened the box and removed the cupcake from its individual plastic wrapper (there’s my exercise for the day), I sensed a strong smell of…something other than caramel. Maple? Butterscotch? Nope, pancakes. These things smell like pancakes right after you add the syrup.

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I resisted the urge to stuff the entire pan–I mean, cupcake in my mouth at once, opting instead to find bites of each individual ingredient. The yellow cake is almost identical to a Twinkie–it’s sweet, buttery, and fairly heavy. The filling tasted like the basic chocolate cupcake’s filling, with a slight hint of caramel. It’s very subtle, but this is actually the taste that lingered the longest after the cupcake itself was long gone.

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The icing on the top of the cupcake packs the biggest punch, and not in a good way. The icing is really, really sweet, and tastes much more like butterscotch than caramel. This butterscotch flavor is overwhelming when eaten alone, and even as part of the overall cupcake, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I also struggled to detect any pure saltiness in these cupcakes at all–even when I picked off a couple of the crystals individually, they definitely didn’t taste salty, and even seemed somewhat sweet. Are these “sea salt crystals” just for decoration? What’s more, are they actually sugar?

Hostess didn’t achieve the “sea salt caramel” flavor it was going for here. There’s no saltiness in these cupcakes, and they’re much too sweet to present any real caramel flavor. If these had been branded as “Pancake Breakfast” or “Butterscotch” cupcakes, that might have been more accurate. Are they worth a try? Sure. But I’ll take the classic chocolate version over these any day.

Item: Hostess Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes
Price and Place of Purchase: $2.50 at Walmart
Nutrition Facts (serving size-1 cake): 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat,  10 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.
In a Nutshell: Yellow cake is pleasant, and filling works well as a subtle addition. The icing covering the cake is way too sweet, and tastes much more like butterscotch. The salt crystals add virtually nothing. Like the Green Bay Packers (and unlike Prohibition), Hostess has stuck around for almost a century. Pancake Breakfast Cupcakes actually don’t sound half bad…
Overall Score:  6 out of 10

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2 comments
  1. I must be the only person who has yet to eat a Twinkie or a Hostess Cupcake ..

    Out of curiosity how many could you safety eat at once? Or did you already finish the box?

    1. I’ve only had two so far. They’re sugary enough that you can’t really eat too many in one sitting. Congrats on managing to avoid Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes! Your arteries are thankful.

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