After Hostess Brands Inc., maker of Twinkies and iconic snacks, announced last November that it was shutting down, Tina Santoro Asmar decided to try her hand at making a Hostess-style snack.
Tentatively called “Doodles,” the cupcakes are made of devil's food cake baked with olive oil, hollowed out by hand, and stuffed with homemade marshmallow filling, and topped with a chocolate ganache that Asmar usually uses for strawberries.
“I started three weeks ago and I cannot go fast enough,” Asmar, owner of Santoro’s Sicilian Trattoria, said this week. “People are going bananas for them…. Literally not one person that has had one has not come back looking for more.”
The rich cupcakes are a sort of combination of Ding Dongs and Yankee Doodles, she said. The richness of the “pudding thick” cupcakes and the chocolate frosting make it difficult to eat more than one an hour, she said.
Fans of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Donnettes could see their favortes back on store shelves this summer, now that two investment firms have acquired the Hostess brand. But until then, Asmar's products can help fill a gap.
“People were devastated; people were hoarding, going into stores and buying them online for 500 bucks a box,” Asmar said. “I could do that for $3.50, so there’s no need to fret.”
For samples, she dabs filling on top of the portion of the cupcakes she removes and hands them to customers as they walk in the door.
“I have great customers,” Asmar said. “I don’t even do a lot of advertising.”
The Bridge Street delicatessen, which opened in 2007, has come to be highly regarded, with recognition from the Phantom Gourmet, Boston Chronicle, the Boston Globe Magazine, and PBS, among others.
Asmar has her own cooking show on Dedham TV called “Bon Apetina” and does catering. People enjoyed her company so much that she started going into people’s homes and using her lively personality to spice up her own cooking.
She even renovated her home kitchen so that she could hold parties and cooking lessons there, and video them.
Asmar owned a beauty salon in Wellesley for 10 years called Blooming Nails, which now operates under a different owner. She said she switched to cooking for a living because she loved the last-minute panic followed by the satisfaction of pulling off a delicious meal for a large group of people.
Soon after she opened, she found William “Billy” Dufresne, who is her main employee, her cohost on her television show, and comes with her during catering events.
Asmar’s skill at cooking was developed through watching her Italian parents cook food; they didn’t stick to recipes as much, but relied on experience from having done it so much before.
Fresh bread is baked every 20 minutes, the meats are cut to order, and she grows some of the vegetables she uses in her sandwiches.
Despite the economic downturn, which hit the year after she opened her deli, her business has thrived, she said. She does little advertising beyond putting pictures on Facebook and maintaining a website.
“I get tons of people in from Facebook, 10 to 15 people a day that see the pictures,” Asmar said.
When she posted photos of her “Doodles” on Facebook, people came to the shop in droves to pick them up.
“Now if I could only master the Twinkie,” she said.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.