Who here remembers Ding Dongs? Those delicious little chocolate cakes with a creamy white marshmallow-y center, coated in a thin shell of chocolate were one of the only Hostess treats I enjoyed. Twinkies? Nah, I’ll pass. Cupcakes? Meh. But Ding Dongs? I was definitely game. I wasn’t much for cake as a child (I know, what was wrong with me?), but I could go for one of these treats.
Of course, even before I went gluten-free, it’d been years upon years since I’d had one. And now, with Hostess in bankruptcy, there currently aren’t Ding Dongs to be found. Not that I would want to eat one today anyway – they’re full of gluten, dairy, tons of sugar, and processed chemicals. That’s not really my thing. I’d much rather just grab a square of dark chocolate and call it a day.
But a few weeks ago, the idea of making my own Ding Dongs popped into my head. While I’m typically a fan of speedy, simple desserts (cookies are my forte), I decided this just simply must happen in my kitchen.
And so it did.
I started out playing with the cake recipe. Not having a fresh memory of a Ding Dong in my head, I did the best I could, remembering a somewhat dense (but not so much that it could be confused with a brownie) cake with as much chocolate in it as you could possibly add. I opted for coconut flour, as I’ve loved it in other cake and cupcake recipes. Coconut flour is tricky – it soaks up so much more moisture at first than other flours – but once you get used to it, it can provide a tight, tender crumb in a cake. It worked perfectly, and my cake was tasty and held together when cut perfectly.
In a real Ding Dong, I honestly have no idea what is in the filling they use. It’s freakishly white and likely has multiple chemicals that allow it to stay marshmallow-y forever. My filling was a version of a 7-minute frosting – simply egg whites, maple syrup, and vanilla. Now, this means that it won’t stay marshmallow-y for all eternity, but it’s good. Darn good, if I do say so myself.
The exterior coating couldn’t be simpler – I merely melted chocolate and brushed it over. It worked perfectly. Who needs weird waxy stuff when you’ve got good ol’ chocolate?
Now, because these cakes are lacking in preservatives and chemicals, they won’t last forever. They’re best served the same day they are made, as it seems the marshmallow center gets absorbed a little into the cake over time. But chances are, you won’t have to worry about that, as they’re quite the perfect treat, and won’t last long around a crowd of teenagers, kids, or nostalgic adults. But if for some reason you actually do have some left over, they’ll still taste delicious.
Grain-Free, Dairy-Free “Ding Dongs”
For the chocolate cake:
5 large eggs
¼ c coconut oil, melted
1 ½ oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 T brewed coffee
1/3 c maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
¼ c + 2 T coconut flour
¼ c cacao powder (I used a raw cacao powder, you can use regular cocoa powder, as long as it isn’t dutched)
¼ t salt
½ t baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside; grease the parchment paper.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the coconut oil, chocolate, coffee, maple syrup, and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, cacao powder, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl, beating on medium speed, until well blended.
Scrape the batter into the cake pan and spread out evenly with a spatula.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan. Once cool, use an offset spatula to go around the edges of the cake and release it from the pan.
(This can be done one day ahead – just wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.)
For the fluffy white filling:
½ c maple syrup (or agave nectar – I haven’t tried honey, but I have a feeling it would work)
¼ c water
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, bring maple syrup and water to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 3-4 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees F.
Meanwhile, beat eggs in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until foamy. With the mixer still beating the eggs at high speed, slowly pour in the hot syrup along the side of the bowl. Continue to beat on high for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Add in vanilla and continue to beat for another minute.
For the chocolate ganache:
Melt 6 oz bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler (or in a large bowl set over a smaller pot of simmering water).
To make the cakes:
To assemble the cakes, cut the cakes using a small round cutter – I used one about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. (You can save the scraps for snacking or for cake balls.)
Using a small knife or an apple corer, turn the cut cakes over, and cut out the center three-quarters of the way through and remove the small cut out. Set it aside.
Fill each cake with your fluffy frosting. Replace the cut out. Repeat with remaining cakes. (You’ll probably have leftover fluffy frosting. I won’t tell if you eat it.)
Then, once your ganache is melted and ready to go, use a brush and brush it over the bottoms of the cakes. Place these cakes in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to harden the chocolate. Then turn over the cakes, and brush with chocolate on the tops and sides. Place back in the fridge or freezer to harden the rest of the chocolate.
Serve. Refrigerate if storing any leftovers.
I managed to get 11 ding dongs out of this recipe – you might manage 12 if you are better at cutting out the cakes than I!
Do you have old favorites that you’ve converted to gluten-free? Share them at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community!