Do you check the labels of foods, each and every time? Most of us probably do, but when you're used to using a "safe" food, sometimes we don't. Recently, I checked the label of Hostess Cupcakes for my daughter and was surprised to find new tree nut allergy warnings. Of course I wondered if the risk had been there all along and that may be the case. It's difficult to get a straight answer from companies on that one. Another possibility is that they changed their manufacturing practices and are using new production lines or different facilities. This happens more often than you think.
It isn't just Hostess. Whole Foods Brand Organic Ketchup now carries a nut allergy warning. One of my Facebook friends just alerted me that some types of Ragu brand spaghetti sauce now have a nut allergy warning on the label. I checked some Ragu flavors at my local supermarket and didn't see any nut allergy warnings, but you might depending on where you live.
The bottom line is to always read a label! And when providing a "safe foods" list to friends or teachers, be sure you keep a copy for yourself so you can periodically re-check the labels throughout the year. You never know when they will change!
Getting back to cupcakes. I don't usually buy Hostess cupcakes for my daughter since I am pretty much a from-scratch baker due to nut allergy risks of baked goods. Still, kids like to eat what their friends are eating. And though the taste isn't so great, the appearance of Hostess cupcakes and the cream center are a big hit with kids.
Here is a recipe for a cream-filled cupcake that I found in a cookbook years ago and tweaked for my nut-free purposes. This recipe is not something you would make every day but for birthdays or special occasions it is a delicious treat! Please note: The following recipe is nut-free only.
Nut-Free, Cream-Filled Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
2 3oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup marshmallow cream (I use Marshmallow Fluff brand)
1 large egg
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process if possible (I use Vermont Nut-Free or Hershey's Dutch Process)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs water
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp white distilled or cider vinegar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Make the filling: In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, marshmallow fluff, egg, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Place mixture in freezer while you prepare cupcake batter (or refrigerate for one hour)
Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk to break up any lumps. In another bowl, combine water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Gradually add liquid ingredients to the flour mixture, whisking until completely blended.
Place a tablespoon of batter on each lined muffin cup. Then place a dollop of chilled cream filling (about 1 tablespoon) into each cup. (You may have some filling left over.) Fill cups about 3/4 full with remaining cupcake batter--do not overfill. Bake 25 minutes or until cupcakes look set around the edges. Cool in tins about 15 minutes and then gently lift out of pan and place on wire rack to cool completely. When cool, finish with Fudge Icing.
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Vermont Nut-Free or Hershey's brand) or 4 oz chopped semisweet chocolate (Vermont Nut-Free or Baker's brand)
Place chocolate in bowl. In a saucepan, bring cream to a low boil and then pour over chocolate. Stir until chocolate melts completely and icing is smooth. Cool until slightly thickened and room temperature.
When cupcakes are cool, frost each one with an offset spatula. Let cupcakes stand until frosting firms up.