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In 1999, Hostess released a short run of snack cakes that took me by surprise. In the Acme Market in my hometown, I would always check out the Hostess display. It rarely changed, but on this winter day, it had something new, the Hostess Leopard.
The Leopard was in the Twinkie family of treats. Like its cousin, the Chocodile, it was improved by the addition of chocolate.
While the Chocodile had a healthy chocolate layer, the Leopard has soft chocolate chips in the sponge cake layer. So each bite just has a nice hint of intense chocolate flavor.
The concept for Leopards started out not as a Twinkie, but as a cupcake. This cupcake would have cookies crumbled into the batter giving it a spotted look. This was a clever idea, but the research bakers decided to go one step better and make it in the shape of a Twinkie. Then they dropped the cookies and put in chocolate chips. Thus the first new Hostess product in decades was born.
Taste is a hard thing to describe. Especially with snack cakes. The Leopard experience was similar to the Twinkie, but the cake itself felt softer and the overall experience was much sweeter.
A box of Leopards were inline with the pricing of other Hostess products at the time. They usually ran about $1.50 – $2.25 for a box of ten cakes.
As it turns out, I was lucky in my early access to the Leopard. They began rolling out in late 1999, but it was at least the mid-2000s before wider markets had access to them. Then, because of poor sales, the Leopard disappeared.
No public outcry, not major news. Just a temporary open spot in the Hostess display that would soon be filled with more Twinkies.
When Hostess was reborn a few years ago, I kept hoping we might get a short run of the Leopard. Many years have passed and still nothing. I will keep my fingers crossed and my eyes open that one day other people will get to enjoy these delicious spotted cakes.
Note: Over the years I have kept my eye open online to buy and old Leopard box, but so far have failed at every attempt to land one. Once I do, I will share images of it here.