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Date last updated: Thursday, January 4, 16:52 PST

Deep Fried Fundraising

It all started two years ago when our Chief read an article about deep fried Twinkies to which we all asked, deep fried what? You heard it right, deep fried Twinkies. This year at our local fair ( )I spent three and a half days frying not only Twinkies but also Oreos. This may sound weird to you, but when you have a product where you can make over $30/hour as a fundraiser, you’ll try anything.

When the idea came up, we did a bit of research. It turns out that deep fried Twinkies were ‘invented’ by a guy named Christopher Sell in NYC. He serves them as a desert at his gourmet restaurant. Further research found that the product is popular at fairs, especially in the south, with some organizations selling over 1800 Twinkies a day! As I have suggested in the past, we continued our research and found that not only do organizations sell deep fried Twinkies but also Oreos, Milky Ways, Mars Bars, and just about anything you could think of.

So how exactly do you make a deep fried Twinkie? I found multiple recipes for deep fried Twinkies and Oreos, one even including a beer batter. A stop at the grocery store and six courageous members gave us a chance to try out the recipes. I emphasize courageous as our initial trials were disgusting at best. We were looking for something that tasted good, but was also simple and cheap. One of the Oreo recipes simply used buttermilk pancake batter. (The ‘just add water’ kind.) A quick trial found that the pancake batter made a great option for both Twinkies and Oreos.

Here is how it goes: Freeze the Twinkies and Oreos for a minimum of 3 hours. (Overnight works best.) Make a pancake batter that is a little bit more watery then normal. Dip the product in the batter and coat thoroughly. Fry the product in oil that is at least 350, 375 works best if your frialator will go that high. (We used simple vegetable oil.) The cooking takes a bit of work. Oreos float and you will need to flip them about 30 seconds in. (Total cook time is about 1 minute, until golden brown.) Twinkies grow ‘wings’ if they float, so you need to keep them submerged by holding them down. (More on our solution for this later… The recommended method is to hold them down with a stick.)

What you get is a golden brown product that is warm and cool on the inside. The concept sounds weird, but the product tastes great. It is very sweet, but the contrast of cool and warm, along with the crunchy covering makes it yummy. People tend to like either the Oreos or Twinkies based upon their personal taste.

Now that we had the product down, the question was whether or not we could make money at it. The fair provides us with ample customers and we already had the deep fryer for our other product, ‘bloomin onions’, so the cornerstones were there. The majority of the costs would depend on the core product. By luck, I was able to buy the Twinkies from a Hostess Outlet for $0.10 a piece. Oreos we got from our local wholesale club for $0.05 a piece.

Organizations package and sell the product differently. Prices range from $2.00-$4.00 per order for 1-2 Twinkies and/or 5-6 Oreos. $3.00 seems popular for 6 Oreos or 2 Twinkies so we decided that was a good start. At this packaging arrangement our costs were less then $0.50 per order, including oil, batter, etc. One ‘twist’ that we included was the option of a combo order of 3 Oreos and 1 Twinkie. Add a little powdered sugar on top and a drizzle of chocolate sauce and you have a great product.

You can easily make multiple orders of Oreos, therefore passing the McDonald’s test, but the Twinkies are a bit harder. If you need to hold the Twinkies under the oil, one at a time, for a minute each, time is being wasted. Well if you leave any problem to a bunch of firefighters, eventually they will come up with a solution. Our solution was what I call the ‘Twinkie Dunker’.

The Twinkie Dunker looks like half of a normal fryer bucket. The difference is that there is 4 spokes on each side of the bucket and one side swings away. This allows you to fry four Twinkies at the same time. (Think of the way you hold an ear of corn and that is how the Twinkies are held.)

With the product and production set, the next piece was marketing. Signs were made, the word passed around, but the biggest marketing would be at the fair itself. For $35, we bought a ‘Twinkie Costume’ at and had the local sign company put “Deep Fried” and our location on the costume. It was a bit hard to get people to volunteer to be a Twinkie, but our explorers were more then willing. Even though I was in the back cooking, I could tell when someone was out in the costume because sales tripled. Without marketing the best fundraiser will fail. In this case the marketing made the product succeed.

The first full day of the fair we sold over 300 orders, split evenly between the two products. The second day brought in another 355 orders but the Oreos outweighed the Twinkies by almost two to one. The last day was only a half day and brought another 180 orders, with Oreos in the lead. There were times where the two of us cooking the products couldn’t keep up…

In the end the Twinkies and Oreos ended up netting a profit of over $30/manhour. These are the types of fundraisers that departments should be doing. My only caution is that the batter has high water content and when dropping the Oreos in, it is easy to get burnt. (Hence the half a dozen marks on my hand.)

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