"Keep your words soft and sweet just in case you have to eat them." Amish Proverb
Ever wonder what the fuss is about whoopie pies? Or how it got such a silly name in the first place?
A whoopie pie is a sandwichy-treat that toggles the culinary line between a cookie and a cake. It has other names: moon pies, black-and-whites, gobs and bobs. And it’s all the rage in the dessert world.
Whoopie Pies have been an East Coast phenomenon for generations. Historians believe that the whoopie pie, most likely, has Amish or Mennonite roots that reach back to medieval Germany. Amish women packed the highly portable dessert in their farmer-husbands’ or children’s lunchboxes, prompting the recipients to exclaim “Whoopie!” when they discovered the treats. Coal miners called them “gobs” because they resembled chunks of coal.
Whatever its beginnings, the cream-filled cookie has made its way into culinary pop culture: Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma recently rolled out whoopie-pie mixes and pans, food blogs are abuzz about them and Food Network Magazine featured a recipe for a red velvet whoopie in a recent edition. Central Market and Whole Foods stores make and sell whoopie pies in their bakery departments. And they’re popping up on the dessert menu at many restaurants.
The whoopie hoopla touches on two important dessert trends these days: small desserts and nostalgic desserts. And while the most classic version is chocolate and marshmallow, the cookies and fillings can be assembled in countless combinations—sweet or savory.
Whoopie pies, like the Amish, have endured for hundreds of years. It’s a classic recipe that holds tight to its origins, adjusting when necessary, but never forgetting what it was made for.
Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies*
(Makes about 48 two-inch cakes)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Classic marshmallow filling (recipe below)
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of wax paper. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 2 more minutes.
3. Add half of flour mixture and half of milk to batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add remaining flour mixture and 1/2 cup milk and beat until completely combined.
4. Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto a prepared baking sheet and repeat, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the pies spring back when pressed gently. Remove from oven and let cakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
To assemble: Spread filling onto the flat side a cake using a knife or spoon. Top it with another cake, flat-side down. Repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling. Alternatively, you can use a pastry bag with a round tip to pipe the filling onto the cakes, which will give you a neater presentation.
Classic marshmallow filling
1 1/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together Marshmallow Fluff and shortening, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Reduce mixer speed to low, add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.
Some tips to make the best whoopie pies:
Vegetable shortening, not butter, will help the pies achieve their characteristic lightness, lift and rounded shape.
Use an ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon and push the dough out with your finger onto the baking pan. The dough should be the consistency of muffin batter.
When you’re putting the cookies together to fill, match ones that have roughly the same circumference.
Use a re-sealable plastic/pastry bag to pipe the filling between cookies quickly and elegantly.
They’re best eaten within a day of making them. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days; freeze them (wrapped individually) for up to one month.
If you try to make whoopie pies, let me know how they turned out!
*This recipe is reprinted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley (Chronicle Books).
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. She hosts a weekly radio show and has a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, that delivers a daily Amish proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Suzanne on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.