Now, now people, I’m talking about whoopie pies, those sweet little concoctions of “is it a cake or is it a cookie but who really cares anyway.” (Or the titular “pie,” I suppose, but that one doesn’t make sense to me at all.)
Since writing my first post about whoopie pies on Halloween, I’ve received emails from several friends begging for the recipe. Here at last is today’s email with my own take of what is the official “state treat” of Maine as of just this year. (Not to be confused with its state dessert, which is blueberry pie.)
First, a few whoopie pie facts. Apparently the origins of this humble little dessert are hotly contested, according to its entry on Wikipedia, with both Maine and Pennsylvania claiming it as their own. Maine took the world record away from Pennsylvania for the largest pie last year, weighing in at 1,062 pounds vs. 200 pounds, respectively. (Check out the entry for more whoopie pie trivia. Interesting stuff, and seems to need some more research if any of you are so inclined.)
Now, truth be told, this tasty delight never really appealed to me very much, and I’ve only had a few in my life while visiting family in Maine. I’m not exactly sure what my deal was – what’s not to like? – but I think I was biased because of the name, which is really rather silly. It just doesn’t sound as good as, say, “mousse,” “ganache,” or “tiramisu,” with their lovely, mellifluous names. I mean, according to the above the dessert is so named because men yelled “Whoopeeeee!” when finding one in their lunch pail back in the day. Who does that?
Well, all this changed one late autumn night last year, when my friend Sharon baked some pumpkin whoopie pies for a late-night cast party. It was the first time I had eaten a whoopie pie in quite some years, and it was absolutely divine.They were filled with a marshmallow cream, one of the standard delectable fillings; she’s also used cream cheese frosting.
Fast forward one year later to Halloween 2011: some people carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns while others create soups, breads, stews and, on special occasions, whoopie pies. I modified this recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. First, I used a sugar pumpkin freshly roasted from the oven. (Canned works just fine, too, if you prefer.) Second, I used white whole wheat flour in the batter, which is more healthful than white flour and works equally well in many recipes in my experience. Third, I added 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract. The cakes were pumpkin-y, moist, and had just the right amount of spice. Also, depending on both the size of your household and level of your willpower, I recommend halving this recipe to avoid keeping tons of whoopie pies around, which is a general strategy I employ when baking to avoid over-consumption (i.e., don’t keep sweets, snacks, etc. around in the house).
Now for the filling. I have no doubt that the marshmallow cream from Bon Appétit is fabulous. I was especially excited by the maple flavor, which sounded like the perfect complement. Nonetheless, I decided to forego the fluff (my bias is showing again) and instead try out a maple buttercream filling. I followed Martha’s recipe, found here. Absolutely unbelievable, as I mentioned in my original post. (Note: Ignore the naysayers and alterations to the recipe posted by others. The key in making buttercream is patience, and it will work out perfectly. Don’t add powdered sugar unless you want icing rather than buttercream – you already have your sugar from the maple syrup. Just take your time. Also, add the butter a little at a time and taste as you are going along because I actually only needed 1.5 sticks, not the full two.) If you want a more intense maple flavor, add some pure maple extract, 1/4 tsp at a time, until you achieve the desired concentration of flavor. Assemble the pies not too long before you will serve them, as you don’t want them to get soggy.
Dr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, check out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more. Thank you for reading!