I have distinct, happy memories about my first encounter with a whoopie pie.
Which was approximately 5 years ago.
I was pregnant with numero dos and had an almost-2 year old in tow for a "jog" (or whatever was the fastest shuffle I could muster at that point behind a burgeoning belly, jog stroller, and German shepherd on leash) around our West Philly neighborhood. It was a Saturday morning, so the Clark Park farmer's market was in early spring-time high gear with greens, gourds, a few eggs, local cheeses... and Amish desserts. You see, the whoopie pies on offer weren't just *any* old whoopie pies, they were Lancaster County made, brought lovingly to Philadelphia for "the English" to peruse and purchase, offered alongside a variety of breads, home-churned butter, and farm-fresh eggs. (Truth be told, possibly splitting hairs, they were probably Mennonite as they seemed to make their way to and fro in a truck rather than horse & buggy.)
My little toddler eyed the table with great interest. She wanted something carbalicious. Truth be told, so did my pregnant self. And there, invitingly, sat desserts that looked something akin to oatmeal cream pies of various flavors. I have a weakness for oatmeal cream pies. These things were huge, though, perhaps 5 inches wide. The whoopie pies called to us. It was a summons we couldn't well ignore.
So we bought one of the oatmeal and vanilla variety. We settled onto a park bench to enjoy our whoopie pie. It wasn't dissimilar to an oatmeal cream pie, just bigger and more perfectly cakey, filled with a nice layer of sweet, buttery meringue icing. We licked our lips contentedly and ran off the sugar high on the playground before heading homeward.
A recent burst of wintry cravings for comfort food renewed my interest in whoopie pies. And so I puttered around with recipes. Many recipes create a rather mounded, cookie-like result (too small an icing-to-cake ratio). Others seem to dry and crumbly (certainly not right). I wanted moist, thin rounds of cake, not too wide. And I wanted a buttery filling rather than shortening or just marshmallow cream. An icing stable enough to hold the sandwich together in warm, waiting hands.
This this is the result of my research and baking efforts. With which I think my old Amish (or Mennonite) farming friends would be proud.
Here's to Americana desserts!
(And to a more-than-healthy dose of red food coloring.)
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
makes 3 dozen small pies (or 18 large pies)
1/4 c coconut oil (or shortening if you must)
1/4 c softened or melted butter
1 c brown sugar
3/4 oz red food coloring (1 1/2 Tbsp)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vinegar
3 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
4 c of cream cheese icing of choice*
Preheat oven to 375degF.
Beat oils with sugar until well creamed and fluffy in a stand mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Mix well.
Mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
Alternating dry mix with buttermilk, add each in thirds into the batter, just until incorporated. Do not over-mix.
Using a tablespoon measure or small batter scoop for small whoopie pies (3" diameter), create mounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2" apart (they will spread!).
Bake for 8-10min, until springs back to gentle touch, but not crisp or golden on bottom. Remove each mini-cake to cooling rack.
Allow to cool completely before filling with icing.
I found that a generous 1 Tbsp of filling* per 2 mini-cakes was about right to make my whoopie pie ideal cake to filling ratio. Assemble into a pie by a gentle pressing and twisting movement between palms to spread the filling evenly.
* I filled my whoopie pies with a 3:1 ratio of buttercream icing to cream cheese. I happened to have a large quantity of Italian vanilla buttercream icing on hand and simply brought this and a full block of cream cheese to room temperature. Roughly 8oz of cream cheese folded into 3c of room temperature buttercream made the "right" quantity of filling for 3 dozen small pies, as above. But you should feel free to use any filling you like (and I won't judge if you buy a tub at the store)!
Store any whoopie pies that aren't immediately consumed in a sealed container, layered between sheets of wax paper.