Whoopie Pies Make a Comeback!

Didn’t I tell you that everything-Amish is all the buzz right now? I was in Whole Foods the other day and found this…

There’s even a cookbook dedicated to these little desserts, called “Whoopie Pies,” that will be out in April by Sarah Billingsley (Chronicle Books, $16.95).

Wondering just what a Whoopie Pie is?

Sandwichy-treats that toggle the culinary line between a cookie and a cake, whoopie pies (aka “moon pies,” “black-and-whites,” “gobs” and “bobs” are “de rigueur” on dessert trays these days.

Whoopie Pies have been an East Coast phenomenon for generations and most likely have Amish or Mennonite roots reaching back to medieval Germany. Historians say 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 their beginnings, the cream-filled cookies have made their 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 features a recipe for a red velvet whoopie in its February edition. Central Market and Whole Foods stores make and sell whoopie pies in their bakery departments. And they’re on the dessert menu at Cafe Modern.

“We started seeing whoopie pies everywhere, and that’s why we wrote the book,” said Billingsley, a former native of Pennsylvania who now lives in San Francisco. “… We’re getting the gospel out there.”

The whoopie hoopla touches on two important dessert trends these days, Billingsley says — small desserts and nostalgic desserts. And while the most classic version is chocolate-marshmallow, the whoopie-cookies and fillings can be assembled in countless combinations — sweet or savory. Whoopie Pies includes such creative recipes as The Happy Pilgrim (pumpkin-maple), Fat Elvis (banana-peanut butter-bacon), Rock the Casbah (cardamom-pistachio-rosewater buttercream) and jalapeño cornbread with bacon-chive-goat cheese filling.

Billingsley offered these whoopie-pie tips:

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 resealable plastic/pastry bag to pipe the filling between cookies quickly and elegantly.

Jazz up your pies by filling them with Nutella, peanut butter or whipped cream, in addition to the classic filling. Roll them in sprinkles or crushed candy, or dip them in ganache.

They’re best eaten within a day of making them because they can be a challenge to store. Best to store them in a single layer or wrap them individually. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days; freeze them for up to one month.

Get the kids involved! Have them help spread the filling onto the cookies and let them eat with their hands — fun!

Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes

12/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

11/2 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 follows)

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

11/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff (or other prepared marshmallow cream, which will do in a pinch)

11/4 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.

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.