Whoopie Pies. Just saying those two words puts a smile on my face and makes little kids giggle. According to a recent article in the New York Times, they’re making a resurgence and taking over for the cupcake craze. Thank god.
Not familiar with whoopie culture myself, a little research was in order and I discovered that the Whoopie Pie is an east coast thing, originating with the Pennsylvania Amish according to some sources. It is a round, flat cakes sandwiched with a cream filling, typically in chocolate, pumpkin or molasses. Growing up in the Southwest, whoopie pies weren’t a part of my childhood. I discovered them late in life and made an immediate connection to my fondness for the crap bakery category of sweets. Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about. Things in colors not found in nature, sold in value packs and plastic packages in truck stops, convenience stores and regular old groceries. Things that even now, you’re a little hesitant to admit that you kind of like and secretly covet. Hostess Snowballs, Twinkies, Ding Dongs or Raspberry Zingers and of course the queen of all bargain bakery … Little Debbie in all her Oatmeal Pie-Nutty Bar-Star Crunch-Swiss Roll glory. In fact, I would wager that Whoopie Pie’s are Lil Deb’s spiritual cousin. Or a less pretentious French macaroon with a white trash relative. Take your pick.
I’ve never made a Whoopie Pie, but the idea has been filed away waiting for the right opportunity. Heading to a July 4th BBQ this weekend with the need to bring a crowd pleaser (I am somewhat infamous in my circle for completely over doing these types of things), I decided to take the whoopie for a whirl at last. First I needed a good cake and thought a version of my standard devil’s food cake would work. Indeed– Gourmet Magazine had a similar recipe with brown vs. white sugar and 1 less egg. Bingo. They were very easy to shape and baked up dark, chocolatey and beautiful. I made them on the small side – 2” rounds – because they’re cuter but mainly because when they’re small, you can eat more. It’s my own form of new math and I highly recommend it.
Now the filling. These things usually have “crème” filling – tooth achingly sweet, shortening based and deliciously perfect. I was looking for a little variety so I did a basic marshmallow crème and opted for a peanut butter filling as well. Classic combo that peanut butter & chocolate and always a favorite. Then a conversation with a friend on what to bring to the BBQ ensued and she said something that changed my direction just a bit. Something to the effect of “Sounds good but they better be chocolate-y. When something looks chocolate-y and isn’t, it really sucks.” You know, she was right so I decided to add a layer of ganache to the filling to bring up that chocolate flavor. Then because nothing enhances chocolate and peanut like a little salt, I added a pinch of grainy sea salt to each pie while assembling.
I don’t know what the Amish would think of their beloved Whoopie Pie made with French cocoa, Belgian chocolate, vanilla paste and sea salt but I have to say, they’re pretty damn good. I ate 5 for breakfast. They are small after all.
PEANUT BUTTER WHOOPIE PIES
Makes about 50 2” pies
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
Peanut Butter filling (recipe below)
Ganache (recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line 2-3 baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined.
- Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the brown sugar until light and fluffy – about 3 minutes.
- Add egg, beating until combined well.
- Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl, and mixing until smooth.
- Spoon 1 Tablespoon mounds of batter about 1” apart onto prepared baking sheets.
- Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, about 9 minutes.
- Let cool on the baking sheets then remove with a thin spatula
- Assemble: Spread a teaspoon of ganache on one flat side of half of the cakes and a rounded Tablespoon of peanut butter filling on flat side of the other half of the cakes. I ended up piping the peanut butter filling with a small star tip – it was much faster.
- Sprinkle a light pinch of sea salt on the ganache.
- Sandwich the ganache half with the peanut butter half and press lightly to adhere.
Peanut Butter Filling:
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
¾-1 cup powdered sugar
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and peanut butter together on medium high until well mixed.
- Reduce to low and add ¾ cup powdered sugar; mix until combined.
- Raise speed to high, and mix until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Add remaining ¼ cup powdered sugar if needed.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (64% cacao), finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- Place chopped chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat the cream until just boiling and immediately pour over the chocolate.
- Give the bowl a shake to completely submerge the chocolate in the warm cream, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Remove the plastic wrap and with a whisk, gently stir until smooth.
- Add the softened butter and whisk gently to combine.
- Let sit at room temperature until it begins to set. The ganache should be soft and spreadable when you’re ready to use it. This can take several hours at room temperature, which is why I usually do it first or even the night before I need it. If you’d like to speed things up, place the bowl in the fridge and give a stir every 15 minute