A good friend of ours who is a chocolate fiend recently had a birthday. It’s fun to make her birthday treats because both she and her beloved (a coworker) are so appreciative. Knowing that C & M both love chocolate treats, but have a small household, I figured lots of small treats that can be frozen would be better than one huge chocolate cake, for example. (I know it’s harder for me to resist when there’s CAKE sitting on the counter….) That way they can spread the fun over more days (weeks(!?!), if their impulse control is good)
So, Whoopie Pies (a lovely invention that’s more common in my home state of Maine than out here in the Midwest) came to mind as an indulgent treat that would be good for C’s birthday present. I’d never made them before, so I did some research. I found many recipes, many of which use vegetable shortening, and some which use Marshmallow Fluff in the filling, and some which don’t use Fluff. Of course, Fluff is pretty hard to find outside the northeastern US, so I was forced to opt against the Fluff ones.
My friend W, a Mainer who is known to make Whoopie Pies a fair bit, DOES use Fluff, but he says you can burn out an electric mixer mixing the Fluff filling. I’m guessing he knows this from personal experience, so I took his word to be true that more viscous Fluff fillings need to be mixed by hand. (Sounds like a cross-training option, perhaps?)
I found a recipe that says it’s adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, of Ann Arbor, MI. I have great respect for the bakers at Zingerman’s, and have sent their stuff as gifts, so I figured this was going to be fine. Several hours later, in tasting the results, I found them very salty, and felt that the results were not gift-worthy (Though some of my coworkers got them on Monday).
I decided to make them again, adjusting the leavening, and leaving out the salt(!) that was in the buttercream filling in the recipe. This version was DELICIOUS. (This time the goof was accidentally adding two sticks of butter to the cake part of the mix, as I was paying more attention to the radio than to what I was doing. When I realized, I ended up making a double batch. So the extras went off to DH’s coworkers).
Props in this go to DH, again, who helped feed pats of butter into the mixer for the filling (round 1), and helped me with the filling and wrapping (rounds 1 & 2).
Whoopie Pies, adapted from a NY Times adaptation from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI.
Makes 8-10, depending on your dollop-size.
- sheet pans
- parchment paper for sheet pans (you could grease the pans instead, I guess, but I didn’t)
- mixing bowls
- heavy duty electric mixer with paddle (for cakes) and whisk attachments (for filling)
- rubber or silicon spatula
- measuring cups (for liquid and dry ingredients)
- measuring spoons
- spoon or ice cream scoop for portioning dollops
- cooling racks
- instant read thermometer
- double boiler, or saucepan and metal bowl large enough to sit over saucepan as double boiler.
- plastic wrap
Ingredients for Cakes:
- 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 cup buttermilk
Ingredients for Buttercream Filling:
- 3 large egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar (white, granulated)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 tsp. vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a mixing bowl and whisk them together.
- In mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk (in two parts), combining well after each addition.
- Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out 1/4 cup mounds of batter and place them 2-3 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake one pan at a time, until the cakes are puffed, and they spring back when touched, about 12-14 minutes. Remove the parchment sheet to a cooling rack, and cool before peeling the cakes off the parchment. Cool the cakes completely before filling them. Don’t worry, making the filling now will give them plenty of time to cool.
Buttercream Filling Process:
- Put 2 inches of water in the saucepan (or bottom of double boiler), and bring to just under a boil (the furious simmer).
- Clean and dry the bowl for the mixer, if you used it for the cakes. Make sure it is very clean and very dry, for height when whipping the filling.
- Cut butter into 1/2 Tbs. pats. (approx 1/4 inch thick)
- Add the egg whites and sugar to the metal bowl (or top of double boiler), and whisk them together. Place the bowl over the simmering water, and keep whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the temperature reaches 180 degrees F on your instant-read thermometer. The whites will get pretty glossy at this point.
- Take the bowl off the heat, and scrape the whites and sugar mixture into the bowl on the heavy duty mixer. Whisk the egg whites and sugar on high until they double in volume and become thick and shiny. Continue to whisk until cool. This can take a while.
- Reduce the speed to medium, and add the butter, one pat at a time, mixing between pats until all the butter is incorporated. This can take a longer while.
- Add the vanilla. Increase the speed to high, and whisk for one more minute.
Whoopie Pie Assembly Process (Whoopeeeeeee!):
- Match up your cakes in pairs, putting like sizes together.
- Using a spoon, plop 1/4 cup of buttercream on the flat side of one cake. Spread the filling to the edges.
- Top with another cake, flat side toward filling.
- Repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature, or wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
Like any of us will have these around for three days if we don’t freeze them and use amazing amounts of self-control. Honestly. I like to wrap them individually anyway, even if I don’t freeze them, so the filling doesn’t leak out, and the (moist!) cakes don’t get stuck together.