My introduction was far from pleasant. I was in bed defenseless the first time I tasted whoopie pie, pieces shoved into my unsuspecting mouth. Strange to recall now, yet disturbingly true. I was too thin and in need of fattening up, she was going through a bad time and needed an excuse to buy decadent treats. J_ my irrepressibly loud attendant, the one with the gravelly smoker’s voice and Boston accent, the woman who wore leopard print velour leggings and entered my quiet home and tranquil mornings with the cacophonic slam and crash of bags, purses, and every possible moving thing held me captive with a sweet tooth she kept foisting onto me to share.
Key lime mousse torte, ricotta filled cannoli, pumpkin cheesecake, quick breads made from too much zucchini and an overload of nervous energy, all this and more kept filing past my kitchen counter at a mind numbing insulin raising clip. In spite of being near buried by an avalanche of sugar, I could not help noticing her propensity for whoopie pies: mom and pop corner store ones, puffy commercially produced synthetically filled ones; softball shaped and sized ones, even holiday themed ones. In instinctual defense I turned inside myself like a hermit crab shutting off to any possibility for full-on whoopie appreciation. Until recently-- from gentler hands, upright and in the mood, a re-introduction to this hand held confection had me swooning and righting myself round again.
Whoopie pies simply are the stuff of kids’ dreams. Two fetchingly soft and sloped chocolate cookies good naturedly cradle a satiny white cream filling to produce something ‘tween a cookie and a cake. While these quintessential New England treats somewhat resemble the Hostess Suzy –Q’s of lunchbox fame, its over-the-top size, taste and texture wins discerning fans respectably mature and youthful alike.
Though relatively new to this down home comfort food, it clearly answers a call put forth long ago when I was young, unbridled and hungry. Then it seemed as if I was always scanning the horizon for something immeasurably sweet to make up for the boredom of everyday food consumption and the exhaustive efforts of constant play. As well, I wanted more- and lots of it. I was calculating and angling eternally for the bigger piece of pie, stretching my fingers broad to grab a heftier handful of cookies. I willed myself to enjoy adult bitter chocolate since it would increase the consumable yield of my Halloween stash by some small fraction. Loyal only to quenching my hunger, even taste occasionally needed to take a backseat to quantity.
And then there was cake. Better than saltines and Ritz crackers. Better than Millbrook bread, staple of my youth. Serving to serving, loftier than cookies, fatter than brownies, more filling than pie, I preferred cake. This was my food of deliverance. While the holy host, dry and stale wafer is the living body of Christ wedding one to eternal life, soft moist cake embraces the here and now and celebrates every day life on humbler ground. It is warm inviting hug, the promise and hope of lazy summer days. It is the sigh and fulfillment of things wanted, besides leaving a sweet lingering taste behind.
So whoopie pies are the wild uncompromising love children between wholesome if not moderate cake and irresponsibly sweet, drunk-on-vanilla filling. If eaten correctly, hands and cheeks will be dappled and smudged with chocolate crumb stained cream and euphoric feelings will gradually take over rendering one useless for serious matters. These chocolate gobs should not be eaten alone (unless fatally depressed, then it may be advisable to eat two) but amidst jovial company and with chasers of milk. They should never be miniaturized into degrading versions of their jolly ample self. They are the epitome of sweet generosity, innocence and delicious fun. And here in these parts, that translates into being wicked… wicked good that is.
Whoopie Pies makes 4 pies which feeds 16 average eaters and 8 hungry ones: I went straight to the “best of” source, Mr. Christopher Kimball himself. This recipe comes directly from a Kitchen Detective article. His strategy was to produce two very distinct components. The cake-ish cookie was to be moist, yet substantial enough to withstand firm hand pressure without crumbling apart. He also didn’t use vanilla or too much sugar, so that the cake would stand in contrast to the filling which generously uses both. The filling needed to be fluffy yet have enough body so that bites would not send the insides oozing dangerously out the sides. All in all the pies were pretty wonderful. The filling is the best I have ever had. The whoopie pies were worth eating for this alone. Next time I would add 2 oz. of melted unsweetened chocolate to the batter, to intensify the flavor. Note: I did subsequently make these with the additional chocolate and it was better. I ended up altering the butter/confectionery sugar slightly from the original posting as well.
Ingredients for the cookie:
½ C whole milk
½ C Dutch process cocoa
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 C sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 ¾ C all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 confectioners’ sugar
2 C Marshmallow Fluff
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
Directions: For the cakes, preheat oven to 350. Place parchment on 2 cookie sheets and set aside. Make a slurry with the milk and cocoa in a small pan. Turn heat onto medium, add sugar, unsweetened chocolate and butter mixing until melted. Turn off heat and let the mixture sit for ten minutes. Add both eggs to the cooled chocolate and blend until mixture is shiny. Sift dry ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and add the chocolate. Blend on low until just mixed. Scrape down sides and increase speed to medium for about 90 seconds. Spoon about 4 tablespoons of mixture into a mound on the parchment. Leave 2 inches of space around the cookie. 4 similar size cookies per sheet. Repeat on the next cookie sheet. Bake in oven for approximately 8 -10 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Cool.
Meanwhile make the filling. Whip butter at medium speed for about 1 minute. Add sugar on low until incorporated. Increase speed to medium high and whip until light and fluffy for about 3 minutes. Add the Fluff, salt, and vanilla and whip an additional minute or so. Refrigerate. To assemble the whoopie pies, flip over 4 discs so that the flat sides are up. Slather the filling equally between the 4 discs and top with the remaining cookies. Cover loosely and refrigerate to help hold shape. After an hour serve or wrap them individually in saran wrap. Enjoy with a big glass of milk.