Whoopie Pies

By Sarah Billingsley & Amy Treadwell

Cookbook review written by
The Stay-At-Home-Chef

Whoopie Pies is available for purchase at your local bookstore or online at www.amazon.ca

The origin of whoopie pies (or ‘gobs’ as they are also called) is somewhat controversial. Some people say that they were invented in medieval Germany and brought over to Pennsylvania by the Amish. Women would bake cakes and use leftover batter and icing to make these special treats, which were then tucked into the lunchboxes of husbands and children. Upon discovering the treat, cries of “whoopie!” were shouted. However the state of Maine likes to lay claim to the invention of whoopie pies, and in fact the Maine State Legislature is currently embroiled in the process of making the whoopie pie the official state treat.

In their book Whoopie Pies (Chronicle Books $16.95 USD), authors Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell provide you with all the tools necessary to whip up a batch (or two, or three…) of a variety of whoopie pies that will pretty much guarantee your addiction to these retro treats.

I picked up a copy of this book after writing a recent article on whoopie pies. Yes – I admit I became a tad obsessed with these treats and wanted to try making them at home. Poor Mr. Spock groaned when he came home to a house full of three different varieties of whoopie pies. Seeing what I was up to, he silently headed to the gym knowing full well that later he would have to be privy to the taste testing process.

Overall I really like this book, the soft vinyl cover similar to an actual whoopie in terms of the pillowy texture. The tone of the book is casual and upbeat, making you feel all happy inside even before you pop one of those whoopies into your mouth. I happened to like the fun sketches included at the beginning; finding it lent a nice retro feel to the book that complimented its subject matter.

I love how traditional whoopie pie recipes are included along with more creative flavour varieties, such as pistachio-cardamom, gingerbread and mocha, and even a savory whoopie (jalapeno cornbread with bacon-chive goat cheese filling).

Here’s what I didn’t like:

There seemed to be quite a few inaccuracies that should have been caught during the editing process. Yes, I only tested three recipes but the errors I encountered were significant enough to have been noticed (see my recipe tests for more details).

Also, it would have been great to have suggested icings on the same page as the cake recipes, so you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between the different sections. Wow. Did I really just get that anal?!

Classic Chocolate Whoopie with Classic Marshmallow Filling

RATING: 4 out of 5 (tastes like the real thang!)

THE TEST: This recipe is for a traditional whoopie pie, so I thought it would be best to start off with this variety first. Everything came together quickly, and I am happy to report that I even took the time to sift all dry ingredients prior to adding them to the batter. For those of you who don’t know me, this is a big accomplishment! Typically I can’t be bothered with the whole sifting process, which always ends up being much less of a pain than I build it up to be in my head. But still.

The cookie batter was lovely to work with, although I did find it a little too sticky to use with a scoop when dropping them onto the pan. Next time I will try chilling the dough first, allowing it to better slide off the scoop making more uniformly shaped cookies. But in the end it all worked out well as part of the charm of whoopie pies is that they are not supposed to look perfect.

THE RESULTS: Once I got over the fact that I was eating cookies with vegetable shortening included as part of the listed ingredients; I realized that they actually tasted good. Really good. (Dammit).

The cookies themselves were the perfect texture; fluffy and moist but sturdy enough to hold the filling. I liked how these whoopies were not overly sweet, the chocolaty outsides pairing nicely with the creamy marshmallow inside.

Next time I would like to experiment with a shortening free recipe just to compare, although from what I understand the fluffy texture that characterizes whoopie pies is just not possible without its use.

Classic Chocolate Whoopie with Salted Caramel Filling

RATING: 1 out of 5 (complete flop)

THE TEST: Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with this recipe review. It’s actually pretty mind blowing how wrong it all ended up.

As soon as I read through the list of ingredients for the filling I knew the quantities were way off. All that was called for was a half cup sugar, two tablespoons water, two tablespoons heavy cream and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Obviously this was not going to make enough filling for an entire batch of cookies, but I went ahead anyways.

Essentially you cook down the sugar and water mixture until it darkens, and then whisk in the heavy cream making a caramel sauce. It tasted good but just as I suspected there was not enough filling. In the end it didn’t matter, as after the suggested 10 minute cooling time called for in the recipe the caramel was rock solid.

Well then.

After looking through other filling recipes I thought that perhaps there had been another typo and it was supposed to have been two cups (not tablespoons) of heavy cream. So I put the caramel mixture back on the stove to soften, added two cups of heavy cream, let the mixture cool and tried whipping it in my stand mixer.

THE RESULTS: The end result of my second attempt was more voluminous than the straight caramel batch, but the filling never really thickened all that much so even though it tasted good the consistency was much too runny to work sandwiched between the cakes.

Lemon Whoopie with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 (great lemon flavour, very fresh & light)

(Please click here for a copy of the recipe)

THE TEST: This variety of whoopie pie was just as easy to throw together as the Classic Chocolate with Marshmallow Filling. My only quibble here was that at no point does the recipe indicate when to add the dry ingredients to the lemon cookie batter. Whoops.

THE RESULTS: These whoopie pies were by far the crowd favourites! The cookies held a nice tang from the buttermilk that complimented the citrus flavour, and the addition of mascarpone cheese in the filling gave it an almost cheesecake like taste.

In the book they suggest adding a layer of lemon curd to this particular variety for an additional hit of lemon. I just might have to make another batch and give that a try. (Honey, is that you sneaking back to the gym?!)