Whoopie pies are sweet snack food or dessert commonly found in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. They definitely are not gourmet but still are extremely popular in those regions. Whoopie pies aren't really pies but use the same basic idea behind the ice cream sandwich and the Oreo cookie: two round soft devil's food chocolate cakes, in a flat cookie-like shape, sandwiching a generous amount of white frosting--sometimes more frosting than cake. They are very similar to Devil Dogs made by the Drake's Cakes Company or Devil Cremes made by the Little Debbie Snack Cake Company and perhaps distantly related to moon pies. These three commercially made snacks are commonly available in the United States.

The frosting of a whoopie pie can vary a bit, but most recipes use some combination of marshmallow fluff, shortening beaten with sugar, and buttercream. The marshmallow fluff gives the frosting a gooey texture. The shortening provides durability and stability. The buttercream tastes really nice. I've only seen one bakery use whipped cream. The cake itself is always round and perhaps a bit denser than normal cakes since the batter is dropped into baking sheets like drop cookies. Whoopie pies range in size from something that can fit into the palm of your hand all the way to the size of small dinner plates. Though chocolate flavored cake surrounding white vanilla frosting is standard, I've seen many variations: gingerbread, pumpkin, oatmeal, or molasses cakes, and maple syrup, chocolate, cream cheese, or peanut butter centers. Whoopie pies have an advantage over frosted cupcakes or normal cake slices because the frosting won't create a mess after having spent time rattling around in a lunchbox or in picnic basket or the back seat of a car during a long drive. This portability feature of the whoopie probably explains why almost all recipes use shortening: creating a sturdy cake that doesn't go bad too quickly and creating frosting that will not melt or deflate easily.

Some people attribute the invention of whoopie pies to the Amish due to the popularity of the snack in Pennsylvania Amish country. The Amish are also known for making simple comfort food and have a habit of giving interesting names to their dishes like chow chow, apple grunt, or shoo-fly pie. Others think it's native to Maine since it's quite popular there as well. Oprah Winfrey once featured whoopie pies from a bakery in Maine on her television show. That bakery was promptly swamped with orders the next day. Still some others say whoopie pies were originally a commercial product, allowing the baker to get rid of extra cake batter by creating a portable snack. Cookie expert Nancy Baggett, author of "The All-American Cookie Book," believes that whoopie pies was first made at the Berwick Cake Company in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston in the mid-1920s. On the side of the old brick building, the words "Whoopee! Pies" are still painted.

Though Whoopie pies are a very common comfort food in New England, they aren't quite as well known in the rest of the United States. Not being native to the New England area of the United States, I had never seen or heard about whoopie pies until I moved here. However, the situation may be different now due to Oprah and Ben and Jerry's which now has a flavor called "Makin’ Whoopie Pie."

Most whoopie pie recipes call for shortening, but this one does not so it may not be quite sturdy enough for long car rides and lunchboxes. A lot of whoopie pie recipes also use buttermilk or sour milk in the cake which this recipe does not require. Substituting in buttermilk might make the cake rise higher, although I haven't tested that. The filling uses marshmallow fluff, which is a spreadable marshmallow product (lacking the gelatin of normal marshmallow candies) sold in jars next to the peanut butter and widely available in New England. It's also an essential ingredient in a fluffernutter. I haven't tried it yet, but you could probably reduce some of the butter in the filling, omit the vanilla, and add some peanut butter to make a peanut butter whoopie pie.

For the cake:

  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling: Grease two baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Cream together 1 cup of sugar with 6 tablespoons of butter and an egg. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups flour, 5 tablespoons cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix 1 teaspoon of vanilla with 1 cup of milk in a separate container. Alternate adding this milk mixture and the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix well after each addition. Drop by tablepoonfuls onto the cookie sheets to make an even number of cookies. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.

For the filling, cream together 3/4 cup butter and 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar in bowl until fluffy. Blend in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup marshmallow fluff. If it looks too thick, add in 1 tablespoon of milk. Spread on half the cooled cookies and top with remaining cookies. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator if they last that long. Whoopie!

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