Baking 101: Whoopie pie, or is it cake or a cookie

Baking 101: Whoopie pie, or is it cake or a cookie

Well known to a native of Pennsylvania, the “Whoopie Pie” has an interesting history and several names associated with its goodness.

The name has nothing to do with the actual item. The popular story goes back to the day when mothers would bake these special treats for their children and they would shout out “whoopie” in excitement.

Whoopie pies actually have fallen under three different categories: cake, pie and cookie. What we consider the traditional whoopie pie is the standard chocolate cake with vanilla icing piped or spread in the middle. Several states argue over its origin, and some have proclaimed the “Big Fat Oreo,” or “Big Moon,” as being the birthplace to this dessert. Others claim it to be the official treat of the state, but not the state dessert.

Whoopie pies are a dessert that consists of two cake-like cookies sandwiching a creamy, frosting-like filling. It is easy to think of them as a more portable version of a cupcake, where the frosting is inside of the cake and there is no wrapper with which to contend. Whoopie pies are considered more traditional if they are made with the chocolate cake outside and creamy white frosting inside. Some even use a marshmallow type filling, as well. However whoopie pies have expanded in many ways, from how the filling is placed in the center to its size and to the many varieties of flavors.

Two things to keep in mind in order to make whoopie pies is to have the right equipment on hand and use the proper ingredients. A stand mixer (one that sits on the counter) or a hand-held mixer is best to get the ingredients well mixed and blended together, while also beating in some air.

Be sure to use or find a recipe that calls for shortening. Butter will not give the same “lift” or lightness to the mini cake. And shortening is best when making the icing for just the right mouthfeel.

Buttermilk is another key factor to assembling the “pies.” Also the addition of coffee or water is what gives it the moist, sponge-like cake texture. Their dark chocolate color and flavor comes from adding unsweetened cocoa powder, and it is best to use Dutch-processed cocoa powder. It has a mild and delicate chocolate flavor, but you could use regular unsweetened cocoa powder if you like. This type of cocoa is neutral and will not react with baking soda and is used best with baking powder recipes. It has a reddish brown color and mild flavor.

After creaming together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, in goes the egg, which should be out at room temperature. Next will be the addition of dry ingredients that should be thoroughly mixed together in a bowl first. Once this mixture has been beaten until smooth, the final liquid, usually buttermilk, goes into form the final batter.

Choose the appropriate size scoop depending on the desired size. Be sure to make even scoops each time and place them with space between each section of batter. Scooping evenly is for two basic reasons: to make sure they bake evenly so small mounds do not bake faster than the bigger ones, and eventually so two individual scoops can be matched up as best as possible to be held together as one whoopie pie with icing.

Always check the batter’s consistency before scooping. If it’s too runny, it will not scoop into a slight ball, sort of like cookie dough. Also the looser it is, the more likely the batter will run into each other, which of course would create a very large cake.

Allow them to cool and remove them. At this point, any cookies you do not which to “sandwich” together can be frozen and pull out one piece at a time on an as-needed basis.

It’s such a tiny pie, with a very colorful background and history to it. Their popularity has gained so much now that we have states fighting over who claims them as “theirs.” No matter what name they have, they still all have a delicious taste and gives cake or pie eating a whole new meaning.

Amber Clay is a resident of the Mechanicsburg area. After graduating with her degree from the Culinary Institute of America, her food path started at the Hotel Hershey, continued on with teaching.


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