Get this: on April 20th, a law passed in Maine making Whoopie Pies Maine’s official “state treat” (not state dessert—that title goes to wild blueberry pie). Apparently there’s a big debate between Maine and Lancaster PA over where whoopie pies originated. A bakery in Maine claims they’ve been making whoopie pies since 1925, but Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish families swear their great, great grandmas made whoopie pies with leftover cake batter in a wood burning stove back in 1872. Or something like that.
Clearly, people take whoopie pies very seriously: “Whoopies contain too much lard to be seriously considered as an official food in a state with an obesity problem, said the lone opponent to Davis’ bill, Rep. Donald Pilon. The Saco Democrat dismissed whoopies as “frosting-delivering vehicles masquerading as food” (full article in all of its ridiculous glory here). There was even a rally in Lancaster to prevent Maine from declaring whoopies the state dessert, and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country homepage (they have a homepage?!) says that Maine is committing “confectionary larceny.”
That’s a little extreme. I could understand going to extremes for, say, a milk chocolate crème brulee, or maybe even a couple scoops of Phish Food, but for whoopie pies? Not that whoopie pies aren’t delicious. A whoopie pie is a cross between a cake and a sandwhich cookie: the most traditional version a thick layer of sugary white frosting sandwiched between two domes of slightly dry chocolate cake. Pumpkin Whoopie pies filled with cream cheese frosting are also popular.
In the past few years whoopie pies have spread all over the country, and some fancy-shmancy versions have started to pop up. Magnolia Bakery sells Whoopie Cookies, “brown sugar cookies with a maple cream cheese filling.”
I didn’t want to go way out there with my whoopie pies, so my college suitemates and I decided to make the original chocolate cake filled with strawberry buttercream. The buttercream was a lot lighter than the traditional filling, which is mostly shortening and confectioner’s sugar, but the fresh strawberry puree we used was perfect with the chocolate cake. If I were to make whoopies again, I would probably use a thicker layer of buttercream.
We used this recipe for the cake, but adjusted it to make 18 pies. We found this strawberry buttercream recipe from Martha Stewart, and halved it so we’d have enough butter. The egg whites and sugar took forever to come to 160 degrees, so we sort of gave up around 140. A full recipe would probably work out better because the temperature would be easier to read on a candy thermometer, which gives the wrong temperature if it touches the bottom of the pot.
I got a little carried away taking pictures of these adorable pies. There isn’t a lot of lighting in our apartment, so my sister and I balanced the whoopies on a cutting board and sat outside on the sunny sidewalk for the photo shoot.
I decided we needed a picture of a whoopie pie cross-section, so I had my sister Carmel take a bite. This first bite is hers. I’ve never seen such a well-bitten bite in my life. But once we had a picture with one bite, I decided we absolutely had to have a picture with two bites. You can probably guess what happened from there…