What New England kid didn’t grow up chasing down homemade whoopie pies? Often a special treat from the bakery or school bake sale, the two hamburger-sized rounds of soft, domed chocolate cookies (nearly cakes in texture) sandwiching an inch or more of pillowy vanilla filling (often made with Marshmallow Fluff) has made the whoopie pie one of the all-time favorite classic New England desserts.
So where did they come from? Whoopie pies are commonly thought to be a treat with Pennsylvania Amish roots, but a loud New England voice – heavy emphasis on the Maine accent. Food historians credit the Amish with making the first whoopie pies with leftover cake batter and tucking them into lunch pails (causing farmers and children to exclaim “Whoopie!” with delight upon their discovery), but when the treat made its way to New England it quickly grew in popularity. Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston, Maine began making and selling whoopie pies in 1925 (and still does today), and the now-defunct Berwick Cake Company of Roxbury, MA began churning them out in 1931.
While beloved through most of New England (and ever increasingly – everywhere else), the state of Maine has a few extra claims to whoopie pie fame. In 2011 it was declared the official “state treat” of Maine, and that same year the world’s largest whoopie pie was made in South Portland, clocking in at 1,062 pounds. Profits made from selling pieces of the whopper whoopie were used to fund sending Maine-made whoopie pies to soldiers overseas.
To make homemade whoopie pies, you first need to make a batter using plenty of good cocoa powder. I used a spring-loaded ice cream scoop to get my whoopie “cookies” the exact same size every time. I also went with a size scoop that would give me whoopie pies as large as I remember from childhood – about 4 inches across – but you can certainly use a tablespoon or smaller cookie scoop to make your whoopie pies more “bite sized” (only why would you!?).
After baking, the cakes are cooled and then half are topped with a thick layer of cream filling. Traditional whoopie pie filling in New England is made with vegetable shortening, Marshmallow Fluff, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. I kept things traditional here, but there are many other versions of whoopie pie filling made like frosting with butter or even cream cheese.
The remaining cakes are sandwiched on top of the filling, and voila — a tray of homemade whoopie pies. It’s best to wrap each individual whoopie pie in plastic wrap to keep it fresh, which works perfectly for bake sales and sharing. I also double-wrapped a few and froze them for future snacking.
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