chocolate whoopie pies

It feels like it’s been forever since I was last here. I swear I’ve been meaning to write. But I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off and playing event coordinator and baking like it’s nobody’s business. Does anyone else feel like August is moving at a rapid pace? I can’t believe how fast these days have come and gone. I also can’t believe that in thirty days I’ll be thirty. OMG. WTF? I’m not ready. Let’s talk about whoopie pies.

When I started seeing whoopie pie pans at Sur la Table a while back, I was skeptical. Maybe unenthusiastic is a better word. I thought of it as just another fad in the baking world. I had never had a whoopie pie, and though I like the original concept behind them (a use for excess cake batter), I never had much interest in making them.

But a few weeks ago I passed by a sweet looking little bakery after having dinner with Adrian and Ash and decided to pop in to pick up cupcakes for my sister’s birthday party. What actually caught my attention was a mountain of whoopie pies in the display case. So I ordered one to go.

We each took a bite of the ginormous cookie sandwich as we walked to the car. Rather than the cakey-cookie delight I had imagined, it was, though tasty, just two cookies filled with sugary buttercream. It went into my purse and stayed there until later that night, when I was at the bar and craving something sweet. I was with Edwin at that point and when he took his first bite, he said something along the lines of it tasting the way a baby or a cute little animal would taste if you bit into it (something only Edwin would say).  He was into it. Since his birthday was in just a few days to follow, I decided he would have whoopie pies. And I knew exactly where to turn for a recipe.

I know I’ve already declared my love for the gentlemen at Baked and their first book. Their second book, Baked Explorations, focuses on classic American desserts. Luckily for me, there were a few whoopie pie recipes to choose from. I went with the classic chocolate pie with Swiss vanilla filling.

Whoopie! I finally understand what all the hoopla is about. These whoopie pies are exactly what I imagined a whoopie pie should be. They’re cakey but have a slight cookie resemblance. And the Swiss buttercream is unbelievably light, kind of creamy and marshmallowy all at once. The combination of the rich chocolate cakey-cookie and airy vanilla filling is perfection. They’re like little hand-held cakes, which make them an ideal on-the-go treat. I think I know where Little Debbie got her inspiration.

chocolate whoopie pies

from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

makes 12-20 pies (depending on size)

for the cookies:

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1/2 cup hot coffee

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

for the swiss vanilla filling:

5 large egg whites

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, cool but not cold

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

make the chocolate cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powders. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until completely dissolved.

In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pans while you make the vanilla filling.

make the Swiss vanilla filling: 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is a milky white, about 2 to 3 minutes.

With the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on low then increase to  medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat on medium-high  speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the butter looks like it’s breaking, keep beating until it comes together.

Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

assemble the whoopie pies:

Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up).

Use and ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring the whoopie pies chilled or at room temperature.

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