Posts Tagged whoopie pies

My Style: Banana Whoopie Pies With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Whoopie Pie 1

I think these pies are my style.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about style. One of the questions I always ask the pastry chefs I interview is “what’s your approach to pastry,” which is another way of asking “what’s your style?” Well, these banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese frosting? They’re my style.

Whoopie pies aren’t fancy – unlike cupcakes, they can’t be topped with fondant hearts or elaborate swirls of frosting. They’re unassuming, simple – even a little homely. And yet you can’t deny the power of a great whoopie pie. This one, with two sweet, fragrant banana cake rounds that sandwich a sweet, tart filling, speaks to the great satisfaction one can take in simple things. The flavor of the bananas really sings through the cake, and is tempered by the fresh bite of the homemade lemon curd in the filling.

I was even more pleased with this recipe, because I actually adapted it from a recipe in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes for a banana cake. Rather than using someone else’s recipe, I wanted to see if i could make my own modifications and have it actually work. And I’m happy to say that it did. Slightly decreasing the oil and upping the flour amount to mimic that of another whoopie pie recipe meant that the batter held together well enough when scooped out on the baking sheet, and baked into light and fluffy rounds.

Simple, unassuming, great tasting – I think that’s my pastry style. So what’s your pastry style? Do you go for the fancy French pastries? The down-home desserts from the south? Or do you prefer your baked goods to be cute and whimsical?

Banana Whoopie Pies 2

These were a hit at my book club's two year anniversary party. Two years ladies!

Recipe: Banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese filling

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The Whoopie Pie Revolution

Whoopie Pies 3

Whoopie pies, despite their name, are awesome.

There’s a whoopie pie revolution taking over my kitchen.

But before I tell you why, I have to get this out of the way: “whoopie pie” sounds way too much like “whoopie cushion.” It’s unfortunate, because who wants to think about whoopie cushions when they’re eating dessert? The associations — bodily functions best left unnamed, dumb practical jokes — are gross enough to take away any well meaning appetite.

And I believe it is this unfortunate association that is the true reason I never tasted a whoopie pie before two weeks ago, when I served them at a party for our church choir.

It was this New York Times article on whoopie pies that made me realize the truth: made right, a whoopie pie is a cake and frosting sandwich. Before that article, I didn’t know that whoopie pies could be anything other than a gross, smushed, sticky, sweaty pastry wrapped in plastic wrap and sold at the convenience stores of my youth. After that article, I knew that making whoopie pies was my destiny, at least for my next dinner party.

Whoopie Pies with Mint Frosting

Chocolate whoopie pies with mint buttercream frosting.

I doubled The Times’ recipe for the cakes, since the original recipe only made six pies. In retrospect, I should have realized that this meant that the pies were going to be huge — my finished product was a good five inches across. The cake was easy to mix up, but the baking process was time consuming. Because the each cake needs a good six inches of “spread” room, I could only fit six or seven on a pan, meaning I had to bake them in four batches.

I also didn’t use the Times buttercream recipe, opting instead for Chockylit’s mint buttercream frosting. This buttercream frosting was a revelation, because it was the first time I actually sifted my powdered sugar. The result was frosting ambrosia. Smooth and creamy, this frosting didn’t have that stick-to-your-teeth feeling of many powdered sugar frostings. I also upped the amount of mint extract to a full teaspoon, since I didn’t feel like the 1/8 of a teaspoon was minty enough.

And the final result? I loved them. My guests loved them. The whoopie pies were a huge hit. I’ve made cupcakes for parties before that have sat uneaten on trays, but I only had two whoopie pies left over after my party – and I only had those because they didn’t fit on the serving platter! I cut each pie in half to serve — if I made them again I’d make each pie half the size. That being said, I still ate two whole pies at the party. And then, after everyone left, I had one more.

I liked these pies so much because, as I suspected, the frosting/cake ratio was a much better fit to my tastes. If you are the type of person who is always scraping half the frosting off your cupcake, then this a welcome change. Because the frosting is sandwiched between two pieces of cake, the frosting acts as a compliment to the cake, but doesn’t overwhelm it.

Maybe this means I was wrong – maybe whoopie pies really are the next cupcake. At the very least, I have a strong inclination to make them my go-to party dessert.

Viva la revolution!

Recipe: Chocolate Mint Revolutionary Whoopie Pies

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Why Whoopie Pies Are Not the Next Cupcake

Cafe Blue Hills Tasty Treats

Are whoopie pies the next cupcake? I don't think so.

Photo by georgie_grd via flickr, under the Creative Commons license.

The New York Times is hinting that whoopie pies might be the next new big nostalgic baking trend, possibly displacing the cupcake trend. I had to give this one some thought, considering that the pioneering chockylit featured whoopie pies on her short-lived dessert blog, before disappearing  into the Internets. But Jezebel isn’t so convinced, and neither am I.

I’ve never had a whoopie pie, so I can’t judge them from a culinary perspective. They actually sound pretty tempting: two small chocolate cakes, sandwiched together with a cream filling of some kind – a precursor to the Oreo cakester.

And, although this sounds blasphemous, whoopie pies have some advantages over cupcakes. First of all, while I love frosting, too many cupcake shops pile on too much frosting for a dramatic visual effect, overwhelming the cake in the process. But because the whoopie pie is made from two pieces of cake sandwiched together with frosting, there’s a better cake-to-frosting ratio. It would also be harder to over-frost a whoopie because there’s really only so much filling one can stuff between two pieces of cake before the entire operation becomes unstable.

That being said, the idea that whoopie pies are the new cupcakes is going too far. Even if cupcakes are “trendy” now, they also occupy a large space in our collective nostalgic comfort food psyche that goes much deeper than mere trend. I would bet that every child in America—from San Franscico, to Kansas City, to Tampa—grew up eating cupcakes at birthday celebrations. We’ve all drooled at the packaged cupcakes in the pastry aisle of our local supermarkets. We’ve all seen, and probably at some time tasted, a Hostess cupcake. Cupcakes have been woven into our early childhood memories.

But whoopie pies are a regional treat, at best. According to the New York Times article, they were originally an Amish creation, and became a popular New England dessert, especially in Pennsylvania and Maine. But they aren’t ubiquitous – they are not the classic, standard childhood treat that is the cupcake.

And while the whoopie pies featured in the Times article are cute, they just aren’t as pretty as cupcakes—and it’s the cupcake’s immense artistic possibilities that are a large part of its charm. Just looking at the beautiful photos on Cupcakes Takes the Cake makes you realize that the cupcake is essentially a blank canvas which, with the aid of frosting, fondant, and sugar, can become anything imaginable. You can have cupcakes artfully decorated with shamrocks, you can make cupcakes shaped like roses, you can decorate cupcakes to look like the blood smattered smiley face pins in The Watchman. But whoopie pies, because the filling is sandwiched between two layers of cake, don’t have the same artistic possibilities. Sure, you can make them in different colors and flavors, but can you decorate them to look like Elmo? I think not.

No, the cupcake craze, if it’s going to end, isn’t over yet – and I don’t see whoopie pies posing any kind of a threat. Still, since I’ve never had them before, I believe they’ll be making an appearance at our next party. Now I just have to choose between this Epicurious recipe, or the one in the New York Times. Buttercream filling, or marshmallow fluff? Decisions, decisions.

What do you think? Is the cupcake craze at an end? Is the whoopie pie a serious contender to replace cupcakes? Have you ever made a whoopie pie?

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