Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen: Whoopie Pies bonus recipe

A Whoopie Pies Post-Mortem
The trials and tribulations of recipe testing

I am always asked: what is your favorite whoopie pie? People often assume that whoopie pies are a normal feature of my day-to-day life. At home, I lounge around and munch endless combinations of cakes + fillings. Don’t I always have a basket of fresh, soft treats to offer guests? Ha ha!

Let me burst your sweet bubble right now: after baking and tasting hundreds – thousands! – of whoopie pies, I am so over this treat. So I’ll give you the moral of the story up front: if you love something, bake it infrequently.

My whoopie pie love affair was certainly fun while it lasted, which is why this post is dedicated to sharing the experience of testing and developing recipes for Whoopie Pies.

First, let’s survey the damage:
No. of 5-pound bags of flour used by Amy and I for testing: 10
No. of sticks of butter: 124
No. of bottles of pure vanilla extract: 4
No. of bottles of red food coloring: 7
Pounds gained despite rigorous bikram yoga practice: 4

The first few months of testing were a wild flurry of activity, as we came up with different flavor combinations and plunged into making the basic building block whoopie pies (chocolate, vanilla, oatmeal) and fillings (marshmallow, buttercream, cream cheese) work. The first batch of oatmeal whoopie pies flattened into one hot mess on the baking sheet. The chocolate cakes kept cracking, the vanilla would get too brown too quickly. We adjusted flour, added eggs, added milk, took eggs out, upped the baking powder.

Then, through sheer repetition of the same flavors, we became fanciful. Marbled whoopie? Yes! We’d fall in love with particular ingredients – cacao nibs, cardamom, candied ginger, root beer Schnapps – and desperately need to incorporate these obsessions. These led to some of the weirder combinations that didn’t make it into the book (carrot cake with root beer filling? No. You. Didn’t.).

My finest hours of testing were at the end of the process, when I was so sick of testing my hands would shake when I reached for the Crisco, and my husband would smell the baking at the doorway, turn around and head for The Homestead bar and the sweet bitterness of a Speakeasy ale. Then my mom showed up. Like any mom, bursting with pride, she was totally into the whoopies project. For that final surge, the tricky red velvet whoopie pie, she helped me shape them, fill them with a fluted pastry bag tip – and then she did my dishes. My silicone spatulas and Crisco-slicked mixing bowls have never been shinier, and those were the finest-looking, tastiest and prettiest whoopie pies I’ve ever seen.

But no matter how burnt out you get, you do walk away with favorites. These change based on mood, cravings, season. One of mine is the Root Beer Fudge Float Whoopie Pie, a triple-decker treat with root beer tang, which didn’t make it into the book. I thought I’d share it here, just in time for summer!

Root Beer Fudge Float Whoopie Pie

Classic Chocolate Whoopie
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon root beer extract or 1 tablespoon root beer Schnapps (optional)
1 cup milk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and root beer flavoring, if using, and beat for another 2 minutes.

Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and 1/2 cup milk and beat until completely combined.

Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the pies spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Root Beer Ganache Filling
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
Pinch of salt, preferably sea salt
1 teaspoon root beer or 1 tablespoon root beer Schnapps

Put the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream until it just bubbles. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate is melted. Add the salt, vanilla and root beer flavoring. Stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula just to combine.

Refrigerate the ganache for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours, until it is firm. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the ganache at medium speed until it is softened and lighter in color, about 2 minutes.

Classic Marshmallow Filling
1 1/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff (or other prepared marshmallow cream, which will do in a pinch)
1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla and beat on low until incorporated then increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 more minutes.

To assemble Root Beer Fudge Float Whoopie Pies: Top half of the cakes with about 2 teaspoons of Root Beer Ganache Filling per cake. Top the first filling with about 2 teaspoons of Classic Marshmallow Filling per cake. Complete your creation by capping all of these with the remaining cakes. Enjoy!

Tell us what you think of this recipe–does it make you want to try it? Or have you tried it out and have some insight to offer? Enter to win a copy of the book by leaving a comment letting us know!

Sarah Billingsley

Sarah is a senior editor at Chronicle Books. When her nose isn’t buried in a cookbook (or manuscript), she is romping with her two tiny kiddos, baking a pie, or enjoying a (rare!) yoga class or run on the Embarcadero.
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14 Comments

  • Lynn May 12, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I’m was planning on a purchasing a copy of “Whoopie Pies,” anyway, as my dad’s birthday is coming up (he adores whoopie pies), but your blog post makes me want to go get a copy rightnowthisminute. I mean, chocolate and root beer? What’s not to like?

    Reply

  • Janel May 12, 2010 at 11:36 am

    It took me 38 years to develop a love of root beer (couldn’t stand the stuff before then). The chocolate and root beer combo sounds heavenly!

    Reply

  • Andi May 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    WOW sounds heavenly!!!

    Reply

  • magda May 12, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Mmm! Marzenie 🙂

    Reply

  • Holly Marie Gibbs May 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I am totally going to make these. Root beer is my favorite carbonated beverage, and anything with chocolate is a winner in my book. Also, I am loving this author’s recap of the whole experience — I’ve always wondered if recipe book authors got sick of making the same thing over and over again when trying to perfect a recipe! Also, I’d love a copy of the book, so I can make more delicious yummies 🙂

    Reply

  • renee May 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    i think this sounds wonderful, but alas I cannot eat cocoa…i may have to make them for my family though. would love to have a white chocolate version!! 🙂

    Reply

  • Allison Hoffman May 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Mmmmmmmmm…..I saw some whoopie pies the other day at Whole Foods and I backed away, afraid of starting an addiction. And they were $$$$$$ But make my own??? Sign me up!! This particular root beer twist = YUM. I had some root beer cookies a while back and chocolate would have been a splendiferous addition!

    Reply

  • Thomas May 12, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I feel like I’ve just emerged from a cave… Never heard of “Whoopie Pies”. Yeah, I’m looking forward to trying these. They look like fun to make and eat, and eat, and eat!

    Reply

  • kelly May 12, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I was -just- reading about this book on a blog I follow and here it is on here too! Of course I want to try it. Classic for me all the way!

    Reply

  • Leah May 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I have loved whoopie pies ever since I first tasted one when my parents moved to York Co. PA. Pumpkin and chocolate are sooo good. Now root beer sounds yummy!

    Reply

  • shar May 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    love rootbeer and floats and chocolate, so this combination sounds completely awesome

    Reply

  • Peter May 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Being on the tasting panel of people at Chronicle Books was beyond amazingly fun for all these delicious whoopie flavor combos.
    I’m going to have to bake these with my favorite root beer, IBC: http://www.ibcrootbeer.com/
    Thanks for giving us this bonus recipe this week Sarah!

    Reply

  • jennifer young May 18, 2010 at 5:15 am

    would love to win this book! the recipe seems intriguing–i’m always up to try something new!
    j.

    Reply

  • Peter May 19, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Allison, you are the lucky random winner of a copy of the yummmmmy “Whoopie Pies” cookbook! Congrats. + thanks to all for your posts. Now go make some whoopies and have a great, tasty time!

    Reply

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