lemon and vanilla whoopie pies
Wed, 9 June, 2021
They were invented in Amish communities to use up leftover cake batter. Lemon and vanilla is my favourite flavour for whoopie pies. Also, they are overdue a comeback!
What is the origin of whoopie pies?
I have a thing for using up leftover batter, pastry or dough. Can’t say I’ve designed many new desserts through that obsession, but I thoroughly comprehend how whoopie pies came to be invented.
In Amish communities of New England, thriftiness matched devotion to traditional recipes so out of leftover cake batter Amish wives would bake small cakes sandwiched with surplus frosting.
They (the cakes, not the wives) were handy to put in lunch boxes and so well-liked that men and kids would exclaim ‘whoopie!’ on finding one on their lunch break.
The cakes spread into bakeries and stores outside the Amish counties and the very first bakery to sell them in 1925, Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston, Maine, has been selling whoopie pies to this day in the same location.
Whoopie pies are due a comeback
It is rather undeservedly that they seem to have fallen out of grace these days. Mini pies as the Americans will call them, or ‘cakey things’ as I would, are the perfect solution for when you fancy cake but not a huge slab of it.
Of course, whoopies sometimes come in enormous sizes in their home land, to compete with a double whopper – whopper pies (that’s my name for them)! But the traditional, dainty cakes sandwiched with buttercream or marshmallow fluff are a perfect two- or three-bite treat.
Whoopie pies are most commonly made in chocolate flavour but gingerbread, pumpkin, salted caramel and lemon flavours are certainly not unheard of. This is the lemon variety and the recipe possibly not truly Amish as it’s Dan Lepard’s from his book Short and Sweet. But the outcome is delicious and that’s what counts.
What filling for whoopie pies?
Traditional filling for the pies is buttercream and that’s what I present in this recipe. But cream cheese frosting or marshmallow fluff filling is as common. The best idea is to make a batch of cakes, freeze the surplus and make up some frosting of the kind you fancy every time you want to defrost and prepare a batch.
The batter is very easy to make but my pies are never as plump and rounded as the ones featuring on the Labadie’s Bakery website. This could be down to the fact that the traditional, original recipe uses shortening instead of butter. What even IS shortening? Sounds suspiciously like margarine and I’ve never been convinced of its value. The butter in the batter (hehe) makes up for the lack of fluffiness in taste.
I have made chocolate whoopies before and they are lovely, but this is my favourite flavour. As a friend I presented with a few pies as a gift, and who had never had them before, said: ‘Lemon, sponge, buttercream? How could I possibly NOT like them?’
lemon and vanilla whoopie piesServings: makes 12-15 piesTime: 2 hours
- For the pies:
- 100g (7 tbsp.) butter
- 1 large egg
- zest grated from 2 lemons
- 150g (2⁄3 cup) caster sugar
- 125g (1⁄2 cup) sour cream
- 2 tbsp. cold milk
- 275g (21⁄4 cup) plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- For the buttercream:
- 100g (7 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
- 140g (11⁄4 cup) icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp double cream
- For the icing:
- 150g (11⁄4 cup) icing sugar
- 2-3 tbsp. lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment.
2. Melt the butter in a small pan, set aside to cool down. Stir the lemon zest into the sugar in a bowl.
3. Beat the egg in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer adding the sugar gradually until very thick and pale. Beat in the melted butter, the soured cream and milk. Mix together the flour and the baking powder and add this in in two or three goes, beating in well.
4. Scoop the batter with a dessert spoon dipped in water and place balls the size of a walnut on the trays, about 4 – 6 cm apart. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, rotating the trays or baking one tray at a time. The pies are ready when barely coloured around the edges but set to touch. Cool on a wire rack.
5. To make the buttercream, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Still beating, add the icing sugar by a couple of spoonfuls. Beat in the vanilla extract, add the cream and whisk in.
6. Spoon or pipe the buttercream onto half of the pies and sandwich with the remaining ones.
7. To make the icing, place the icing sugar in a bowl and beat in the lemon juice to obtain spreading consistency. Drizzle or spread the icing over the tops of the pies and leave to set.
8. Store at room temperature for a day, and in the fridge for up to 2 days. The unfilled halves can be baked and frozen and filled at the last minute.