Whoopie pies are having an extended moment. They are popping up here, there, and everywhere, and now they are even starring in their own cookbook. This cookbook is called, simply enough, Whoopie Pies, and while it mostly sticks to tried and true recipes for this old-fashioned treat, it also offers some updates, like a jalapeño cornbread whoopie pie, and a couple of gluten-free versions. I tried one of these, and it was dreamy delicious!
I gave the chocolate gluten-free pie a spin in my own kitchen, since I had a gluten-free friend to bake for. I was curious whether a gluten-free recipe could stand up to the traditionally cakey, chewy, tender whoopie pie. I was also excited to make a pie with a real marshmallow filling.
The recipe was simple enough, and it didn't take long to bake up the pies. I can see why, though, the photographer didn't shoot this recipe for the well-illustrated little book. I can also see why people like those uni-tasker whoopie pie pans — these little cookies are not particularly good-looking! Mine didn't spread out into smooth-topped mounds. They were decidedly lumpy. Now, I didn't use parchment paper (I was out of it) so that may have something to do with this as well.
Making whoopie pies is a project: Even thought the components are easy enough, it does take time to bake, mix, and assemble these. It is a great little afternoon project, though, and the results were fantastic. The final cookie was cakey, and tender. The batter had a distinctly bean-y taste from the GF flour, but this dissipated after baking. Biting into one of these little cakes is like biting into a cloud of gently-flavored chocolate and a puff of sweet marshmallow. They were greeted with glad cries and gone by the end of the night.
Here's the recipe; give them a try, and see my more detailed testing notes (and book notes) below.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Marshmallow Filling
Makes 48 cakes and 24 whoopie pies
Gluten-Free Chocolate Whoopie
2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and xantham gum.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, and both sugars until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk to the batter and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and 1/2 cup milk and beat until thoroughly 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 12 minutes each or until the cakes begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
Makes about 48 two-inch cakes.
Note: Xantham gum is the secret weapon that mimics the properties of gluten and keeps these whoopies from spreading into a big mess while they bake.
• Yes, these cakes (and the filling) really require shortening. Don't substitute butter! But you can buy trans-fat free shortening, which I do recommend.
• The resulting batter was very sticky and gloppy. It was hard to get it to bake into nice smooth mounds.
• A note on the book: While the recipe itself turned out well, there were no notes on how the batter should look and feel, or any explanation of what the parchment does, or whether it is necessary. Overall, I found the book's recipes to be almost puzzlingly bare-bones. There isn't much in the book, just a handful of recipes and fillings, which is fine for a very niche cookbook, but it seems like there would have been space to flesh out the nuances of the recipes.
• Another book note: The cake recipe doesn't have any recommended fillings next to it; it's a mix and match book, but I would have appreciated a note at the bottom of the recipe like, "Recommended filling on page xxx," or something like that.
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 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.
• I added a pinch of salt, which this filling really needed, in my opinion. Overall, it is delicious, though; it isn't sickeningly sweet, but it does taste marvelously retro, like doughnut cream filling.
• Again, a note on the book itself: While the recipe worked out well, there were no notes (unless I missed them!) on how much the filling made. I was left to assume that one batch of this filling would make enough for one batch of the pies. This is a basic assumption, but it should have been stated explicitly somewhere.
All book-related criticisms aside, though, these were totally delicious. I loved them, and I don't have any need to eat gluten-free. They could have been a bit more chocolatey, sure, but they still tasted rich and full of flavor. They had a wonderful texture and the marshmallow cream was just to die for. Two thumbs up for this recipe; it is definitely going in my little stash of great gluten-free dessert recipes.
• Find the book: Whoopie Pies, by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell. Published by Chronicle Books. $11.53 at Amazon
(Recipe reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books. Images: Faith Durand)