Classic Whoopie Pies
The time has come. Completely ridiculous words have begun to take over our household. And I'm not just talking about Little C's streaming toddler babble ("Hi! Hello? Apple? Mamadadababy! Toes! No?"). I'm talking about the random words that her parents haphazardly stick into sentences in place of more, shall we say, inflammatory terms, in the hopes of avoiding crass truck driver-parroting by said toddler. Like the day I informed my husband that I'd "scrubbed the--pajamas outta the shower". A new low of parental dorkery, friends.
The day is fast approaching when I won't be able to say that I really hate something because it's basically stupid, and instead I'll say that I "don't like it very much" and it's "silly". If I ever get to using the word "whoopee" in The Newlywed Game sense, someone please send me out to pasture. Unless, of course, we're talking about these totally kick-ass Whoopie Pies, in which case no language will be barred, I don't care what sweet, impressionable, jeans-clinging tiny person is in my midst.
After meeting the greatness that is Rose Levy Beranbaum a couple weeks ago and getting a shiny new copy of her Heavenly Cakes book (just announced as IACP's Cookbook of the Year, hooray!) signed and in my hot little hands, I started flipping and bookmarking that very night. And the recipes are, of course, at an insane level of creative genius. Most of them are, in a word, complex. So until Little C starts preschool, I'm probably going to stick to a few of the simpler recipes in this book, like these Whoopie Pies--rich, dense, deeply chocolatey cakey cookies sandwiching the most silky, perfect vanilla buttercream I've ever had. To die for, basically.
But because we're friends, I'll tell you that as far as Whoopie Pies go, the process to make them isn't the simplest of all the recipes out there. This is RLB we're talking about, after all. However, I will also say that they are totally, completely worth it, thank God. The cake part of the recipe actually comes together fairly quickly, and the double hit of dark chocolate makes for the kind of fudgy batter that you'll want to spoon right from the bowl.
And the buttercream filling? Oh mah gah. This filling is one of Rose's signature "mousseline" buttercreams, and it does not disappoint. And in her new book, she's made the process a bit simpler for those of us who don't have eight hands. Hooray!
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes
The original recipe stated that it would create 6 filled pies, but I easily got 8 out of my batches of batter and filling. The recipe also called for bringing the sugar syrup all the way to firm ball stage (248-250 degrees) before removing it from the heat, and the first time I followed this instruction, the syrup had cooled and mostly soldered itself to the measuring cup before I could get it into the meringue. I found that bringing it to a warm soft ball stage instead (238) worked much better and the end result was still great.
There are a lot of steps here, which I've condensed quite a bit from the original recipe. Read it carefully before you begin and try to choreograph the process in your head in the way that will work best for you before you begin.
If you don't own smaller ice cream scoops, this recipe would be the perfect excuse to go buy a 2 tablespoon scoop--it makes portioning out the batter and filling evenly a breeze.
Makes 8 whoopie pies
For the cakes:
1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (60-62% cacao--I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chips and it was fine)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure)
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
For the filling:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoons cream of tartar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners' sugar
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Line two unrimmed baking sheets (or invert two rimmed half-sheet pans) with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. Let cool until the chocolate is no longer warm to the touch, but still fluid.
While the chocolate is cooling, place the brown sugar, egg, oil and butter in the bowl of an eletrci mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes--the mixture will become smooth and paler in color. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the melted chocolate.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three additions on low speed, alternating with the buttermilk, beating just until each addition begins to disappear into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With a 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the sheets, 8 evenly spaced mounds per sheet.
Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through baking, until the centers spring back when lightly touched, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to fill.
To make the filling, begin by making the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and move on to making the meringue (if you're using an electric range, remove the pan from the heat completely).
In a mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg white on high speed until foamy with tiny, relatively uniform bubbles. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted.
Return to the sugar syrup and increase the heat to high. Boil until the syrup reaches 238-240 degrees. To make pouring easier, transfer the syrup to a heatproof measuring cup if you wish.
Beat the syrup into the meringue in a thin, steady stream, aiming away from the beaters so that the syrup doesn't just spin onto the sides of the bowl. Beat until the outside of the bowl no longer feels hot, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1 tablespoon of the butter and the vanilla extract or paste. Refrigerate for 10 minutes while you make the finishing cream for the filling.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and confectioners' sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture is very light in texture and color, almost white. Lower the speed to medium and beat in all the meringue until the buttercream is smooth, about 10 seconds or so.
To assemble, sandwich generous 2-tablespoon mounds of the filling between the cakes, and press down lightly so that the cream reaches the edges of the pies. Serve at room temperature and store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container, allowing them to come to room temperature again before serving.